Meet your Board of Education Candidates, Wilton!

This information is compiled from a number of sources:  candidate-supplied biographical information, candidate supplied Op-Eds, and video from the Oct. 19 Board of Education Candidate Forum, at which candidates answered questions submitted by Wilton residents. The forum was sponsored by GOOD Morning Wilton, the Wilton Library Association and the Wilton League of Women Voters.

The four candidates for the Board of Education are (in order of how they appear on the ballot):  Deborah Low (D), Gretchen Jeanes (D), Andrea Preston (R) and Glenn Hemmerle (R).

Deborah Low (D)

Deborah Low is a longtime Wilton resident and former educator with 38 years of experience. She was Ridgefield superintendent for eight years. Before that, Low worked 20 years in Wilton, including serving as WHS principal and assistant superintendent.

Low championed improved reading and math programs, expanded support services, increased attention to the affective needs of students, reasonable class sizes, advisory programs, and numerous new high school courses. As superintendent during the recession, Deborah built budgets with historically low increases while still meeting district needs.

Low serves on Wilton’s Social Services Commission. She is the mother of two Wilton graduates.

Deborah Low’s GMW Op-Ed

**PLEASE NOTE:  The lower-third chyron on these video clip identifies Deborah Low as a Republican, in an error made when the original video was produced. She is a Democrat.

Gretchen Jeanes (D)

Gretchen Jeanes‘ professional background has been in construction and project management in NYC. Jeanes is also an active real estate agent with William Raveis in Wilton. She volunteered for the Junior League for 24 years.

Jeanes has two girls in the Wilton Schools, in 4th and 6th grades. She has served four years on the PTA Executive Board in Cider Mill and Miller-Driscoll schools. Jeanes is currently on the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee. As chair of the Furniture Fixtures and Equipment sub-committee, saved almost $200,000 by reallocating the original plan for the furniture throughout the school.

Gretchen Jeanes’ GMW Op-Ed

Andrea Preston (R)

Andrea Preston is a longtime resident of Wilton and has a daughter who is a WHS sophomore. She’s a public relations consultant with 20 years of industry experience. Preston has served the Town in several capacities, including in her current position on the Planning & Zoning Commission and Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows Study Committee. She’s a past member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Water Pollution Control Authority. Preston believes that diversity of thinking is key to a successful board and will draw upon her professional and town experience to bring a unique perspective to the Board of Education.

Andrea Preston’s GMW Op-Ed

Glenn Hemmerle (R)

Glenn Hemmerle and Louise, his wife, are 13-year residents of Wilton. Their children, Ned and Meg, are graduates of Wilton Schools. Ned graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland, and Meg graduates from TCU in Ft. Worth this year.

Hemmerle is a retired, retail executive who served as CEO of a number of international retail companies. Since moving to Wilton he has become active in the community, serving as a youth football coach and a 10-year trustee of the Wilton Library Association, most recently as president. Hemmerle currently sits on Wilton’s Board of Education, co-chairs the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee and is a member of the Energy Commission.

Glenn Hemmerle’s GMW Op-Ed

Welcoming Remarks and Moderator Groundrules

Question 1:  Schools are critical to helping students learn appropriate social behavior. What initiatives would you like the schools to do, and how do you see the Wilton Schools partnering with the community to create a civil society?

Question 2: If the state government reduces substantially their education grants to Wilton, and further asks Wilton to pay, for example, an additional $2 million annually in teachers’ pension costs, that would be added to the BOE budget expenses, would you 1) seek to find appropriate costs savings in the upcoming BOE budget to partially or fully cover it? or 2) ask the town’s citizens for a tax increase to cover it?

Question 3: What performance measurements should be used to assess the success of a school district?

Question 4: How do we change the culture so that students with exceptional ability are praised and encouraged just as much as those with athletic talent?

Question 5:  Last week I was disheartened to learn that some Wilton High School students are sitting through the morning Pledge of Allegiance. I would like to hear your reaction to this and what do you think is an appropriate response position for our district?

Question 6:  Town and school facilities have ongoing capital needs. How should Wilton plan for capital projects?

Question 7:  As enrollment declines, due to census and moving to private school options, how would you work with the superintendent to adjust to these changes?

Question 8:  If student enrollment is declining, why is that not reflected in the budget?

Question 9:  What are your thoughts about how to support change in schools so that Wilton schools remain among the top tier schools in the United States?

Candidates’ Closing Statements