A father’s emotional plea to the East Haven Board of Education Tuesday night goes viral, racking up tens of thousands of views Facebook. Brian Savo is the dad seen in the video begging school board members to consider his medical condition as part of his request for his daughter to transfer schools.
Savo is already beating the odds, surviving nine years with ALS. It’s a terminal disease that slowly destroys the nervous system. The average life expectancy for those afflicted is between two and five years.
“The disease is death,” Savo told the board. “There is no cure.”
For that reason, Savo wants his nine year old daughter to attend school with her older brother at East Haven Academy, where he’s already a student. “I was hoping I could get some help. We sent in a letter and I didn’t get any feedback,” Savo told News 8’s Mario Boone.
So, he showed up in person, telling board members having the siblings in the same school allows them to comfort each other while their dad’s condition worsens.
“All I’m asking is to do what’s right for my children while they’re suffering and watching their father die,” Savo explained.
The problem is admission to the Academy is based on a lottery system and school superintendent Erica Forti eventually denied his request for a transfer exemption.
“I was born and raised 42 years in the town of East Haven,” said Savo. “It was a stab in the heart, I mean, it’s not even me, it’s my children.”
But critics say exempting Savo is unfair to other children on the wait list.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s all I can say. I didn’t choose to get this disease and I didn’t choose this for my family.”
School board chair Michele DeLucia released a statement committing to working with fellow board members to craft a policy for hardship cases such as Savo’s. You can read her full statement below.
On behalf of the East Haven Board of Education I would like to say that we have the utmost compassion for Mr. Savo, who is afflicted by this terrible disease, ALS. I believe that ensuring the well being and safety of all children, who are students in the East Haven School district is one of the primary tasks the Board of Education is responsible for. However, as a board our responsibility is to act in accordance with the law, rules, and policy established thus far, while maintaining transparency with the public. I will be looking into working with my fellow board members on formulating Policy to address hardship cases such as this that may impact the overall well-being of any student in our district.
On Friday, DeLucia released an updated statement on the matter:
“First and foremost, the board has the greatest sympathy for the Savo family, and the Board will be considering Mr. Savo’s request for a waiver of the lottery system for his daughter at a special meeting I have scheduled for Wednesday July 18.
For clarification, Mr. Savo presented his request to the Board during public comment at the Board meeting on Tuesday evening, and action at that time would have been improper. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Board cannot take action on matters that are not on the agenda. Mr. Savo attended the meeting and made his request during public comment, the Board is required to wait for a future meeting to address his request. At no time was a motion made to add a vote on this matter to the agenda that evening. We will be posting an appropriate agenda so that the Board can consider Mr. Savo’s request on July 18.
It should be noted that the Superintendent did not and does not have the authority to make exceptions to the Board policy establishing a lottery for admission to East Haven Academy. Only the Board can revise or waive its policy.
Keep in mind that in 2010, the Board adopted a lottery system for admission to East Haven Academy. As adopted, the lottery system does not make provision for exceptions under any circumstances. Since that time, the Administration has faithfully implemented the lottery system for admission to East Haven Academy, and no exceptions have been granted.
Speaking as an individual Board member, I believe that an exception in this case is warranted, but a decision must be made by the full Board. When the Board addresses Mr. Savo’s request, I will be recommending that the Board establish a Committee to review the lottery policy at East Haven Academy and to recommend to the Board standards for making hardship exceptions to the policy in the future.”