WESTPORT — The Board of Education and district administration has appointed Michael Rizzo as the new assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services.

“I am very, very excited to rejoin the Westport Public Schools in this role,” Rizzo said following his unanimous approval at a BOE meeting Monday.

Rizzo steps in for Tina Mannarino who went on sick leave in the winter and then announced in April she would be leaving the district. He previously served as an administrator in Westport beginning in 2006, the last six years as director of pupil services in Westport, which was elevated to an assistant superintendent position after his departure in 2018.

He served as Weston’s assistant superintendent of pupil personnel services in the interim.

John Bayers, human resources director, said a committee comprised of administrators, school board members, parents and teachers recommended Rizzo to incoming Superintendent Thomas Scarice.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the anticipated appointment of Mike Rizzo in this position,” Scarice said. “His credentials speak for themselves. His professional experiences are exemplary.”

Kate Grijns, co-chair of the PTA’s Special Education Committee, said the night was truly a dream come true for many special education parents.

“Our district was so fortunate to have Mike Rizzo lead our pupil services department once, and now we’re over the moon to welcome him back to be our assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services,” Grijns said.

Last year, Grijns and a number of parents voiced concern of the district’s special education practices after a parent accused Mannarino, Bayers and former Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer of using retaliatory tactics against his family.

The school board declined comment at the time, stating federal and state laws limit what can be shared in any investigation regarding employees and students.

But Grijns, who sat on the search committee, gave a warm endorsement for Rizzo and said many special needs parents were also excited.

“Mike is a hero and a mentor to parents and colleagues alike,” she said.

The school board showed similar support in Rizzo’s approval.

“I’m thrilled to see Mike back here in Westport,” BOE Chair Candice Savin said. “I think he’ll really be able to hit the ground running because he has a lot of trust and love here in the community.”

In other business, the school board reviewed a strategic entry plan for Scarice, who officially begins his role on July 1.

“I do think the district is at a point right now where we have to position ourselves for the highest level of success during this transition,” Scarice said.

He said he looks to devote time establishing relationships and learning more about the district before implementing any changes. Scarice said any changes would be systematic, transparent and public and take course over his first year.

“Sometimes in order to go forward long term in a real, real measurable way, you to have pause and take things in and slow things down,” he said.

The school board will review Scarice’s plan again at its meeting on June 1.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com