Election 2017: Familiar names fill out school board ballot
WESTPORT— There won’t be a contested race for a seat on the Board of Education in November’s municipal election, but several familiar faces will have a chance to reassert their priorities for the district.
Incumbents Elaine Whitney and Candi Savin, Democrats, and Karen Kleine and Jeannie Smith, Republicans, are on the ballot in the uncontested election. All four are guaranteed spots on the seven-member board.
Republican Vik Muktavaram, whose four-year term is set to expire in 2019, is running for the Board of Finance and, should he be elected, will leave a vacancy to be filled by the board following the election.
“This happens not infrequently,” said Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon. “When a Board of Education member resigns in the middle of a term or is elected to another post, the Board of Education appoints a new member.”
The new member must be from the same party as the member who resigned and is appointed with the help of either the Republican Town Committee or Democratic Town Committee.
Whitney is a former chairman of the board and is currently secretary. She’s served on the school board for eight years and was also named to the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. In her 17 years living in Westport, Whitney was co-president of the Long Lots Parent Teacher Association, a member of the Westport Rotary Club and a Girl Scout leader.
She graduated from Yale University, received her Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University and is a strategic planner in the health care field.
Fellow Democrat Savin is an attorney whose practice is located in Westport. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Duke University.
“From a legal point of view, the type of intellectual training and experience you have as an attorney serves you well in anything where you’re going to be making judgments, thinking analytically, synthesizing info and making arguments. In general I think it’s an advantage,” said Savin, who joined the Board of Education last year and has lived in town since 2002.
Among her top priorities for her upcoming term, Savin listed creating a budget that supports students, promoting the civility and emotional intelligence of the children and exploring the use of solar energy. The uncertainty surrounding the state’s budget, Savin said, is a primary cause of concern.
“Fortunately we live in a town that is in very good fiscal condition,” Savin said. “We’re in better position than most towns, but we still have to be vigilant and be careful with every dollar.”
Smith is currently vice chairman of the Board of Education and has served for five years. Before coming to Westport, Smith was a teacher and an economic consultant for 12 years and received her master’s degree in teaching from Fordham University.
Kleine has served on the Board of Education for four years and is a former Coleytown Middle School PTA president and is a state-certified Board of Education member. She’s been chairman of the Temple Israel Youth Commission, a member of the Westport Library Teen Planning Committee and the Temple Israel Religious School Committee. She received a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and has three children.
Smith did not respond to multiple requests for an interview, Whitney did not respond as of press time, and Kleine declined to comment for this story.