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Sunday, July 17, 2011

2 Republicans step up for seats on Wallingford school board

As published in the Record Journal Sunday July 17, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — Two Republican hopefuls have put their names forward to fill seats on the Board of Education, including a vacancy left by the departure of Chairman Thomas Hennessey, who won’t be seeking re-election in November.

Republican Town Chairman Bob Prentice said Thursday that Christine Mansfield and Tanya Bachand expressed interest in spots on the board at the committee’s meeting Wednesday.

Mansfield, a graduate of Villanova University and mother of three who owns Discovery Training Services, originally planned a run for Town Council, but was passed over by the committee in favor of Thomas Laffin. But Mansfield said she feels the school board is a good fit too because she’s already actively involved with schools.

“I work closely with the school districts,” Mansfield said. “I’m involved with the next generation.”

Mansfield said her businesses offers internships to high school students and that she sits on Wallingford’s School-to-Career Advisory Council. Mansfield is the incoming chairwoman for the Holy Trinity School board, and said she would bring technology expertise to the Wallingford school board. Mansfield said she would try to reach across the aisle to the Democrats on the board to do what is best for the school system.

Bachand is a local organizer for the Tea Party — a conservative sect of Republicans. A personal injury lawyer with the Norwalk firm Bachand Di Scala, she has helped organize tea party rallies across the state and considered a run in 2010 for the General Assembly seat held by Mark Mushinsky, D-Wallingford.

“I feel like Wallingford has done a lot for me, and this is my way to give back,” Bachand said. With a son in the Wallingford school system, Bachand said she has first-hand experience with the town’s education system. “This is meaningful for me. I’ve got a dog in the fight.”

A trial attorney, Bachand said she isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions and that she sees her role on the board as someone who can stop and ask why.

“Why do we do things this way? What is this expenditure? Those are questions that need to be asked,” Bachand said. She admits that she has a lot to learn about the inner workings of the board but she would bring a “fresh pair of eyes” to the issues at hand.

Hennessey, a Republican, said that he feels the two most important qualities for board members are involvement with the school system and passion. Though the positions are all volunteer, Hennessey said the board requires commitment.

“You have to make yourself available for those extra meetings,” he said.

Important qualities Prentice said he looks for in board candidates include a passion for the kids and those who are conservative and want to help keep costs down.

“I’m pleased with the two candidates we put forward,” Prentice said. “We unofficially filled the slate.”

Bachand and Mansfield will be officially nominated at the party’s caucus on Wednesday. The Republicans currently hold a 5-4 majority over the Democrats on the school board.

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