Westport Board of Education fills open seat with former member

Neil Phillips

Neil Phillips

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

WESTPORT — Neil Phillips officially took his seat as the newest member of the Board of Education Monday as the board unanimously appointed him to the vacancy.

Phillips, who has lived in town for 25 years, won the unanimous endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee last week to fill the open seat left when Democrat Youn Su Chao stepped down for personal reasons earlier this month.

Board Chairwoman Lee Goldstein said the members asked Phillips to consider applying when they received Chao’s resignation. They hoped that, given his prior experience, he would be willing to support the board through this transition period.

“Neil is a highly respected member of the Westport community,” board Chairwoman Lee Goldstein said. “He has extensive experience in public service and on the board.”

Phillips served on the Representative Town Meeting from 2013 to 2018 and was its education committee chairman. He then was appointed to fill another open school board seat from 2018 to 2019.

He said he enjoys working with the board of education because it focuses on the schools, a huge part of the community and it allows him the chance to have a seat at the table to consider topics concerning the schools.

He also has two sons who attend Staples High School.

“Education is important to me,” Phillips said.

“This is a transitional time for them having lost a lot of veteran, seasoned members all at once,” Phillips said. “It’s a relatively new board now so I think whatever experience I can bring to the board I think might be helpful for the current members.”

Phillips said the condensed period during his initial term on the board was a “chaotic” time that led to his decision to not seek reelection.

He said at the time Coleytown Middle School shut down due to the mold problem and the transition of the superintendent position led to a lot of “turmoil.”

“It created a lot of chaos and turmoil in the school and community back then so it was a tough year to put it mildly in terms of stress,” Phillips said. “It took a lot of time from the board members and I felt that personally and professionally as well so I chose not to run again simply because of that condensed period of time.”

Phillips, who is a lawyer, said with working full-time, that time was a “strain” on his professional life.

“I think things have calmed down since then and I’m looking at this as trying to help out the board this time around,” he said

Phillips will finish out the term, which runs until the next municipal election in November 2023.

serenity.bishop@hearstmediact.com