We reached out and asked candidates to respond to a set of questions. Updates from all candidates are welcome and will be published as Letters to the Editor. The questions posed to the candidates were:
- Tell us a little about yourself.
- Why are you running for the position?
- What do you see as the important issues facing your town and how would you address them in your role?
- What are the key things you love about this town and its people?
- Additional thoughts to leave voters with?
Eileen Blewett (R): I have been a resident of this beautiful community for over 24 years. My husband and I moved here on a whim and have never looked back. Together we became deeply involved in our community. Community ties and involvement have always been the core of who I am. We live in a town that cares deeply for one another and reach out to assist every chance we get. That is something that I am very proud of. I currently serve on the Board of Selectman and Board of Education. I am also currently very involved in volunteer work with the KWO, Helping Hands food pantry, HK Backpack program and Killingworth Scholarship Association. We have raised our 4 beautiful children here and have given them the strong foundation of community to live very happy and productive lives as young adults. Much of their success is the result of their outstanding education at HK. My sincere gratitude is why I choose to serve on the Board of Education.
There was never a doubt that I would want to run for re-election on the Board of Education. I am so proud of a town and school district that holds true to what is best for kids. The outstanding devotion, work ethic, compassion, emotion, and pure perseverance of every person employed by RSD17 is why I continue to serve. I say that with the utmost respect for what has been asked of each of them not only in the past year and a half but always. Being a Board member is a lot of work to say the least. You need to be all in to be effective. Anyone who knows me knows that is what I do. My experience on the BOE for the last four years include being Chairman of the Finance Subcommittee, Board Treasurer, Board Secretary, member of the Facilities Subcommittee, Personnel and Evaluation Subcommittee, Strategic Capital Planning, Curriculum Subcommittee, Strategic Planning and Public Building Committee. I have taken on the challenges of every aspect of the BOE. I am prepared in every way for the work that is required. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding school district and it is a privilege to serve of the BOE. My gratitude to this district because of the experience as a parent, resident, and past employee of rSD17 is why I serve. My devotion to this district is why I work so hard. I never lose sight that with every decision I ask – What is best for our students, How does this serve our students and How does this continue to move our students to be productive and successful.
The key issues remain constant, to always remember we make all decisions based on what is best for students. The question of how to best serve students is the core of our work. To move forward the BOE needs to complete the work of the strategic planning initiative and work on implementing this plan. Once complete the strategic plan will connect the Vision of the Graduate for all students. Another key issue is to create a capital assessment on all district facilities. This work has recently begun. Once completed, the assessment will aid in deciding how our facilities support the strategic plan. The strategic plan, Vision of the Graduate and capital assessment must all be aligned. Continuing to create an efficient and fiscally responsible budget that provides what is best for students but is mindful of the community is always a priority. Next steps would include creating a long-term plan to facilitate and promote the needs of each student. The Board must continue to work as a cohesive group to do what best supports our goals. The BOE must support and continue to focus on the social emotional needs of all learners. There was a great deal of work put forth by our Superintendent, BOE members and Administrative team to create the Vision of the Graduate. Promoting the VOG will ensure this vision to allow our students have the skills and dispositions to think critically, communicate effectively, have a growth mindset, and contribute productivity. Our students will display character, courage, and integrity, demonstrate. respect. empathy and kindness. I am also mindful that much of the work of the BOE will be to support the transition of our new Superintendent. The Board of Education must support the continuing work of our Administrative team to do what is best for students to assure and protect that they feel comfortable, welcome and included in their school environment.
The true foundation of Killingworth is community outreach and involvement. Through the good and bad times this community is there to lend that helping hand and it never stops amazing me. The people of Killingworth are passionate about their thoughts and ideas and value the importance of others. This town represents kindness and respect – two virtues I cherish.
The sole purpose of my work on the Board of Education is what is best for our students.
Kathleen Zandi (D): I have lived in Killingworth for 22 years and raised my two children here. My son is a 2019 HK grad and my daughter an HK senior. I moved to Connecticut in 1994, after earning my PhD in chemistry, to work in the pharmaceutical industry primarily developing new cancer medications. I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire with a rural school district much like HK. My mother is a retired high school science teacher. I enjoy the outdoors, and have been a Cub/Boy Scout and Girl Scout Leader for many years. I also serve on the Killingworth Charter Revision Commission.
I am running for a second BoE term because I think the value of education is immeasurable, and want to give back to the public education system that has given me so much. I have truly enjoyed my four years on the Board, and look forward to continuing that work.
Certainly, the effect of the pandemic to our student’s academic performance as well as the social and emotional wellness of our entire school system is an immediate focus. I am also excited to welcome our new superintendent. Other crucial work includes our Strategic Plan, facilities maintenance and promoting equity and mutual respect in our schools.
I love the rural character of our town. I love that it is run primarily by volunteers. I love that neighbors help neighbors. I love that when I brought my 4th grade Girl Scout troop to a town meeting, meeting moderator Rick Albrecht invited them to come to the front of the room and lead the townspeople in the Pledge of Allegiance; they were thrilled.
I think that the value of education is immeasurable, that diversity drives innovation, and that every student counts.
Heather Scholfield (R): I am a Killingworth resident for 3 years now. I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old who will shortly be a part of the H-K schools. I am a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) teacher in the Westbrook School System, but have a background of teaching in Hartford for the last 7 years in grades 3-5. I also am in the process of getting my degree in Special Education.
I am running because I want to ensure that our students are getting the best education that they can. Being in a few different districts both close and further away I feel that I bring a different lens with new fresh perspectives to be able to ensure our students not only get a quality education, but are able to take that education and be ready to take on the world when they graduate. I want to allow our older students to have a voice within the district, and make sure that the quality of education our children receive puts them on par (if not above) the best districts in our state – not only for those continuing their education, but for those going right into the workforce as well.
Right now masks are a hot topic, unfortunately at this point that decision is out of our control since there is a state mandate in place. Student safety is always going to be number one in my mind, followed by children’s education. While it makes teaching basic skills like letter sounds for our littlest students difficult, our children are incredibly resilient and will continue to grow and learn in spite of these challenges. Another hot topic is critical race theory. As a parent and educator I feel it is incredibly important for our children to learn all sides of an issue, including those pieces of our history that are upsetting, frustrating, and less than perfect. If we don’t learn about the past how can we help prevent history from repeating itself? I would never want to deprive my child from learning, and all parts of our history as a nation, and country, are not only learning opportunities but may be the fire to ignite a child’s passions leading them to do incredible things in their lives, maybe even lead them to become our president!
I love that our town has a little bit of everything. It’s got nature, and space, while not being too far away from our basic needs, like grocery stores. I have come to find that the folks in town are incredibly nice, supportive, and compassionate. These are key qualities for success in our future and I want to make sure that they get passed on to the next generation.
I want to ensure that all members of our town feel heard and supported. After all these are our schools funded by our tax dollars. I am absolutely always open to conversations!
Lisa Connelly (D): I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and also studied elementary education in the certification to master’s program at SCSU. I grew up in the New Haven area and spent time in New York and New Mexico before moving back to Connecticut in 1995. In 2001, while I was teaching for Guilford Public Schools, my husband Sean and I moved from New Haven to Killingworth primarily for the excellent school system. We now have two children who are entering their senior and sophomore years at HKHS. We have rescue dogs and cats, and I have a deep appreciation for our fellow residents who walk on four legs, crawl, fly, and slither.
Throughout my time in Killingworth, I have been active in the Killingworth Women’s Organization, the KES yearbook committee, and was a room parent and active volunteer at KES. My husband coached little league for approximately ten years, including some extremely successful HK girls softball all-stars teams. Our family has seen first-hand the benefits of servicing the community and having a direct connection with our children and families. As a former teacher, parent of two HK students, and now a small business owner in town, I bring a well-rounded perspective to the BOE and hope to be a part of further improving our schools for future generations.
After twenty years, I still love everything that originally brought us to Killingworth. I wake up to the sounds of nature each morning, while both New York and Boston and all the culture they offer are within a two hour drive. We have had excellent experiences with HK schools, and the people we have met are genuinely kind and care about each other; we couldn’t ask for better neighbors and role models for our kids. My highest priority for my children is that they are kind and compassionate humans.
The greatest challenge I see facing our schools is adequately preparing our students for an ever changing world. It is crucial that we foster empathy and compassionate critical thinking skills in order to prepare our children to be productive members of a diverse society. For this reason, diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to curriculum and instruction in our district, providing opportunities for students to understand the greater world around them. All of our students need to feel safe and know that they have a voice and a place in their classrooms.
Due to modern advances in technology, students have limitless, unfiltered information at their fingertips – it is imperative that they develop the skills to discern this information. Some of the most important attributes that we can foster in our children are the development of flexibility and critical thinking skills so they can be better prepared to discern facts from opinions and misinformation. If elected, I will support a curriculum based on the “Vision of the Graduate” which promotes the necessary skills for our students to become productive citizens in our ever changing world.
I am excited to serve our community and look forward to the collaboration necessary to assure that all students are valued, empowered, and motivated to succeed.