Stratford Votes to Name School After Fallen Teacher Victoria Soto

Town Council approves resolution naming new elementary school after Stratford native who died protecting her students during the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown.

The story of how Newtown teacher Victoria Soto sacrificed her life for those of her first-grade students will no doubt echo through the hallways of a new Stratford school to be named in her honor.

The Stratford Town Council voted unanimously Monday to name the new elementary school on the campus of Stratford Academy after the fallen hero teacher who grew up in Stratford and graduated from Stratford High in 2003.

Construction on what will become Victoria Soto School is expected to begin in the summer. The school will serve grades K though 2.

"I am happy that the town was able to come together and pass this and I feel honored that my sister's name will stay alive and she will never be forgotten," Jillian Soto, Victoria's sister, told WTNH and other media that crowded her after the vote passed.

"For the 19 children you protected you were an angel [and] you've been my hero my entire life," Jillian said at her sister's funeral on Dec. 19. "I'm so proud of you and all you did in your 27 years."

The vote comes exactly one month after the Dec. 14 mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 young students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is located about 20 miles north of Stratford.

The idea to rename what would have been the new Honeyspot Elementary School was brought forth by Mayor John A. Harkins. Though he was absent from Monday's meeting due to a family emergency, Council members rallied for a unanimous vote.

"There's no more nobler way to perish," said a choked-up Councilman Matt Catalano (R-3).

Before the vote, several residents during public forum backed the resolution to name the school after Soto. However, the majority of residents who spoke also used the time to question why a resolution mainly on gun control drafted by Councilwoman Stephanie Philips (D-2) was not on the agenda.

In a letter to the media last week, Philips said the resolution aims to put pressure on Congress to act immediately to prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook. The resolution outlines several legislative measures concerning mental health and gun control, such as supporting the federal banning of high-capacity assault weapons and universal background checks. (Click here to read it in full.)

Philips's resolution was not on the agenda Monday night because Council Chairman Joe Kubic (R-9) declined to add it, Philips said before the meeting. The Councilwoman called Kubic's dissent "inexcusable." Kubic explained his opposition in an interview with the Stratford Star:

"I just don't think the resolution that Stephanie proposed is appropriate for Monday’s meeting in light of the fact that we already have a resolution to rename a school in honor of Victoria Soto scheduled before the council."

As members and friends of the Soto family awaited a vote on the school, several Council members lambasted Philips for pushing the resolution on a night that they said "was supposed to be a positive evening," in Kubic's words.

Councilman James Connor (R-8) railed on Philips, saying she didn't reach out to the Soto family when drafting the resolution, which she rebuffed. He said her motivation was politics and labeled the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) "responsible for losing sight" of tonight's purpose, to honor Victoria Soto. Nine members of the DTM spoke in favor of the resolution and commended Philips for drafting it.

"When everyone tells me it's not political, it's political," Connor said.

"Tonight was supposed to be about honoring Soto until Philips came in with her own agenda," Councilman Ken Poisson (R-6) added.

Catalano said the resolution should include more input from fellow Council members and the public before it's brought to the table.

Councilman Craig Budnick (R-7) said it was "upsetting to see conversation more about Philips than Soto [but] we need to have this conversation [about legislative measures] and we will have this conversation."

"When will we be moved to action?" Philips said. "If not now, when?"

Jim Wiltsie, a Soto relative, told WTNH he was "a little disappointed" with the sometimes contentious display of the Council members. "We didn't want the direction of the meeting to go that way," he said. "Tonight was supposed to be about honoring Vicki's legacy."

RMK January 15, 2013 at 04:09 PM
It's important to mention that the Sandy Hook families of the children who lost their lives a month ago spoke yesterday on the issue of making this a national discussion on how to move forward. Does Mr. Conor believe they too were being "political"? This is a conversation the country NEEDS to have, and the Sandy Hook families have had the courage to step up and do just that. To pull the "politics" card seems a cowardly position for our councilmembers to take and nationally reflects the sentiments of those who don't want any kind of discussion on gun control. Honoring Ms. Soto's memory isn't exclusive from actively ensuring that the gun violence that took her life is being seriously discussed in public forums around the country, and responding as a community towards healing in a meaningful way is easily as respectful as naming a school after her.
Theresa January 15, 2013 at 04:36 PM
It is nice to hear Victoria's sister speak about her as a role model and for the things she did for others in life. We have spent so much time talking about the way she died that we forget what she contributed while here. What will continue on are the memories her friends, her students and her family have of her. If we do not learn anything from the tragedy and do nothing, Victoria and the others will have simply died for nothing. I think that was the point of Philips' efforts, but her timing was inappropriate.
Jason Bagley January 15, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Video from the press conference RMK mentions can be viewed here: http://patch.com/A-1gFN What follows are two quotes from parents who lost children in the mass shooting. "Though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death we will not fear darkness or evil -- we are choosing love..love wins in Newtown and may love win in America." "Like everyone here we want to bring about changes that will stop a tragedy such as this from happening in any community ever again because this can happen in any community, your community. It has already happened in Tucson, Littleton, Aurora and Blacksburg; it has happened in our schools, theaters, places of worship, malls and offices...it is our responsibility to be outraged...it is responsibility to take action to ensure this doesn't happen again. To do so an open dialogue among the community is essential."
Kathleen Connor January 18, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Meaningful discussions on generating a more peaceful society are needed but there is a time and place for everything. The Council meeting on Monday night was not the most sensitive time for this discussion. Using the word cowardly to describe Councilman Connor's use of the word "politics" at Monday's meeting seems a bit harsh and clearly uninformed. How do you know that there isn't an interest to have "any kind of discussion on gun control?" FYI: Councilman Connor served in the military for 20 years ( and be careful not to assume he owns a gun because of his military background--he does not and never has), works full time and volunteers his time for the town. He is considered by the leaders of the town to be fair minded and bi-partisan and is often sought out for his advise. He is raising 3 grandchildren to give them a stable, loving home which they would not have otherwise. Maybe if you used your name rather than hiding behind initials, the word cowardly would have more weight in your argument.
kfy0821133 January 23, 2013 at 12:54 PM
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