Killingly school board chair resigns after parents ask state for investigation

On April 8, 2022, the Hartford Courant published an article about the resignation of Killingly's school board chair after parents ask state for investigation.

Link to article:  Killingly school board chair resigns after parents ask state for investigation

Janice Joly, chair of the Killingly Board of Education, resigned on Friday, the district’s superintendent confirmed.

Joly and the voting majority of the Killingly school board have been criticized within the community in recent weeks for voting to reject a proposal to create a school-based mental health center, despite the pleas of students and staff. A group of more than 50 Killingly residents have since asked the state Department of Education to investigate the school board.

In a brief letter to the town clerk, Joly did not explain her rationale for resigning.

“Please be advised that effective immediately, on Friday, April 8, 2022, I am resigning my position as a member of the Killingly Board of Education,” Joly wrote.

Joly’s name has been removed from the Killingly school board website.

Janice Joly had been with the Killingly school board since early 2020, following the resignation of Karen Fremuth in February of that year, according to the Norwich Bulletin.

She became board vice chair soon after, and was named board chair after former board chair Douglas Farrow left in January.

Robert Angeli, superintendent of Killingly Public Schools, commended Joly for making the time- and labor-intensive commitment to serving on the school board.

“I thank her for her civic-mindedness, and her willingness to serve on the Board of Education,” Angeli said. “I wish her well in whatever future activities she gets involved in.”

Angeli’s administration helped create the school-based mental health center plan that the Killingly school board eventually voted down.

As part of the presentation to the board, the administration shared results of a survey conducted by SERAC, a nonprofit focused on mental health in eastern Connecticut, that revealed a concerning prevalence of mental health challenges among Killingly students.

Nearly 15% of Killingly students in grades 7 to 12 admitted to having made a suicide plan, while more than 28% reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more.

Joly later questioned whether the students responding to the survey were telling the truth.

“How do you know they were honest responses? They were dealing with kids. They could have written anything. That’s what kids do,” Joly said at the March meeting.

Killingly students, speaking to the state Board of Education on Wednesday, highlighted these comments are particularly hurtful. One student said they made her feel like Joly “had no care in helping the students at Killingly High School.”

Remaining school board members will soon choose among candidates nominated by the Killingly Republican Town Committee to fill Joly’s seat. The election could happen as early as Wednesday, Angeli said.

School board members will also vote among themselves to select a new chair. The current vice chair is Norm Ferron.

Christine Rosati Randall, whose 16-year-old son attends Killingly High School, said she hopes Joly’s replacement will be a supporter of the school-based mental health center.

“I just hope they reconsider their initial decision, gather whatever clarifying information they need, and get this service in place for our students in place as soon as possible,” she said. “Every day that goes by is one more day [students are] not learning, and they’re in crisis.”

Joly did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.

Seamus McAvoy may be reached at smcavoy@courant.com


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