Wilton’s Board of Education held three meetings on Thursday evening, Dec. 1. The first was a two-hour executive session to interview seven prospective candidates who had applied to fill a vacant seat on the board. As an executive session, it was out of the eyes of the public.

The other two public meetings that immediately followed — and were shown live on Zoom and YouTube — were brief and to the point: at the first organizational meeting, the Board members voted to elect officers, after which they conducted another meeting to vote on and appoint someone to fill the Board vacancy.

Aside from the business at hand, there was nothing extraneous or superfluous discussed. The board members executed their tasks in a formal manner and closed the meetings. Notably, none of the votes taken were unanimous.

Officer Elections

As they do at the first meeting in December each year, the board members chose their officers, starting with Chair. Board member Nicola Davies nominated Ruth DeLuca, who had been vice chair for the past year and interim chair since Nov. 11 when former chair Deborah Low resigned. Voting by secret ballot, the board approved DeLuca as chair with four votes in favor, and one abstention.

Next up, Board member Pam Ely nominated Jen Lalor as vice chair. She too was approved in a secret ballot by four votes in favor and one abstention.

Finally, DeLuca nominated Davies to be secretary. The secret ballot vote showed three members voted in favor and two abstained.

As is almost always the case for BOE officer elections, only one person was nominated for each role. There was no discussion or statement by any board member about whether she wanted an executive board position or why she thought she’d make a good officer.

However, after the organizational vote concluded, Lalor asked if the Board could discuss its own process of electing officers at a future meeting.

“Can we on a future agenda item, as in maybe the Dec. 15 [meeting] so it doesn’t get lost [unclear], put as an agenda item a conversation about how we have officer elections — how it takes place and what the procedure is and maybe the process moving forward?”

It was a point she’d raised at the BOE’s previous meeting when she made a statement alleging that past elections had been essentially predetermined before any official meeting of the Board to actually vote.

The current official way of electing officers is set in the BOE’s bylaws:

At the first meeting in the month of December of each year, the Board of Education shall elect by ballot from its members a Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary. This organizational meeting shall be called to order by the current Board Chair who will preside until his/her successor is chosen. In the absence of the Chair, the Vice-Chair or Secretary, in that order, shall preside until a new Chair is elected. [Elect]ion of officers shall be in writing and recorded in the minutes of the meeting. If such officers are not chosen by December 31, the Board of Selectmen shall choose such officers from the Board membership.

DeLuca responded that the board could have that discussion.

“Sure, we can open up the bylaws for discussion,” DeLuca said.

Filling the Vacant Seat

After some other administrative actions, the Board moved on to its regularly scheduled general meeting. That meeting’s agenda listed only one action item — appointing a sixth member to fill the vacant seat.

DeLuca began by reading the bylaw that outlined the Board’s responsibility to choose a new member, and summarized the steps the BOE members had taken to consider applicants for the seat. As GMW covered yesterday, the decision to solicit applications and determining how they would to choose a viable candidate had been fraught with tension between individual Board members and was not wholeheartedly supported by all members.

DeLuca announced that 10 people had submitted applications, and of those the Board members had invited seven to interview.

“The board extends its gratitude and appreciation to all the applicants for their time, interest and willingness to serve. Wilton is truly fortunate to have such talented and engaged citizens. The Board hopes all applicants continue being engaged with the BOE and consider running in the November 2023 town election,” DeLuca said.

When DeLuca asked if anyone wanted to make a motion to appoint one of the candidates, Lalor spoke up first, nominating Matt Filip, an assistant principal at Weston High School and former Middlebrook science teacher. But when a vote was called, only Lalor and Schmauch voted in favor; DeLuca, Ely and Davies voted to oppose and so that motion failed.

DeLuca called for another motion to appoint a candidate. This time Ely came forward with a motion to nominate Laura Schwemm to the open position. Schwemm, a former two-term elected BOE member (2011-19) who’d served as Board secretary from 2013-17 and vice-chair from 2017-19 — had been called on once before to temporarily fill a vacancy. She also had been DeLuca’s first choice this time — DeLuca had originally suggested appointing Schwemm on Nov. 3 before Schmauch and Lalor objected.

This time, the vote made it official, with Schwemm being appointed by a majority vote of 3-2. And with no further business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned.

Following the meeting, DeLuca sent a statement, her first as the official BOE Chair.

“The board extends its gratitude and appreciation to all the applicants for their time, interest, and willingness to serve. We are a board — we discussed and voted. Laura Schwemm is wonderfully qualified and we welcome her to our team. We are glad to have the benefit of her qualifications and experience. The board has a lot of important and challenging work before us, we now have a full board, and will get to the work. The first community budget discussion is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2022 at 6 p.m. at the Wilton High School Library and the board looks forward to hearing from all interested community members.”

The article was updated to clarify timing of certain events and to add what the BOE bylaws state about officer elections.