NEW BRITAIN - A motion to change the bylaws of the Board of Education to ensure the president and vice president of the board aren’t from the same political party failed at Monday night’s meeting.
The proposed addition to the by-laws would read, “The president and the vice president of the board shall not be nominated or elected from the same political party.” The revision would also put in writing that the board’s secretary could be from any political party.
Board members Nicholas Mercier, Nicole Rodriguez, Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, Catherine Cheney and Mallory Deprey voted in favor of the policy change. Daisy Sanchez, Merrill Gay and Gale Sanders-Connolly voted against the measure. Miriam Geraci and Grisselle Aponte were not present for the vote.
While the motion won a 5-3 majority, a two-thirds vote is needed to change bylaws, so the revisions failed. Some board members disagreed with each other about the bylaw change and its importance.
Beloin-Saavedra spoke in favor of the measure, citing the compromise between her and Mercier when the board was split evenly down party lines two years ago as evidence of the board’s bipartisanship.
In this instance, Beloin-Saavedra, a Democrat, was president while Mercier, a Republican, was vice president. The two agreed that because the board was split 5-5, the party’s would share the presidency over two years, swapping positions after a year. That has happened, with Mercier acting as current board president and Rodriguez, a Democrat, acting as the board’s vice president.
“I think it’s worked rather well,” Beloin-Saavedra said of the agreement. “I take great pride in the fact that most of us, when we’re fighting, we really are fighting over issues and it has nothing to do with party affiliation.”
“I think there is something to be said for a bipartisan effort and for people to be forced to have to work together,” the former board president added.
Mercier shared similar sentiments as Beloin-Saavedra and said the measure is something he thinks the people of New Britain would support.
“One thing that I think this amendment stands for is saying that we as a community and we as a board support this notion of truly being bipartisan and truly having shared leadership,” Mercier said in support of the measure. “There might be members of the board someday who need a nudge in the right direction towards bipartisanship, and I see this as giving them that nudge.”
Rodriguez said this was an opportune time for the board to add the measure to its bylaws because of the current spirit of bipartisanship on the board.
Not everyone agreed with the bylaw revision, though.
“It brings politics into the board, where I think we’ve done a very good job of not being a political board. This brings politics into the board and puts it in writing into our bylaws,” Sanders-Connolly said during the meeting.
Gay said that while he thinks the compromise that Beloin-Saavedra and Mercier reached has worked for the current board, he doesn’t think it should be forced.
“You could potentially have a situation where you have a 6-4 majority where the four people didn’t get along with the six people, and this forces you to put a president and vice president together who don’t agree with each other, and it could just make things pretty tense,” Gay said.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.