Four run for Board of Education

Four Wilton residents are running for three open seats on the Board of Education this November — Republicans Glenn Hemmerle and Andrea Preston and Democrats Deborah Low and Gretchen Jeanes.

Glenn Hemmerle

Hemmerle, the only incumbent running, has served on the Board of Education for the past four years. He is also vice chair of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee, a member of the Wilton Energy Commission and former chair of the Wilton Library board of trustees.

Hemmerle said his experience serving as CEO of a number of international retail companies prepared him to serve as a member of the Board of Education.

“Each of my professional experiences were companies that needed action to turn them around and set them on a successful track,” he said. “This required an action-oriented focus on issues and people and a results-driven mind-set.”

This past year, the Board of Education developed a budget with a 0% increase.

“While doing this, we were able to continue our focus on our educational improvement objectives while maintaining our classroom and student focus objectives,” said Hemmerle.

However, he said, it will be difficult for the board to “maintain this fiscal approach” going forward.

“Our school system is one of the, if not the, most important assets of the community,” said Hemmerle, whose two children are both graduates of Wilton High School. “The increasing investment by our competitive communities in their school systems versus what we are doing here in Wilton only serves to increase the challenges we face.”

Nonetheless, said Hemmerle, the board is “committed to demonstrating fiscal responsibility,” while maintaining its focus on continued learning improvement, students and classroom environment.

If re-elected, Hemmerle said, he looks forward to “continuing to address these challenges, while working hand-in-hand with [his] fellow board members and the administration.”

Andrea Preston

Preston said she is running for Board of Education to ensure that Wilton is “the best possible school district” and that it’s “run effectively, efficiently and smoothly.”

“Wilton has a tradition of skilled, dedicated and experienced Board of Education members,” she said, “and I believe my strong experience serving on other town boards will provide a fresh perspective that will be invaluable in building upon our longstanding commitment to academic excellence.”

Preston is a current member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows Study Committee and a former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Water Pollution Control Authority.

She also has a daughter who’s a sophomore at the high school.

Preston said people should vote for her because she “brings the experience of wide-ranging service to the town and clear understanding of how it operates” and knows “how the schools fit into overall town planning.”

If elected, Preston said, her three main focuses would be strategic planning, community input and accountability.

Deborah Low

As a former educator with 38 years of experience, Low said she knows that “great schools are essential for the bright futures of our students.”

Low is a former superintendent of Ridgefield Public Schools and spent 20 years working for the Wilton Public School District.

“I began as a dean and associate principal before becoming Wilton High School principal, and then assistant superintendent for the district,” she said.

Low said her top goals as a board member would be to:

  • Develop a school budget during a time of severe financial restraints that also meets student needs.

  • Help turn the district’s strategic plan into reality through “intense dialogue with the district’s leadership team, thoughtful analysis of results and input from staff, parents, students, and community members.”

  • Communicate through proactive outreach.

“From my 38 years of experience, I have seen education from the inside out,” said Low. “I understand its complexity and the numerous moving parts. I believe this would be valuable perspective on the board.”

Low said people should vote for her because she has “the skills to examine issues critically, communicate effectively, budget responsibly, and work collaboratively.”

Gretchen Jeanes

Jeanes — a consultant in corporate design and construction in New York City and an agent at William Raveis Real Estate in Wilton — has served on executive boards with PTAs, as well as on the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee.

She has two daughters — a fourth grader and a sixth grader — in the Wilton public school system.

As a Board of Education member, Jeanes said, she would work to improve Wilton’s “already strong public schools through the study and adoption of technology, programs and policies that have proved successful elsewhere in the country” — a practice she said she has used often as a consultant.  

“I will reach out to parents and be a sounding board for teachers, who, I believe, are our most important asset, and the key to moving our schools ahead,” she said.

Drawing upon her management and volunteer experiences, Jeanes said, she is “determined to make Wilton schools even more competitive and fiscally efficient than they are today.”