As Election Day is right around the corner, a number of offices in Darien could change hands in the next few weeks. Michael Harman, current chairman of the Board of Education, is not up for reelection to keep his seat. In an unusual move, Harman was not endorsed by the RTC to maintain his chair, instead the candidates will be current board member David Dineen and RTM Education Committee Chairman Dennis Maroney. Harman received words of gratitude and support at the Oct. 24 board meeting, his last.
Harman opened the meeting as he always does, and began by expressing his gratitude to his fellow board members.
“I’ve tried to be kind and honest, but also to seek results,” Harman said. Harman thanked the administration and Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner for the hard work done to this point, and pointed out just how much the district has invested in its students over the past few years. Harman also thanked Vice Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross for her, “mentorship and support,” as well as Katie Stein for stepping in to fill the secretary role recently vacated by Sarah Zuro.
Harman also looked toward the future and the work the board is currently doing. “We may be waiting clarity from Hartford, but as you’ll be discussing, this board is already planning ahead,” Harman said.
Brenner took the entirety of his time during superintendent comment to speak about Harman.
“I have the distinct honor to say thank you to Mr. Harman. I’ve had pleasure of working with him for my entire time in Darien,” Brenner said.
“You come across people in your lives where you realize they possess a certain integrity and decency that is beyond reproach,” Brenner added. He also spoke about Harman being a marine, and what it means to be a marine. “All the good that is characterized in marines is characterized in Michael,” Brenner said.
Brenner would add that it is difficult for anyone to truly understand just how challenging it is to be a board member.
“Most people have no idea what it means as far as the amount of time, any of these folks put in. It’s so much more than just being a face on Channel 79,” Brenner said about Harman and other board members. “Michael epitomizes that spirit of volunteerism that suggests he is doing it for the right reason. It’s about the kids and about the town,”Brenner said.
Brenner closed by saying, “We will have been very lucky to have him sit at this table as a leader by example.”
From there Harman’s fellow board members thanked him for his time as chairman. Harman came on as chairman shortly after the special education scandal, and board members thanked him for helping guide the board and the district to a better place following those events.
They also thanked him for helping to advance and ultimately complete other major projects that have been Board of Ed issues for years, such as the stadium lights at DHS.
Harman was given a gift from the board, a small plaque with a tally of the number of days, hours, and minutes he served as chairman, exemplifying just how much time was put into his role. He also received a Blue Wave vest, as most who know Harman know he has a particular fondness of vests.
As the meeting was about to adjourn, Brenner interrupted just before the gavel could be struck. He would describe a “clap out,” a tradition held at Middlesex and in the elementary schools, where the graduating class is flanked by their schoolmates and members of the public who applaud as the class leaves. The administration and the board lined up, as did members of the audience, and clapped strongly as Harman left the meeting as a board member for the last time.