Ex-parole officer enjoying new career as teacher
WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) — It takes a lifelong learner to go from a career filled with bars and guards to one with little lockers and multiplication drills.
For Louis Faiella, 20 years working as a parole officer and leader in the state Department of Correction caused him to discover the teacher inside. It also taught him the importance of catching young people at an age when you can help build character and values.
‘‘The important thing is good character and being respectful,’’ Faiella said. ‘‘I can see so clearly working with offenders that what’s lacking in their life is citizenship, respect and helping people. You don’t become a criminal when you have those traits ingrained in your heart.’’
Faiella, a third-grade teacher at Rock Hill School, is also president of the Wallingford Education Association, a union of 590 teachers that come to him for leadership during times of crisis. Recently, it was the shooting deaths of 20 elementary school students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Teachers worked hard to project a sense of normalcy in their classrooms in the early aftermath of the shootings. But privately, they needed to talk, Faiella said. And they did.
‘‘Awareness is the biggest thing,’’ he said. ‘‘There are some nuts and bolts things we can do, like checking the locks on doors, improve intercom systems, but the key is awareness. Teachers are more aware now.’’
Teachers and others who work in schools may need to have difficult conversations with each other and administrators about potential domestic or neighbor disputes and tell someone not to allow certain people in the school.
‘‘Teachers need to be able to talk and say if I'm going through a tough time with someone,’’ he said. ‘‘All we did was talk about it. You think it’s a sacred place with children. It’s in the back of everyone’s mind. I'm still devastated by it.’’
Faiella, 57, is a licensed gun owner and certified firearms instructor. He said he doesn’t want to see armed police officers in the schools. Eliminating the easy availability of high-capacity clips and conducting more intensive background checks are first steps that need to be done before considering guns in schools, he said.
Arming teachers is out of the question.
‘‘The law enforcement professionals who are trainers should be the ones protecting us in whatever fashion,’’ he said. ‘‘I'm more interested in community resource officers who are part of the school’s fabric. I don’t want to see an armed guard.’’
But Faiella’s experience with criminals tells him that despite the schools’ best practices and security, anyone with a death wish can create terror anywhere.
‘‘If you’re willing to die, you can do it,’’ he said.
Faiella was born and raised in the north end of Bridgeport and attended the University of New Haven, where he received a degree in criminal justice. He tested for the Bridgeport Police Department but his ultimate goal was working for the FBI.
In the meantime, he met and fell in love with his future wife, Corinne Faiella, now a third-grade teacher at Parker Farms School.
After passing the intensive FBI background check, he turned down a position in Washington to settle in North Haven with his wife. He found a corrections job at the Whalley Avenue jail in New Haven and when the Bridgeport Police Department finally called with a job offer, he turned it down because of the residency requirement.
Faiella was one of a few with a degree working at the jail, and was eventually transferred to Cheshire Correctional Institution. After six months he was promoted to counselor at Manson Youth Correctional Institution where he worked with youthful offenders.
It was there that Faiella discovered his love of teaching and the importance of introducing values and life skills to students before they get too old.
‘‘As much as you throw at them, they don’t avail themselves of all the things the state has to offer,’’ Faiella said. ‘‘It was rewarding to work with younger offenders who weren’t set in stone.’’
A warden recommended he become a parole officer. He carried a firearm, drove an unmarked car and traveled to parole offices in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford. He eventually transferred to the New Haven parole office and was promoted to supervisor and eventually commander of the fugitive team.
As part of the parole fugitive team he received training from U.S. marshals on tactical skills, new firearms and the dangerous exercise of room clearing. The fugitive team became well known in the state for its tactical response, he said.Continued...