NEW BRITAIN - Joseph Listro, executive director of New Britain ROOTS, has been approved by the Common Council to fill a vacancy seat on the Board of Education.
During Wednesday’s regular meeting, Listro said he is excited to bring his wide range of experiences to be a part of the board. He is a New Britain native educated in Newington and New Britain schools.
As the founder of ROOTS, a nonprofit organization that promotes access to healthy, locally grown food throughout the city, Listro helped educate thousands of New Britain children through afterschool and summer programs, as well as enrichment programs.
“I have 12 years of experience teaching outdoor education on farms in Connecticut and in Maine,” he said. “I am a hard worker because I am a farmer, and if you know any farmers, they are hard workers.”
His ROOTS organization sprung from his work at Urban Oaks Farm on Oak Street where he established education programs and partnerships for urban gardens. He also studied environmental sciences at the University of Southern Maine that led to his interest in sustainable agriculture.
Starting ROOTS from scratch, Listro said he is familiar with the funding process and understands the financial challenges of a school district.
“I hope to take my experiences of knowing how to use money, how to stretch the dollar and how to use it wisely to the board of education,” he said. “I also want to make sure that the district knows there is a lot of support in the community and for the district to be willing to accept that support. We have a lot of assets that we can tap into.”
Listro is also an advocate for youth workforce programs, partnering with the Opportunities Industrialization Center of New Britain, Human Resource Agency, and Capital Workforce Partners, to ensure that for the youth who are looking for summer employment opportunities have access to those opportunities.
In addition to serving as a commissioner on the Youth and Family Service Bureau, Listro is a member of the health and wellness committee for the Coalition for New Britain’s Youth. He is also a member of the CT Farm To School Collaborative that advocates for state policies promoting state grown products in schools as well as the development of farming curricula.
Alderman Robert Smedley said he supports Listro’s nomination and pointed out that the nominee has been a good steward of community funds for ROOTS and other programs over the years.
“I know Joey can make wise decisions regarding funding and I hope he will continue to do so while on the board of education,” he said. “I see how he interacts with the youth on a regular basis and his staff have adopted his practices as well so that speak volumes to his ability to lead in our community.”
The Board of Education vacancy happened in September when Diane Leja, a board Democrat, resigned.
Board of Education members are elected under the minority representation law and the seat must go to a Democrat in accordance with the results of the 2019 municipal election.