The Branford Board of Education will start the 2019-21 term with a new chair.
Shannen Sharkey, teacher, will take the helm after a three way race that took two votes to see a new chair selected.
Sharkey, John Prins, an education consultant, and incumbent Michael Kraus, a local business owner, sought the seat. Over the last week, the three worked to secure the votes of the other members.
Prior to the first vote, each candidate was allowed 3 minutes to speak. Prins spoke about the supporting environment he wanted to see in the school system; Kraus detailed the list of accomplishments by the Board under his 6 years as chair, including moving forward on a new Walsh school; and Sharkey focused on being a teacher, something that she stated helps her in seeing the real impacts of policies being discussed every day.
“It has been decades since this Board had a chair that actually gets up each day and teaches,” said Sharkey. “Actually interacts, each day, with students, teachers, and parents. That real experience has helped me connect with the local community as a BOE member; I understand the daily concerns of parents and all of those who work in the education system.”
An initial vote, which saw paper ballots but each member vote announced publicly, saw Sharkey garner 4 votes, one shy of the needed 5. Kraus had 3 votes, Prins 2.
Those supporting Sharkey were Maria Erhardt, Dawn Perrotti, Meredith Gaffney; supporting Kraus was Ellen Michaels and Joann Borrus, and supporting Prins was Betsy Regan.
Each candidate voted for themselves.
From here the decision was made to take a recess and let the parties caucus. Almost an hour later, the Board returned to session, and took a second vote.
This time, Sharkey supporters were joined by Prins, Regan and Michaels, and with a 7-2 vote, Sharkey became the new chair of the Board of Education. John Prins was named vice chair, and Regan as secretary.
With the new chair, Kraus completes 6 years as the chair of the Board of Education. Kraus helped lead the new Walsh school project, and a series of budgets that saw the annual increases, by percentage, drop year after year. Challenges faced included declining enrollment, Common Core implementation, and more. During his term as chair, the Board also remained non-partisan in its handling of issues.
The Board also welcomed new member Meredith Gaffney to the body, and honored outgoing member John O’ Connor for his years of service on the BOE and as a teacher and coach in the Branford school system.