Category Archives: Debate

Recording of the debate

Callahan and Ginsburg, running for 108th District, share Candlewood Lake as priority but little else

Callahan and Ginsburg, running for 108th District, share Candlewood Lake as priority but little else

by Kendra Baker, Oct 7, 2022

Patrick Callahan and Jeff Ginsburg have little in common, aside from their love of Candlewood Lake.

As they seek to be elected state representative of Connecticut’s 108th House District this November, the candidates present distinctive perspectives on how to improve the state and cite different priorities from addressing youth crime to supporting senior citizens.

Callahan is a longtime New Fairfield resident, seeking a second term in the seat he’s held since defeating Democrat Dannette Onofrio in the 2020 election.

“I’m looking forward to how productive I can be with the relationships I’ve taken the past two years to develop,” said the Republican incumbent, who has served on the legislature’s Education, Environment, Judiciary and Juvenile Justice Policy & Oversight committees.

“You’re getting your feet wet your freshman first two years,” Callahan said, “and I feel like I’ve made some really great connections and working relationships with both sides of the aisle.”

Ginsburg — a Democrat who’s lived in Sherman for nearly 20 years — said he decided to run for the 108th House District seat for several reasons.

“I realized that the towns have a number of common interests, and I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I like advocating for those interests,” he said. “I have a threshold of experience working in and with local organizations, and I think it’s time that I start giving back.”

In addition to serving as chair of the Sherman Democratic Town Committee, Ginsburg is a founding member of both the Sherman Artists Association and the Great Hollow Photographers Club. He’s also a member of the board of directors for the Candlewood Yacht Club in New Fairfield and chairs the organization’s finance committee.

Whoever is elected in November will represent a slightly different 108th House District. As a result of recent changes to Connecticut’s voting district lines, the 108th will include a larger number of New Fairfield constituents as of 2023.

The town’s southwestern corner — which currently belongs to the 138th House District — will become part of the 108th, joining all of Sherman, a section of western New Milford and part of northern Danbury.

Candlewood Lake

Both candidates said Candlewood Lake would be among their top priorities if elected or re-elected representative of the 108th House District.

The issues they say they would focus on, though, are different.

Ginsburg said serving on the Candlewood Yacht Club’s board of directors for the last 10 years has given him a greater understanding of the lake, as well as the impact it has — and could have — on the area.

“The five towns on the lake — four of which are in the 108th District — do not have a commission where they work together to enhance the economy as the lake contributes to that,” he said. “That would be something … that I would advocate for from my position.”

Ginsburg said such a commission would differ from the Candlewood Lake Authority in that its primary focus would be the “economic aspect” of the lake.

“The lake is very important to me. I live on the lake, I recreate on the lake and I know that it’s a critical economic force for our area’s economy,” he said.

Callahan — who served as chairman of the Candlewood Lake Authority for 10 years — said Candlewood Lake is “always a top priority,” and he also has concerns about Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield.

“The issues we’re having at Squantz with the influx of out-of-staters through the summer months on the weekends have to be addressed,” he said. “I’m also really concerned about people parking their cars wherever they want and walking with children down Route 39 to Squantz Pond when it’s full.”

It’s been a safety concern for years and town officials have tried to restrict people walking along the road to get to the park — either by asking the state to restrict walk-ins or cracking down on illegal parking in town — but the problem persists.

Callahan: Affordability and juvenile crime

If re-elected, Callahan said some of his other priorities would be affordability and juvenile crime.

“Affordability is the top one,” he said. “In the past two years, Democrats have passed a couple of new gas taxes that are going to cost us a lot of money on the highway use tax and the diesel tax.”

Driven by wholesale fuel prices that more than doubled over the past year, the tax on diesel saw a 9.1 cent increase in July — six months before the imposition of Connecticut’s new highway use tax on large commercial trucks, which is expected to cost the industry millions of dollars per year.

“We use diesel to heat our homes and any tax you put on a truck delivering goods is going to get passed down onto the consumer,” Callahan said. “We continue to tax people that serve us and it continues to drive up the cost of living in Connecticut — even more so than inflation.”

Callahan — who worked in law enforcement for almost 30 years — said juvenile crime is still a problem, and one he would keep fighting to address if re-elected.

He said part of the ongoing juvenile crime problem is that the courts go too easy on youthful offenders.

“In the pre-trial process, there’s no accountability. There’s nothing being done to curb it,” Callahan said. “There has to be consequences, and right now there aren’t.”

Even though Republicans presented “several different solutions” in the past two sessions that all got voted down, Callahan said he’s determined to continue trying.

“I’ve worked with so many different groups of people and kids to turn their lives around,” he said. “If they’re not getting disciplined and not seeing consequences early on, they think they can keep doing this forever and it escalates into larger crimes — and then they wind up in jail.”

Ginsburg: Senior citizens and zoning

If elected, Ginsburg said one of his other priorities would be “ensuring that senior residents have good options for staying and enjoying the area.”

He said he would focus on what can be done financially and organizationally at the state level to “improve what’s going on for the seniors.”

When asked if housing would be part of his focus, Ginsburg said he would work with the towns “to see what resources are available from the state level,” but the decision would ultimately be up to them.

“I would certainly be in the mix, asking questions and making sure people are making decisions very explicitly — but the towns would have to drive it and decide to what extent,” he said.

Ginsburg said he knows several older residents who had to move out of the area due to a lack of alternative, smaller-scale housing options. He also knows the topic of housing development can be controversial.

“With some people, there’s that not-in-my-backyard kind of syndrome — and others say, ‘Look, people are moving out,’” he said. “It’s going to be a compromise, but I think the platform of being a state representative might help bring attention to that, and I think it’s something worth looking at.”

Ginsburg — who manages residential apartments in the Danbury area and has helped tenants obtain emergency rental and other types of assistance over the years — said he gets his passion to help people from his dad.

“My father had the biggest drug store in Danbury, and he always went out of his way to provide outstanding service and help customers,” he said. “That has inspired me to do that with my tenants and in my career.”

Ginsburg said keeping zoning regulations within the control of the towns would be another priority of his as a state representative.

“Each town is different, so I want to make sure they have the autonomy to determine their own zoning regulations because that affects the quality of life in a town,” he said.

Callahan said that is something he, too, feels strongly about.

“I want to make sure that control over zoning remains local, and I always vote that way — to protect our communities and our ability to handle our own zoning,” he said.

2022 election

Callahan said he believes he’s done a good job representing the 108th district and hopes voters re-elect him in November.

Danbury’s superintendent makes $20 per student. Sherman’s makes $887 per student. Here’s why

June 12, 2021 Updated: June 12, 2021 9:58 p.m.
Written by
Photo of Julia Perkins

Experience, performance and their community’s affluence are among the factors local school boards consider as they set their superintendents’ salaries.

Superintendent average compensation in Fairfield County is higher than in other parts of the state, a Hearst Connecticut Media analysis found. The highest salaries are in southwestern Connecticut.

“But we also have to realize that property is much more expensive in that end of the state, so it costs more for living expenses, etc,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

“It is also a municipality’s ability to pay, which goes into property taxes and all of that,” she added. “It really is dependent on the wealth of the community.”

School board chairs and other officials said they thought the superintendent salaries in their communities were fair.

“It’s fairly compensated,” said Peggy Katkocin, New Fairfield’s school board chair. “I know we walk a delicate line because it’s taxpayer money.”

Superintendents sometimes get various perks. For example, in Bethel, Superintendent Christine Carver received a $10,000 stipend upon the completion of the renovations to Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools.

Rabinowitz said she’s seen that in other districts.

“A superintendent spends an incredible amount of time outside of the normal duties of a superintendent working on a renovation project,” she said.

To become a superintendent, educators must complete a certification program approved by the Connecticut Board of Education. A doctorate degree is not required, but many districts pay more if the superintendent has a Ph.D.

“There is high demand for top quality superintendents, so the wages clearly reflect that,” Redding First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton said. “For a school district like Redding, we want in a superintendent one of the best educators in the state and even the nation.”

Superintendents in Danbury, Brookfield, Bethel, Ridgefield, New Fairfield, Newtown, Sherman, and Easton, Redding and Region 9 have doctorate degrees.

“You need to get really qualified people who are not only good educators, but good administrators and incredibly good communicators to do these jobs,” Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn said.

Pay per student

The pay per student varies greatly in the Danbury area, with Sherman’s Superintendent-Principal Jeff Melendez earning about $887 per student, compared to the around $20 per student that Danbury Superintendent Sal Pascarella gets.

More Information

Superintendent pay per student

Sherman: $887.42

Region 12: $298.59

New Fairfield: $107.94

Brookfield: $93.73

Region 9: $90.04

Bethel: $75.26

Region 15: $67.03

Ridgefield: $57.95

Newtown: $54.45

New Milford: $52.08*

Danbury: $20.10

Per a Hearst Connecticut Media analysis of 153 superintendent contracts in the state

*This figure reflects the superintendent’s salary when she was the interim leader

Danbury area superintendent salaries

Ridgefield Susie Da Silva: $264,000 (No. 11 in the state)

Brookfield John Barile: $240,240 (No. 21 in the state)

Danbury Sal Pasarella: $237,874 (No. 23 in state)

Region 15 Josh Smith: $235,487 (No. 27 in state)

Bethel Christine Carver: $232,492 (No. 29 in state)

New Fairfield Pat Cosentino: $230,125 (No. 31 in state)

Easton, Redding, Region 9 Rydell Harrison: $225,000 (No. 34 in state)

Sherman Jeffrey Melendez: $223,631 (No. 35 in state)

Newtown Lorrie Rodrigue: $220,692 (No. 39 in state)

Region 12 Megan Bennett: $205,428 (No. 55 in the state)

New Milford Alisha DiCorpo: $194,400* (No. 85 in the state)

Per a Hearst Connecticut Media analysis of 153 superintendent contracts in the state

*This figure reflects the superintendent’s salary when she was the interim leader

The salary for Danbury’s superintendent appears “quite low given the number of students that there are and the number of challenges,” Rabinowitz said.

Superintendents still have many of the same responsibilities, regardless of district size, Rabinowitz said. Most superintendents work at least 60 hours a week, she said.

“The work is the work,” said Christine Carver, superintendent in Bethel who makes about $232,000 and runs a district of around 3,000 students. “It doesn’t matter if you have 18,000 students or 3,100 students.”

But she noted urban districts have a “tremendous amount of increased needs.”

Dunn said he was initially surprised superintendents in bigger districts like Bridgeport or Hartford didn’t earn two to three times Brookfield’s superintendent. John Barile earns about $240,000, which is almost $94 per student.

But Dunn said he realized smaller towns “have the capability to attract really qualified people.”

“To do that, you’ve got to pay more money,” he said.

He said Barile’s salary is fair.

“I don’t think we should be paying ours less,” Dunn said. “I think Hartford should be paying more.”

Barile has done a “superb” job in Brookfield and recently signed another three-year contract, Dunn said.

“I don’t see these as out of place,” Dunn said. “These salaries are what they should be.”

Superintendent Pat Cosentino earns about $230,000 to run the about 2,000-student New Fairfield school system, while Rydell Harrison gets $225,000 from the 2,500-student district of Easton, Redding and Region 9.

Newtown’s Lorrie Rodrigue makes less than $221,000 in the around 4,000-student district.

Megan Bennett earns about $205,000 running the 688-student Region 12, which serves Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington. She said she has a smaller office staff than larger districts.

“You’re doing more roles in a smaller district,” she said.

Alisha DiCorpo, who became New Milford’s superintendent in February, earned about $194,000 running the about 3,700-student district when she was interim superintendent. A contract signed in March put her salary at $202,000, with an additional $2,000 annuity.

“You really cant compare one superintendency to another,” said Greg Cava, chair of the Region 12 school board. “No. 1, they are different levels of experience. No 2, they are different levels of taxation expectations. No. 3, they have different jobs. Superintendents in Connecticut do different things from town to town.”

School budgets in Region 12 have stayed fairly consistent over the years, Cava said.

“I don’t think anyone is saying we can’t pay the superintendent X dollars because the taxpayers won’t stand for it,” he said.

Factors in pay

New Fairfield looks at the superintendent’s ability to lead and engage with the community, as well as how she has met her goals and how students rank academically against other schools in the state, among other factors in setting the salary, Katkocin said.

“Unfortunately, I think sometime people think you should only evaluate superintendents on whether they make everyone happy,” she said. “That’s impossible for any leader anywhere.”

In Newtown, the board considers the superintendent’s performance and local and general economic factors, said Michelle Ku, school board chair.

“It’s also what the community supported in terms of a budget increase when they came out and voted,” she said.

Typically, the Newtown school board does not have information about what other districts pay, she said.

When Region 12 hires a new superintendent, the school board examines the candidate’s experience, market factors and what the board is trying to accomplish, Cava said. Raises for existing superintendents are based on how he or she fulfilled previously set goals.

“This is not something where you sit down and check off a box and do an evaluation,” he said. “It’s a little bit more subjective than that.”

Student achievement may be one of those goals in districts, but it doesn’t play a large role in the superintendent’s compensation, he said.

“I don’t think people pay a superintendent because they achieve a certain level of testing, unless there were some huge deficiency you were trying to correct,” Cava said. “That’s not a factor here.”

District size and the superintendent’s background is considered in New Fairfield, too, Katkocin said.

“You certainly wouldn’t pay a brand new superintendent what you would with a superintendent with more experience,” she said.

The way superintendents managed the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be another factor, Katkocin said.

“I’m sure every Board of Education is looking at how their superintendents functioned in this very difficult year,” she said.

Attracting strong candidates to tough job

The average tenure of a superintendent in Connecticut is four years, Rabinowitz has said.

That’s not good because the “quality of education suffers” when there is superintendent turnover, said First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton, a former member of the Region 9 school board.

“I’m not concerned about super salaries per se,” she said. “What I am concerned about is that our superintendents are being put in positions that lead to them leaving their jobs and going elsewhere. I think we see that around Fairfield County, it is like musical chairs.”

Social media has made superintendents’ jobs harder, and parents expect to have constant access to the superintendent, Pemberton said.

“You’re doing the job of public relations and you’re also the educator in chief of the community,” she said. “Those barriers have fallen. That’s a good thing, but I think our superintendents in many districts become overworked.”

Superintendents are responsible for everything in their district and are always on call, officials said.

“Any time there is an incident in their school, any time a fire alarm goes off, everything falls on the superintendent’s desk,” Katkocin said. “They need to answer to everything.”

Superintendents have advanced degrees, are experts in their fields and manage a “complex system,” Carver said.

“There are some people who still think I don’t work during the summer,” she said. “When I tell you it’s 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job, you can just talk to my husband. I rarely take a vacation where I don’t have to be constantly responding to things.”

Julia Perkins has been a reporter with The News-Times since June 2016 and covers the towns of Bethel and Brookfield. She also has covered breaking news for Hearst Connecticut on weekend mornings. Graduating from Quinnipiac University in 2016, she served as the editor-in-chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle, the weekly, student-run newspaper. She is a huge “Harry Potter” fan.

Interviews with the Democratic Primary Candidates for U.S. Congress: Mary Glassman and Jahana Hayes

Fifth Congressional District 

Mary Glassman and Jahana Hayes are competing in the primary election to be the Democratic Party nominee for Congress from the Fifth Congressional District (Sherman, its surrounding towns, New Britain, Waterbury and Torrington).

The 5th C.D. is historically Republican, but has been trending Democratic since 2004. It has an unusually high percentage of voters registered as independents. The seat became vacant when Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty decided not to seek reelection after being criticized for her handling of sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff. Control of the entire House could turn on the outcome of this race.

Glassman very narrowly won the Party’s nomination at a tempestuous convention in May, but Hayes decided to take the decision to the voters. The winner will run in the November general election against a Republican candidate who will also be selected in August.

The SDTC Newsletter interviewed both candidates, Glassman in person on July 2, Hayes by telephone on July18.

The Interviews

The interviews explored three inter-related questions:

  • Why would you be a strong candidate in the general election?
  • What are your positions on a variety of issues?
  • Why and how you would be effective in Congress?



Mary Glassman was born and raised in the 5th Congressional District. “I am a public servant. I don’t sit behind a desk, I build relationships,” she told a Washington, CT audience. “That is what we do every day. We are the ones that plow the roads, pick up the garbage.”

Glassman is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and UConn School of Law. She was First Selectwoman of Simsbury from 1991-99 and 2007-14, Special Counsel to the Speaker of the CT House, and Counsel to the Senate President. She has twice run for Lieutenant Governor. She currently works for the Capital Region Education Council. She is married, and has three children.

The Interview

Question: Looking forward to the November election, what makes you a strong candidate?

What makes me a strong candidate is my experience of living my entire life in the Fifth District and building relationships in the District. I can hit the ground running.

I understand local government. I know how to get results. I bring the tools needed in Washington. This race is about people believing you can deliver results – education, manufacturing, transportation, economic opportunity, health care, protecting Medicare.  People can see what I’ve done in the public sector, not just what I say.

Question: What is your broad strategy?

How do you think about your constituency and the major issues?

The Fifth C.D. is a complicated district — a mix of older and younger people, white and people of color. We need to see ourselves as a region and to have a comprehensive plan. We have to bring Washington money for our needs in job training, transportation, gun safety, higher education, incubating technology, and keeping our young people. The Fifth C.D. needs to give everyone an equal opportunity. I am committed to getting results, and have the ability to go to Congress and be effective on day one.

The challenge is that it is a big district. I need to make sure the rest of the district knows my record – not “experience” but a “record of getting things done.” The challenge is motivating voters to get out in big numbers.

The issue in the fall is not just Trump. It is the erosion of our democracy and of our ethics. It stems from Trump but don’t over-simplify, don’t just criticize Trump. It’s judges, appointees; it’s the policies, abuses, conflicts of interest throughout the administration.

I’m running because I felt the need to keep the seat Democratic. I have shown I can win in a Republican town.

Question: What do you see as the most important issue or issues?

The most important issue is using government to provide opportunities in many areas, and how government is now being abused to take away opportunities. There are a wide variety of issues – not just one issue.

First we need to identify specific needs and work to address them. I am a problem solver. What tools do we have to fix things?

Question: What are your positions on these specific issues?

Health care: We need access to health care for all, by any path that gets us there. One option is to let people buy in to Medicare, but I am open to options – I have no firm opinion yet on Medicare for all vs. public option vs. other alternatives.

Immigration/ICE: ICE needs proper regulation. We can’t have open borders. We need a predictable, fair method of immigration. We need a path to citizenship. I support the Dream Act.

Jobs and the economy: We need a path to opportunity, reflected in policies. There are 13,000 unfilled jobs in Connecticut. We need: apprenticeship programs to help fill the job gap, loan forgiveness of students, tax credits for innovation, grants, and rebuilding infrastructure.

Impeachment: It is important to get the [Mueller] report, review it and then decide. It shouldn’t be easy to impeach. We need a bipartisan recommendation to do what’s best for the people of the U.S.

Tuition-free college:  I would love to figure out how to do it. But we also have to think about how to keep graduates in Connecticut – e.g., refinancing loans – and compare that with tuition reimbursement. We need a Federal-State-Local partnership.

Foreign policy: People are very concerned about our role– withdrawing from Iraq with nothing in its place; the lack of meaningful results with North Korea; lack of respect for our allies; military spending without accountability; undercutting with Israel; tariffs. The U.S. was always a neutral mediator.



Jahana Hayes grew up in the Berkeley Heights housing project in Waterbury. Her family struggled with addiction and relied on public assistance. Hayes got pregnant as a teenager. Despite no means for any upward mobility, she enrolled at Naugatuck Valley Community College and eventually got her four year degree at Southern Connecticut State University and her masters and advanced degrees at the University of Saint Joseph and University of Bridgeport, all the while working to support her young family. “My experience is boots on the ground,” Hayes told one audience. “No job teaches you that experience. Life teaches you that experience.”

A former high school history teacher, Hayes currently serves as the Talent and Professional Development Supervisor for Waterbury Public Schools. She was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. She is married and has four children.

The Interview

Question: Looking forward to the November election, what makes you a strong candidate?

After the close vote at the Convention, I talked to many people – young people, people who hadn’t been involved in politics before, every demographic. Something in what I was saying resonated with them. There is an appetite for change

All of my life I have been able to get people to coalesce around ideas. I’m the better candidate in November because I have gotten support from first time voters and young people who are really engaged.

I’m a different kind of candidate with a different kind of campaign. We have to give unaffiliated voters a reason to vote Democratic, and maybe even give some Republicans a reason to switch parties. We have to bring in new voters. We have to make this more open and inclusive; every single group has to feel needed and included. Not just reaching the base. We don’t want just all career politicians making decisions. I’ve been able to introduce perspectives that maybe people didn’t already see. I want people to redefine the definition of experience. I bring together diverse groups to talk about the issues.

Question: What is your broad strategy? How do you think about your constituency and the major issues?

I don’t think our platforms are very different. I’m a Democrat and I have Democratic ideas. I think the difference is how I got to this set of opinions. There are so many people who feel they are not represented in this conversation. For instance, talk of the environment also means talk of brown fields and the dirty city air. Gun reform is both a suburban and an urban issue. We need somebody who really understands and connects the problems of people in this district. So that’s the biggest contrast.

When you look at my team, there are five or six different languages, different backgrounds and experiences, diversity of thought, all age groups.  It’s really reflective of how I’d be as a Congressperson – open and inclusive.

The actions of the President are obviously an issue. It’s motivated people to be more active. But I’m running for something, not against something. If we start working towards something, then we can create legislation that makes it impossible for him to move his agenda forward.

Question: What do you see as the most important issue or issues?

In my lifetime, I’ve been through several elections and there is often one big issue. But now I’d say we are in a time where everything is an issue. Every day we turn on the TV and we are faced with a different crisis.

I really believe that we’ve got to invest strongly in our educational system, not just in the state but nationally. And we’ve got to get people working, close some of the opportunity gaps, and increase social mobility. These issues don’t exist in silos. Education can’t happen without health care. To up-start our economy, programs are needed to retrain people for career pathways and they also need affordable housing.

Question: What are your positions on these specific issues?

Health Care: The idea of just getting rid of the ACA is not smart. It has important things in it –pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents’ polices, getting insurance for the first time. But cost is one of the biggest challenges. Health care is a right. Together we have to think how we make this happen.

Immigration/ICE:  Constant stalling on DACA is not good. For multiple pathways to legal citizenship, let’s either make a comprehensive reform of our outdated immigration system or possibly replace it with an agency that meets those needs.

Jobs and the economy:  Not everyone wants to go to college. Training is not just for young people, but for people in industries who are being phased out and need retraining. Our natural environment poses opportunities to create jobs directly connected to clean energy. The economy is changing and we aren’t working fast enough to meet its needs.

Tuition-free college: Absolutely. Education saved my life. Everything about who I am is a result of my education. So many people want to go to school but are overwhelmed by the immense loans for jobs that pay $30,000 a year.  Something is wrong when tuition goes up and college administrators get salary bonuses.

Foreign policy: That is an incredibly complex issue. We have to continue developing positive relationships with our friends and neighbors in countries around the world, yet each must be treated differently. It is not our job to police the world. This idea of isolationism and America first and work for ourselves, this is not who we are.

View Sherman’s Face-to-Face Candidate’s Debate

Click here (if not clickable, first click on this post’s title) to view the video of the debate held on October 22, 2017.

It started with opening statements from both First Selectman Candidates. This was followed by questions for these candidates from a Town Tribune panel. Audience members also had a chance to ask questions.

Starting October 27th, the debates will be broadcast regularly on Channel 194 for Charter and 199 for Frontier.