The New Haven Board of Education unanimously elected Alicia Caraballo vice president at a Monday meeting.
On Jan. 11, Caraballo tied with incumbent Che Dawson in a 4–4 vote for the vice presidency, causing a re-election to be scheduled two weeks later. But after Dawson dropped out of the running on Monday, Caraballo gained unanimous support from the seven board members present at Monday’s meeting. Daisy Gonzalez, who is widely regarded as the voice of New Haven Public Schools parents, was the only member absent from this week’s meeting.
Caraballo, a lifelong Elm City resident, previously served as principal of the New Haven Adult Education Center and is currently chair of the BOE’s Teaching and Learning Committee.
“What I want is for us to be a much stronger board,” Caraballo said. “We have some real difficult issues here, and I want us to be able to work together and communicate.”
Notably, Caraballo voted against both Mayor Toni Harp’s initial election as BOE president in September and her re-election earlier this month, calling Harp’s simultaneous role as board and city leader a “conflict of interest.” But Caraballo, who said she has known and respected Harp for many years, feels they will work well together, despite her reservations about Harp serving as BOE president and mayor simultaneously.
Edward Joyner, who joined the board on Jan. 1 after a November election, said he nominated Caraballo for president because of her impressive body of work, which includes a quarter century’s worth of school district service. He also lauded Caraballo’s personal interest in NHPS.
“She had a son that was a student in NHPS, she has grandchildren currently in NHPS, she was a social worker, she was a principal and she’s been a lifelong resident of the city of New Haven,” Joyner said. “She is a very intelligent and courageous woman, and we need that voice.”
Joyner echoed Caraballo’s concerns about Harp’s BOE position, arguing that Harp’s presidency is problematic because Harp is a municipal leader, while the BOE is an agency of the state.
Darnell Goldson, who also joined the board at the start of this calendar year, said although Harp and Caraballo had a difference of opinion regarding the BOE presidency, he feels the two agree far more than they disagree and will effectively serve the best interests of NHPS students.
In a Wednesday statement to the News, Harp welcomed Caraballo’s election as vice president of the board, highlighting that she values Caraballo’s commitment to NHPS and New Haven as a whole.
“Her unanimous election to be vice president of the board reflects the consensus that her priority remains the well-being and sound education of New Haven Public Schools students,” Harp said.
Caraballo said while many things are going well in NHPS — notably teachers’ degree of intensity, commitment and creativity — she feels much could be improved in the district.
She added that she will continue to hold Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 to high standards as BOE vice president, acknowledging that she has been critical of him in the past. She said Harries was her supervisor when she directed adult education in the city, and she anticipates that her relationship with him will “take on a different level” now that she is his supervisor.
Caraballo said one urgent problem the BOE currently faces is the vacancies in key NHPS positions such as physical education supervisor and early childhood director. She said she, the board and Harries need to work closely together to identify and enlist the most qualified candidates for these positions. She added that communication among board members and NHPS must improve to strengthen the school district.
Caraballo was appointed to the BOE in June 2014.