By Amanda Wyatt
Former school board member Susan Kinsella was unanimously appointed to the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Friday night.
The decision came more than two months after Walter Wilcoxen’s sudden resignation, leaving a vacancy on the Board of Education (BOE). On the nights of September 11 and 14, the remaining BOE members publically interviewed a total of seven candidates with the goal of appointing one as Wilcoxen’s replacement.
Kinsella — who Vice President Chris Tice jokingly called the “Elizabeth Taylor” to the Board’s Richard Burton — was welcomed back to the Sag Harbor BOE at the end of its September 14 forum.
She is expected to be sworn in as a board member by District Clerk Mary Adamczyk on Monday, September 17. Her term will last until May 2013, when regular elections are held. Although Kinsella is eligible to run, she said she is unlikely to seek election in the spring.
For the time being, Kinsella said she is “looking forward” to the next nine months.
“I know everybody on the Board,” she said. “I’ve either been on the Board with them or on committees with them.”
Kinsella, who is also a former PTA president, has two daughters who attend Pierson Middle/High School – Courtney, a high school freshman, and Kelly, who is in sixth grade. Her first term on the BOE — which fellow member Ed Drohan called “successful” — ended in 2009.
With three years of experience as a board member, Kinsella believed she was qualified and prepared to step in for the next nine months.
“It would be difficult for someone that hasn’t been through board training, that hasn’t been on the board, that isn’t as familiar with the school district to jump in,” she said. “So I think that is certainly an advantage I [will] bring.”
Kinsella said she put her name in for appointment in July to help her colleagues at a time when the Board had come under fire from some members of the community.
“It was an emotional reaction for me to put my hat in the pot,” she told the Board during her interview. “I’ve been on the Board. I was upset when Walter [Wilcoxen] quit.”
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Southampton, Kinsella attended Suffolk County Community College and Adelphi University. Before becoming a stay-at-home mother, Kinsella worked in accounting.
During her previous term, Kinsella said, “I brought my accounting experience, which was helpful in contract analysis and budget presentation and understanding.”
“I think that’s what’s important on a board is you have people with different sets of skills, and I think I brought a set of skills to the board at a time that was needed,” she added.
When asked about the Board’s greatest challenges, Kinsella said, “In general, your challenge is fiscal. You are faced with a two percent [tax cap]. You’re faced with new, unfunded mandates all the time.”
“Every year you’re going to have those mandates, so it’s going to be harder and harder to maintain programs and be able to fund them. So I think your challenge is going to be with your business administration,” she said.
Kinsella went on to say that the BOE’s primary responsibilities were “maintaining and improving the foundation of your education, which is [making sure] the programs here are being implemented well, the monies here are being spent wisely …[and] making sure your kids are getting the education they should get, that they’re challenged every day.”
While the Board’s decision to appoint Kinsella was unanimous, they noted that it was a tough decision to make.
“We had so many qualified, wonderful community people come forward, and it’s too bad that we only had one person to select, because everyone brought their own qualifications and expertise,” said President Theresa Samot.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision,” Tice noted. “We were really wowed by the candidates.”
“We thought all seven candidates brought something unique and valuable, and we hope in May you will all consider putting your name in for the three year term and going on a wild ride with us,” added Tice.