After Two Tie Votes, Greenwich Board of Education Votes Unanimously on a New Chair

Third time’s the charm for Republican Joe Kelly. After the Democrat Kathleen Stowe announced she would not run again for chair on Nov 16, and the board’s vote for a new chair ended in a tie along party lines between Democrat Christina Downey and Mr. Kelly, there was hope a tie would be broken in a subsequent vote.

That did not happen. Again on Dec 1 the board deadlocked in a tie along party lines.

After the first tie vote Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo said on WGCH radio that if the board could not break their tie, his Republican controlled Board of Selectmen would pick the chair, and that he would of course pick Joe Kelly.

Joe Kelly participating in voting during the Dec 15, 2022 Board of Education meeting.

With that looming in the balance, on Thursday night’s business meeting at Central Middle School, the board voted about an hour into the meeting, after waiting for Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony to arrive.

Ms Stowe, who had previously nominated Ms Downey, instead nominated Mr. Kelly.

“This has been an interesting extra month as chair for me. I was trying to come up with an analogy for our students, and I thought it felt a bit like school was just called because of a snow storm because of an unexpected snow storm and you now have extra time to finish up that one project,” she said.

“I look forward to passing that baton, and I’d like to nominate Joe Kelly for chair. Just as a little background, Joe has four children. They all went through Greenwich Public Schools with his daughter set to graduate this year.”

“What I like most about Joe is he’s willing to always roll up his sleeves and help. Whether it’s helping to get the stadium fixed, pull some weeds, or get a teacher contract negotiated.”

There were no other nominations.

The entire board voted for Mr. Kelly, including Ms Downey who was on the meeting remotely via Zoom.

“Congratulations, Joe, I am going to move my seat,” Stowe said, standing up to swap chairs with Mr. Kelly.

Greenwich Board of Education meeting (via Zoom) after Joe Kelly swapped seats with and was handed the gavel by outgoing chair Kathleen Stowe Dec 15, 2022

The second vote was for vice chair and Ms Downey was nominated by Mr. Mercanti-Anthony.

“Christina’s work ethic and dedication to the board and the students and families in the whole community in Greenwich is familiar to all of us,” he said. “All three of her children attended Greenwich Schools and she’s been a volunteer for GPS since 1999.”

In addition he that noted Ms Downey, while on the board, was in charge of both policy and negotiations, and served on two building committees.

The vote was 7-0 with one abstention: Republican Karen Kowalski.

Karen Hirsh was nominated by Laura Kostin to serve another term as secretary. She was voted in unanimously 8-0.

“Kathleen may I say, thank you for that nomination,” Mr. Kelly said. “That was nice of you. Those were very kind words. And I do appreciate that one year you served as board chair…I was happy to have you I think exceeded expectations in serving as board chair.”

Mr. Kelly said that he would do his best to make sure that the voices of all board members would be heard and their opinions listened to.

“Not always will we be able to give everybody what they want. In a 4-4 board, compromise is necessary. A functional board is a board that makes decisions and, I will advocate for making decisions and hopefully those decisions are made in an 8-0 manner.”

See also:

Vote on Board of Education Chair Stymied by Tie Vote in Flashback to 2016

Democrat Laura Kostin (right) looks on as newly elected board chair Joe Kelly asks for nominations for vice chair at the Dec 12, 2022 Board of Education meeting; Karen Kowalsi to the left.