Lyons, who replaces two-year chairman Jack Chiaramonte, said there are likely to be cuts in this year's BOE budget.
"Everybody has to get behind the leadership," Colarossi said. "We have to build some trust and figure out that there's more that unites us than divides us."
Lyons brings to the board a deep background in the city's finances as the board heads into what some say will be another tough year. Lyons served six years on the city's Board of Estimate and Taxation.
"I developed a healthy skepticism for the numbers that came out of the Board of Education over the years," he said, adding that, unfortunately, the board had already done its job of squeezing things out of the budget when the $4 million budget shortfall was discovered last year.
"The city's guidance to us is we should expect a 2½ percent increase in our budget," he said. "Since our expenses are more than 2½ percent, we have to find ways of closing the gap between those two numbers. It's not going to be a gap like last year but it's still going to be a gap."
His priorities are "getting a solid budgetary system in place" and then convincing the city to invest money in implementing Common Core State Standards.
"We're hopeful that we can put together a budget for the city that might convince them to give us a little more than that 2 ½ percent," he said. "If they feel that we are being responsible with the budget and have control over the problems that are self-generated, that we would then be in a position to go to them and say, 'Look, you can afford to give us a little more money, knowing that we are not going to misspend it.'"
Some observers called Lyons the "reform" candidate for the job. "I think that's an accurate description," Lyons said. "I think I came in here as somebody to try to shake things up a little bit."
Republican BOE member Sue Haynie said Lyons became involved in reform long before it became a Norwalk buzz word. She said Lyons worked with other parents in 1993 to shift Marvin Elementary School from a traditional model to an accelerated one.
"He thinks of how do you take a good product and make it better, how do you improve on it?" she said. "In many ways, we're not happy with the results that we're getting. If you have 50 percent not reading at grade level, we really need to think of different ways of doing things."
She thinks Lyons will impress corporate funders and perhaps bring more money to the school system.
"He's a deliberate type of person and I think that deliberateness is one of the things funders like to see, that parents like to see, that teachers like to see, that the board can benefit from," she said.
In other votes, Kassimis was elected vice chairman for the second year in a row. Democrats Heidi Keyes and Migdalia Rivas vied for the secretary position; Keyes got five votes, Rivas got four.
The Board of Education also voted last Tuesday night to require children to come to school on Friday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb. 19, which had previously been scheduled as days off. But children who can prove that their families had scheduled vacations before the change was made will not have absences added to their total. (Eight absences are allowed.)
The change was made because of days lost to Hurricane Sandy and the expectation that this will be a tough winter.
In addition, students will have a full day on March 22. The day was originally scheduled as a half day to allow teachers to have professional development. The teachers will have their PD day at the end of the year.
Board members made that decision reluctantly.
"I appreciate how important it is to have professional development during the school year," said Steven Colarossi. "I also know kids don't get much out of a half day and it's a terrible inconvenience for working families."
Rosa Murray agreed with others that training teachers at the end of the year is not effective, as they will then wait two months to use what they have learned.
Eight members voted in favor of delaying the professional day; Migdalia Rivas opposed it.
Jeff Beckley, a teacher who came to the meeting, said he understood both sides of the issue as he is also a parent of elementary school-aged children.
"Half days are truly not as effective instructionally," he said, speaking as a teacher. "We have less time to teach all of our subject areas. So the argument for either side can be made, but I can say that professional development days at the end of the school year typically are unproductive."
At the BOE meeting, outgoing chairman Chiaramonte was applauded for his efforts.
"I know Jack has always acted in the best interests of our kids," Lyons said. "He's a passionate guy. I know that, having worked with him the last year on this board, he's kept things moving forward and helped steer the school system through a very, very difficult budgetary problem we ran into last year."