Milford School District Board of Education voted to keep a seat for Area B, recently vacated by Kris Thompson, open until the election in May 2023. This will allow the public the opportunity to select who will sit on the board and represent Area B. The decision was made after the board once again split votes between the two candidates, Sara Kate Hammer and Jennifer Masotti. Ten members of the audience spoke on behalf of the candidates during the public hearing portion of the meeting. In addition, both candidates were asked to speak.
“Good evening. I’m going to make this short and simple. First of all, I would like to thank those who came forward and did the public speaking in support of myself for this open seat, as well as those who may have flooded your emails and supported myself,” Masotti said. “Thank you for another opportunity to speak as a candidate for this open seat on the school board. As I mentioned at the other board meeting, I currently have three children in the Milford School District. In addition to having a personal investment, I am also concerned about the general student body. My motivation to apply for the school board seat is to support and enhance the success of the student body, if chosen for this open seat. Some of my focus includes academics and student safety, my attributes to name a few are a team player, flexible, willing to work hard and contribute ideas. I want to be part of the school board to ensure that the school district can be the best it can be for everyone involved.”
Once Masotti finished speaking, Hammer was provided ten minutes to also speak.
“Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the board of directors. I appreciate this time to have a few minutes to talk to you again and I will also be very brief, because you have a lot of good work to do tonight,” Hammer said. “I stand before you today, again, a willing volunteer very excited at the opportunity to join your board, to work for the community and to work for the students of this district, the staff of Milford School District in its entirety, and the community in general who relies on the school board as sort of the center of a lot of the activities that go on in our town and in the greater Milford community. I also would like to thank all of the people who spoke on my behalf and also on behalf of Miss Masotti. I think it’s really important that we get involved in our community. And I think that people showing up, writing letters of support, coming out to acknowledge that they support both of us is really important. And that’s what we have, something very special here in Milford and I think that that is we have a lot of actively engaged people with lots of different viewpoints, who are willing to stand up and do the work and of course thank you to those who do it already. I appreciate that. I would also like to say that I would like to encourage those folks who have written and supported me and come out tonight and also Miss Masotti to remain engaged in the school board and to not let this one moment be the last time that you come out and listen to a school board meeting and that you find time for yourself to consider being on the school board or actively participating in our schools in a way that fits your volunteer needs. And I also want to just take a brief moment and thank the board members who have reached out to me to talk to me about how I feel about being a school board member. It was very appreciated.”
In addition to the ten people who spoke on behalf of both Masotti and Hammer at the meeting, the board packet contained 44 emails from supporters of both Masotti and Hammer. Of those emails, 29 supported Hammer while 15 supported Masotti. Of the ten people who spoke during public comment, two spoke on behalf of Hammer while eight spoke on behalf of Masotti. After both candidates spoke, School Board President Jason Miller asked the board for comments.
“I would also like to thank everybody that came out. Like both of our candidates said, it’s great that so many people come out,” Board member David Vezmar said. “For those who don’t know, on a typical school board meeting, these chairs are empty. They’re empty. We have some school staff, the administrators sitting here, but it’s empty. So, I also hope that this isn’t a one and done. I really hope to see more of you out at the meetings. And same thing with the correspondence, we got a lot of emails for both candidates. And I appreciate those, too, the more we get, the more we understand the pulse of the community. I think, kind of based on that the pulse of the community, from what I have seen and based on what we’ve heard tonight and all of the correspondence that we’ve received from the community. Last meeting, we were a split board. And by my count, the community has recommended Sara Kate Hammer, so I’m not going to make a motion because I made the first motion last time, but I just think that the Board should heavily weigh that the community has recommended Sarah Kane hammer to join our board.”
Board member Scott Fitzgerald disagreed with Vezmar’s assessment that the community recommended Hammer over Masotti. Vezmer explained that he simply counted the emails.
“I weigh, personally, the public showing up heavier than emails, but I understand what you’re saying. I think as far as the way I have looked at it because I think we are responsible for picking a person that is not necessarily who we want or who we would pick but who we think would be elected by their constituents if they were running,” Fitzgerald said. “And I think based on recent election outcomes, and the people that showed up tonight, I think Miss Masotti would win an election between the two.”
Board member Adam Brownstein stated that he had the opportunity to sit down with both candidates and that the conversation he had with both of them was “great.” He commented that both candidates were clearly qualified for the position.
“I thank the candidates for coming and representing themselves as far as wanting to be on the school board. And for the both of them for their compassion and passion that they have for school students,” Board member Jean Wylie said. “Also, we as school board members, we also have to be involved in community activities and also just not being involved with our families or friends. So, we have to take a look at who we are impacting, not for just the school district, we have to look at how we are going to really challenge ourselves and we are challenged all the time with different decisions that we have to make policies, that we have to agree or not agree with. So I thank all of you and all the letters that our emails that were sent to us and we will do our best to make the best decision that we can make, because it is supposed to be a non-political position and it’s a position that we are coming together as a group to be able to choose or select a person or persons that we’ll be able to do the job. We’ll be able to see what the vision is for the district and what our teachers, students and everyone involved in the Milford School District so that we can make it better.”
Miller provided additional insight before sending the matter to a vote.
“This is, unfortunately, the fourth time I believe that Mr. Vezmar and I have had to go through this as the two longest standing members on the board. And each time that this has occurred, this is a responsibility that I take very seriously,” Miller said. “I try not to take this personally because each of us have our own individual vote on this and that’s what makes it so interesting. And me, personally, I tried to look outside of myself and look at what is in the best interest of the community. Looking at the makeup of the board and what that individual has presented themselves creates a board that most or best reflects our community and brings together different viewpoints, different thought processes, different aspects that make the board more diversified. And, again, it’s not a decision that I don’t think any of us take lightly. I know that unfortunately we did take a little bit of criticism in the community for not making the decision, but I think that it’s a tough decision to make.”
The initial motion, made by Fitzgerald, was for Masotti to be appointed to the open Area B seat. The motion did not pass with Vezmar and Miller voting no. Brownstein, Matt Bucher and Fitzgerald voted yes. Wylie abstained. The second motion was made by Vezmar to appoint Hammer to the seat. That motion also did not pass with Brownstein and Bucher voting no. Vezmar, Wylie and Miller voted yes while Fitzgerald abstained.
“I believe we have fulfilled our legal responsibility in the matter of appointment of a replacement candidate for Area B. We had a completely open and legal process in August and you, Mr. President, with the consent of the majority, took the extra step of organizing around to have this process tonight which is a repeat of last month,” Bucher said. “This, in my view, was above and beyond what was required. However, I think it was right and proper to do so. Since we have an additional responsibility to the community to hold the appointment open once again, to attempt to attract additional candidates who might garner the required number of votes, none have come forward. In my opinion, it’s foolish to do this again and again every month with no expectation of getting anything other than the same result. Therefore, as there appear to be strong feelings for both candidates that remain unchanged from last month by the votes we’ve seen tonight, I am prepared to make a motion to place the filling of the seventh seat in what I consider its most desirable position in the hands of the community. I move to table the appointment of the seventh board member indefinitely until the school board election in May upcoming to let the people have their say.”
Wylie asked what the board policy was on the appointment.
“The policy is an attempt to fulfill to fill this seat. We have met the requirements of the policy in that we have attempted twice and came to the same results,” Miller said. “We cannot be expected to continue to do the same and expect to get different results. That’s the definition of insanity, unfortunately. To our policy, we’ve met our obligation.”
The motion to leave the seat vacant until the May 2023 election passed with Brownstein, Bucher, Fitzgerald and Miller voting yes. Vezmar and Wylie abstained.
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