By Josh LaBella
As a teacher, principal, justice of the peace, Board of Education member and chairman of the Republican Town Committee, Pat Libero has dedicated her life to public service. She said she sees the potential of the city.
Libero, who was born and raised in West Haven, said she went to Southern after graduating from Lauralton Hall in Milford. She studied special education as well as eventually getting her master’s and sixth-year degree there.
“I started at Pagels and taught there for 27 years,” said Libero. “I did a lot of different things when I was there. I loved the school. I loved the community. I was like the teacher in charge. I ran meetings and covered classes. So, it’s not like I stayed in my little special ed circle.”
In between having her first and second child, Libero said she went back to school to get her administrative degree as she wanted to be a principal. She got her first job as principal in 2001 at Bailey Middle school. Eighteen months later, she was hired to be assistant principal at the high school.
“Then I went to Carrigan for five years as principal,” said Libero. “I went to Mackrille for my last year.”
The former principal said in all her roles she found it important to listen to students and their parents. Libero retired in 2011 and said she has had a different job every year. She is hoping to work in Southern’s school of education starting in January.
It was in 2011 that Libero was elected to the Board of Education. She said she wanted to take her experience as an educator and continue to work to improve the quality of West Havens school system.
“I guess I just wanted to stay involved,” said Libero. “I think when you go from being a teacher to a principal or assistant principal it’s a whole different perspective of things you didn’t know.”
Libero said being an administrator and then a board member allowed her to see the reasoning behind big policy decisions that teachers have to carry out. She said one issue she now has a greater understanding of the budget process for the board of education.
As she just won reelection to the board this November, Libero said she hopes they can hire a grant writer and a public relations specialist for the school system. She said the former can help them gain additional funding for the schools while the latter can keep the parents of West Haven students informed on the day-to-day news or important breaking stories, which she thinks is important.
She also said she hopes the board can work on reintroducing introductory courses in sewing, cooking, woodwork and other shop classes in pre-high school curriculums.
Libero had been a longtime member of the RTC when she decided to run for the chairman position. She said she was encouraged to run by outgoing chair and former mayoral candidate Michele Gregorio as well as State Representative Charles Ferraro.
The past election was a “bit of a learning curve” for the party. Libero said they learned a lot about fundraising. They also had a primary, which was rare for the republicans of West Haven.
“Instead of unifying us, the primaries have had the opposite effect,” said Libero. “I think we need to sit down as a group and decide what direction we are going in as well as redefine what our goals are.”
Libero said it can be hard for people not to take things personally in local level politics. According to her, it is important that they not “burn bridges” with the people they live with.
The issues the party is going through just come with the territory of the growth and change they are experiencing, said the chairwoman. She said mistakes are going to be made and it is on her and others to mitigate them and continue forward.
According to Libero, there is ample opportunity for development in the city. She said there are a lot of people with good ideas that could spark improvement who are turned off by the “inner circle politics” that create barriers to entering the space. She described the issue as something that needed to be addressed.
Libero said she is very proud of the school system and the city of West Haven, even if it makes her “crazy sometimes.” She said when push comes to shove, Westies pull together and support one another.