Friday, May 07, 2021

Person of the Week

Tom Murtagh Looks Forward to Giving Back on BOE


Mayor Joe Carfora recently appointed Tom Murtagh to the East Haven Board of Education. Photo courtesy of Tom Murtagh

Mayor Joe Carfora recently appointed Tom Murtagh to the East Haven Board of Education. (Photo courtesy of Tom Murtagh )

When a seat recently opened on the East Haven Board of Education (BOE), Mayor Joe Carfora reflected on the mission of the BOE, the future of East Haven schools, and the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19 as he decided who would be appointed. After much consideration, he contacted Tom Murtagh, who eventually accepted.

“It was a surprise call from the mayor and he asked if I would be amenable to accepting an appointment,” says Tom. “I asked him why and he gave me his reasons. I said, ‘Let me think about it,’ and spoke with my wife, [BOE member] Jack Stacey, and Superintendent [of Schools Erica] Forti. I spoke to her about what goes on, what’s expected, and made a decision to do it. I’m not a political person. Party doesn’t matter, it’s about whatever is best for the children.”

Tom is familiar with the East Haven school system as his 19-year-old twins recently completed their education there. Though Tom wasn’t involved in the BOE when his children were in school, he attended a few BOE meetings and was in close contact with his children’s teachers and guidance counselors throughout their years in school.

Though Tom grew up in Meriden, he and his family have lived in East Haven since 2004. Tom received his associate’s degree in electrical engineering and then continued his education at Hartford Hospital where he studied to become a radiation therapist, a career he has had for the past 26 years.

Tom worked at the McGivney Cancer Center and transferred to the Yale Smilow Cancer Center when Yale purchased St. Raphael. Tom’s career also led to meeting his wife, Claudia, who is a nurse.

“She had brought a patient down and we got a rapport going,” says Tom. “Our patients thought we got along well and would send notes down to me asking if I’d asked her out yet.”

Tom did ask Claudia for a date, and the couple has now been married for 21 years. They lived in West Haven for a short time before settling in East Haven, where Claudia’s sister lived.

“We really liked the community,” says Tom, who enjoys do-it-yourself home projects and spending time with family. “Everyone is very nice here. I like my neighbors and it was a good school system.”

Over the years in town, Tom got to know many people, including Carfora, whom he met through mutual friends. Tom recalls taking part in several discussions with Carfora on multiple topics over the years.

“One of the reasons he liked me is I have an open mind, I don’t judge people, and I will speak my mind,” says Tom. “I never thought of running for the position because I’ve never been political, but when it came up, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help the kids as much as I can.”

Tom was recently appointed, and he is in the midst of learning the processes of the BOE and getting caught up on past meeting minutes. He is also learning about the various subcommittees and their functions.

In addition, Tom has met with Forti, who has given him insight into how the committees work and the finance and budget process. He notes that Forti, who has been “tremendous,” has introduced him to the school principals and staff and shown him around the schools.

Tom has been able to see firsthand how the district has implemented changes and made adjustments due to COVID. As someone who works in the healthcare field, Tom has experienced the challenges COVID presents. Elective surgeries have dropped off, COVID hospitalizations have increased, and there is the constant challenge of protecting patients and protecting doctors, nurses, and staff during this pandemic.

“I’ve been able to see the improvements made educationally and structurally,” says Tom. “It was pretty amazing to see the amount of knowledge the school administration has about COVID and what’s going on with information from the CDC and the state.” He says contract tracing indicates that cases are not being transmitted in schools, but that the rising cases in communities have made it hard on teachers and students.

“We just have to realize the situation we’re in now is unprecedented and we have to do the best we possibly can,” adds Tom. “The school and administration has done a very good job at trying to accommodate everything.”

While the BOE generally meets twice a month, Tom says there is correspondence on different topics in between meetings. There have also been special meetings held due to the ongoing changes brought on by COVID.

Tom realizes how quickly situations can change due to COVID, but as a member of the BOE, one of Tom’s top priorities is having transparent communication and getting people answers to their questions as soon as possible.

For now, Tom is concentrating on learning how to fulfill his new role in order to make the most of his term, which expires in November when he can choose to run for re-election. He is not only thankful to Forti for her support, but his fellow BOE members as well, who have been “accommodating and helpful” as he gets up to speed.

“Right now I’m still getting acclimated and learning how the processes are done,” says Tom. “I just want to do the best I can for the students because they’re the only reason for all of this.”

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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