Guilford school board fills seat

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 10, 2008

GUILFORD — After three rounds of deliberation, the Board of Education this week appointed Emelinda Sanacora to fill a vacant seat.

The board chose Sanacora, a Republican, from a field of five people who applied for the position after Cynthia Cartier resigned. Voters elected Republican Cartier to the Board of Selectmen in November.

Sanacora, 42, ran for the Board of Education last year. She lost the race for a two-year term, the board’s only competitive seat in the last election cycle, to Kathy Nolan by about 900 votes.

Sanacora is a licensed physical therapist who works with special needs students in New Haven County through her employer, Area Cooperative Educational Services. She also volunteers with the A.W. Cox School Parent-Teacher Organization and with the Guilford PTA. She has two daughters attending local public schools.

Sanacora said she feels “ecstatic and honored and privileged” at the appointment.

“I think I bring a fresh parent perspective,” she said. “I spend a lot of time volunteering in the schools, so I feel like I have a good pulse for what’s happening in the classrooms, and I also happen to work throughout the school systems in New Haven County.”

Board of Education Vice Chairman Keith Bishop said he thinks Sanacora will be a dedicated member and work well with the rest of the board. He added that her Spanish language skills are also a plus.

“She has a lot of good talents to offer to the board, and like any new board member, there’s going to be a learning curve to get up to speed,” Bishop said. “(She) will be thrown right into the normal budget process, but I’m confident that she is super- enthusiastic about it.”

Five of the board’s members voted for Sanacora. Democrats Nolan, Ted Zuse and Alan Meyers abstained.

Because of a rule stipulating that one political party have at least a bare majority on the board, members did not consider any Democrats for the seat. With Sanacora’s appointment, the board has five Democrats and four Republicans.

Chairman William Bloss said the board chose an open appointment process, soliciting applications rather than asking the Republican Town Committee to make the decision. The other applicants for the seat were John Ireland, Doug Newman, Robert vander Wiede and Todd Williams.

“Neither state nor local law tells us what we’re supposed to do in this situation,” Bloss said. “We agreed to open it up rather than just rubber stamp a town committee party proposal.”

Board members were originally scheduled to vote on the appointment at a special meeting Dec. 17, but they added extra sessions Dec. 18 and Monday to continue discussions. Bloss said there were “five good candidates” and the board wanted to make a careful decision.

“I think it’s the hope of everyone on the board that we’re not put in this position again, because it’s really not something that we look forward to, or that is anything but a very difficult process that demands attention and care,” he said. “The decision is better served by being made by the voters.”

Bishop agreed, saying that he thinks the process politicizes the board’s decision.

“It puts a lot of weight on the board, and it makes the board look political when the board really doesn’t want to be political,” Bishop said.

Newman, one of the candidates, wrote in an e-mail that he was “a bit dismayed” during the interview process when a board member asked him what his political affiliation had been.

“What’s the relevancy to that question in evaluating my qualifications?” Newman asked. “They may as well have asked me my religious beliefs too. It’s sad how politics finds a way into the decision-making process at the expense of our community and its children.”

In the past, Newman has suggested to the Charter Revision Commission that it consider removing political affiliation from Board of Education seats.

Newman added that Sanacora is a “wonderful person and community member who is very dedicated to the cause.”

The Town Charter requires that the board appoint a person from the party of an outgoing member “if practicable.” Bloss said that requirement figured into his decision when considering candidates who were not registered Republicans at the time that Cartier resigned.

He added that none of the other candidates has expressed dissatisfaction with the process to the board.

Sanacora’s term will run until November 2009.

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