As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday December 27, 2011
Mansfield: Budget is school board’s No. 1 priority
By Ibrahim Hirsi
WALLINGFORD — When Christine Mansfield ran for public office for the first time in November, she got the second- most votes, winning a seat on the Board of Education.
“It was a dream come true,” said Mansfield, 42, a Republican. “I wanted to run for office. I have the ability to bring people together. I can instantly work with people across the aisles.”
Even though Republican Town Committee Chairman Bob Prentice doesn’t know Mansfield well and hasn’t worked with her in the past, he noted that “everyone likes her.”
“I am very excited to see that she is involved in the local politics,” Prentice added. “She is going to be a great asset to the Board of Ed.”
President and chief executive officer of a technology training company in Wallingford, Discovery Training Services, Mansfield said she will bring her work experience to the school board by building on technological advancements and partnering with businesses and the community to give students some real world experience.
“Focusing on our needs to educate kids in the foundation including reading, literacy, math and critical thinking skills” is important, Mansfield said, adding that those skills can be enhanced by technology.
“I’ve done it for private schools all over the map. And now I get the chance to do it as a board member.”
While the district may be facing another year of low growth in its budget due to a sluggish local economy, Mansfield said a better school system is possible with better money management.
“We have got experience, we’ve got people in place, we’ve got money, we know the needs, and we have to spend as wisely as we can against aging facilities,” Mansfield said.
The budget is the biggest issue before the board this year, Mansfield said, and the first one it needs to tackle.
Federal and state funds used for special education programs just aren’t there anymore, Mansfield said.
“When you look at the funding models that are in place, the superintendent never gets 100 percent of the fund, the district never gets it, and the town never gets it. You just don’t have enough money,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield, a mother of three, said she could see that the board needed her and that’s why she decided to jump on the campaign trail only two days before the deadline to apply for the board member position.
“It wasn’t to be the leader,” she said. “It was to play a role I dreamed of, and I won.”
But the victory was only possible because of extremely hard work and organization, said Mansfield, who shared debate stages with veteran politicians including incumbents Michael Brooder, Joe Marrone, Chet Miller, Roxane McKay from her party, as well as Democrats Jay Cei, Kathy Castelli, Michael J. Votto and Patrick Reynolds.
“It was a lot of work and bringing a lot of people and a lot of good ideas together in a very short period of time,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield is very intelligent and very civic-minded, Prentice said. “She is heavily involved with the kids and church. I hope she will stay involved.”
Mansfield said the campaign was a learning experience.
“It was amazing to meet so many people and eye-opening to hear so many voices in different needs and people so rudely wanting to tell you everything that you can do to change something,” she said.
Mansfield’s 7-year-old daughter and 9- and 11-yearold sons don’t attend public schools, instead attending Holy Trinity School, a Catholic school in town. Mansfield said she noticed that some voters have issues with that.
Her decision, she said, is “by no means to disservice the public school system. It was a decision I made when I was pregnant with the first child. I wanted them to have a piece of faith in this world.”