Board of Education members unanimously voted Monday to appoint Smith to fill the seat vacated by fellow Republican Jim Marpe, who resigned last month from the board to run for first selectman. She will serve out the remainder of Marpe's second term, which runs until November 2013.
"I'm just so thankful, honored and excited to be a member of this board, serving our students and the Westport community," Smith told the Westport News after Monday's board meeting.
As mandated by the town's charter, a registered Republican had to succeed Marpe. Three Republicans and four Democrats presently comprise the Board of Education.
The board worked with the Westport Republican Town Committee to vet several candidates. The RTC followed an "independent" process and made recommendations to the board, according to board Chairwoman Elaine Whitney. Education board members then interviewed the candidates, "taking into account the RTC's recommendations, while also conducting an independent assessment of the candidates," she added.
The school board makes the final decision, and is not required to appoint a candidate recommended by a political party's town committee.
Smith joins the school board with extensive experience in the education field. She worked 11 years as a public school teacher in Westchester County, N.Y. She also served in Westchester County as an academic interventionist, specializing in literacy development and as an educational consultant at a Manhattan private school.
Smith ran for a seat on the Board of Education in last year's municipal election. She fell short of winning a seat when she finished fourth among the four candidates vying for the three slots available then on the board. Now, she will serve with those three winning candidates, Democrats Mark Mathias and Michael Gordon and Republican Jennifer Tooker.
Smith was nominated Monday by Republican Michael McGovern, who is the education's board vice chairman. He noted that she had also earned the full endorsement of the RTC.
"Like many of you, the board was impressed with her knowledge of education, which she described as her profession and passion," McGovern said. "I don't know that we've had a more prepared candidate to step forward to fill a vacancy."
Gordon, the education board's secretary, seconded McGovern's nomination.
"Today is a good day for Westport's schools," he said. "Today the Board of Ed is getting someone who understands what happens in the classroom and the community we live in."
The addition of Smith to the education board follows the appointment of Democrat Brett Aronow in September to succeed Don O'Day, who resigned in August after nearly seven years on the panel to focus on his professional career.
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott