Meet the candidates: Groton Board of Education

Groton — Between the transition of the two middle schools to STEM and arts/humanities intradistrict magnet schools, the construction of a new middle school and a push to expand the International Baccalaureate program, the Board of Education candidates say they have a lot to be excited about, and a lot to work on.

There are six candidates running for the four seats up for election this year. Terms are staggered, and all four incumbents whose seats are up this year – Republicans Jay Weitlauf and Andrea Ackerman, and Democrats Rosemary Robertson and Lee White – are running for re-election.

The newcomers are Republican Jennifer White and Democrat Jane Giulini.

Giulini served as principal of Pawcatuck Middle School for 10 years, retiring in 2010. She previously was assistant principal at RHAM Middle School in Hebron and taught English at East Catholic High School in Manchester.

Giulini, 73, said her major focus if elected would be the Groton 2020 plan, and another important issue to her is meeting special education needs.

She has two adult sons and four grandchildren.

White, 45, said she decided to run because of her experience on the charter revision commission.

She aims to increase achievement for all students, regardless of the Groton neighborhood from which they hail. Having worked for The Hartford for 17 years, White believes her background in finance will help ensure that the education budget is both sustainable and transparent.

White has one son, who attends Cutler Middle School.

Robertson does not have any children, but like White, she is a Fitch High School graduate. Part of Robertson's passion for education and helping children comes from her work as the off-shift nurse leader at Yale New Haven Hospital.

She is particularly interested in the International Baccalaureate program in Groton, on the basis that it meets the needs of all students, regardless of whether they will attend college.

"I want them to be able to think critically," said Robertson, 70. "I want my garage mechanic to think critically and to have that power, and that's something that we do in our school system that I value a great deal."

Robertson is a member of the Groton Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and a board member for Sound Community Services.

White, appointed to the Board of Education not long after moving to Groton less than four years ago, is focused on the International Baccalaureate program and the budget.

She gushed about the "terrific, terrific school board" in Groton, saying, "Aside from the fact that I have children, I have to say that being on this particular school board is the best thing I've ever done."

White, 74, has four children and stepchildren, and six grandchildren.

About three decades ago, White served on the school committee in the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District in Massachusetts.

If re-elected, Weitlauf said he wants to continue to strengthen student achievement by being mindful of differentiation in teaching to support students at all levels. He is also "critically concerned" about finances, noting that he's very socially liberal but fiscally conservative.

The Board of Education should constantly be questioning, "Is this something we need to spend money on?" he said, adding, "Just because something is digital doesn't mean we need to subscribe to it."

Weitlauf, 52, is a Fitch graduate and has a son at Cutler. He works in the hospitality industry.

Ackerman, who could not be reached for comment for this article, was first elected to the Board of Education in 2013. Prior to announcing her retirement in 2005, Ackerman served as principal of Fitch Middle School and Cutler Middle School.

Ackerman also sits on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund Board of Trustees.

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