East Lyme – Timothy Hagen, Board of Education chairman and the newly recognized namesake for the high school pool, this week presided over his last regular meeting after 18 years of service.
Monday’s meeting included the surprise announcement that the pool in the East Lyme Aquatic and Fitness center would be named the Tim Hagen Pool.
Hagen during the meeting expressed shock that the pool he helped build will bear his name.
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Newton said he was sure the news “will sink in.”
Hagen’s involvement with the school system began with his advocacy for a community pool back in 1996, which came to fruition as part of a 1999 school expansion. In 2003, he was tapped to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education and in 2010 he became chairman.
A plaque at the pool will call out Hagen for his “leadership and community service, advocacy for building the East Lyme pool, dedication to promoting youth and adult swimming, and commitment to outstanding schools as a Board of Education member,” according to Newton. He said a dedication ceremony will be held in early January.
The superintendent said Hagen attended roughly 430 regular meetings over 18 years on the school board – and more than a thousand if you add in special meetings, school project meetings, budget meetings and town meetings.
“You’ve been a voice of reason and a solid foundation for me, our admin team and all of our staff,” Newton told Hagen during the meeting. “This was especially true as we navigated the building projects and redistricting together. And it’s continued with COVID and other issues we’ve endured over the years.”
Hagen got a standing ovation after being described by Newton as a “quintessential board member” who made the school district a better place.
The outgoing chairman said he just hopes he was “able to set an example in some ways as to how boards should function and work.”
He credited former school board members Kevin Seery and Mary Broderick with setting that example for him. Seery, who went on to become a selectman and is now the first selectman-elect, was at Monday’s meeting to say that appointing Hagen back in 2003 was “probably one of the smartest things we ever did.”
“Tim was such a great sounding board,” Seery said of the eight years they served together on the school board. “You knew that he would always think things out thoroughly and come up with a very good answer that took into consideration everyone’s point of view.”
Hagen retired from Pfizer as vice president of science and technology more than 10 years ago and went on to work as a consultant. He earned a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Michigan.
Member Jill Carini credited Hagen’s midwestern sensibilities with helping instill in him the qualities of a good school board leader. She said he always took the time, even during crises, to get everyone’s input.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Hagen said his professional background was a factor in his success on the school board. “I learned the best way to get things done is to work as a team member,” he said. “Everyone is treated equal on the team and everybody’s opinion matters.”
He said the results are powerful when the different experiences and skills on a 10-member board are leveraged to come up with a plan.
He said devising an elementary school renovation and redistricting plan – and then rallying support for it – was the biggest challenge he oversaw as chairman.
“We kind of went around in circles for quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was the right thing to do for the East Lyme community and the district,” he said. The result was a $37.5 million renovation of the three elementary schools and a shifting of boundaries to more evenly distribute the students.
“I think it’s worked out very well,” he said. “Of course, you never get to run the experiment more than one way.”
Half of the school board seats were up for election this year, with winners to be sworn in Dec. 6. Reelected on Nov. 2 was Bill Derry, a Democrat, along with Candice Carlson and Leigh McNamara Gianakos, who ran with the Republicans. They are joined by Republican Alisa Bradley and Democrat Laura Greenstein, a previous member of the school board.
The school board will continue to be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.