Board of Education
PHILLIP DWYER - Chair, Four Year Term
• Chair of Fairfield Board of Education & Member since November, 2011
• President/CEO of Central Connecticut Coast YMCA (retired)
• Rotarian of the Year, 2014-2015
• Presented with the John Sullivan Award in 2014
• Served on Northampton County Council in PA.
• Served on Rye, NY Board of Education
• Married to Debby Dwyer for 48 years and resident of Fairfield for 25 years
• Our two children were educated and graduated from Fairfield Public Schools
Fiscal Responsibility: While advocating for ALL Fairfield students, we must make responsible and balanced fiscal decisions.
Academic Excellence: The BoE will maintain a focus on excellence and a positive school environment by implementing the NEW Five Year District Improvement Plan adopted on a 9-0 vote. Four Core Strategies include:
• Rigorous Instructional Program
• Individual School Improvement Plans
• District wide Leadership Capacity
• Educational Resources
Better Communications: The BoE has worked more closely with town bodies, parents and the larger community through attendance at PTA meetings, town legislative bodies, expanding public comment opportunities and holding Town Hall style BoE meetings. I pledge to continue and expand on those efforts.
I support our dedicated public servants who ensure 10,000 children receive a quality education. They must be treated with respect and dignity, while also being challenged to operate at the highest levels of competence and effectiveness. The Board of Education must be a model of decorum and public service for Fairfield with no personal agenda’s except for the education of ALL students who depend on public education for their foundation in life.
JESSICA GERBER - Four Year Term
• Graduate of Wesleyan University, BA in English
• Osborn Hill School (OHS) PTA Board/BoE Rep, 2007-11
• Strategic Planning Committee member 2008
• OHS Rep to Special Projects Standing Building Committee, 2008-11, and to BoE Task Force on Redistricting, 2009
• Fundraiser/St. Baldrick’s, 2010-present ($600k + raised)
• Strategic Planning Committee, Fairfield Public Library, 2014
Fairfield BOE Experience:
• Board member 2011-present
• Board Secretary 2011-present
• BoE Liaison to Parks & Rec Commission (2011-present)
• Chair, BoE Ad hoc Communications Committee (2012-13)
• BoE Liaison to SEPTA (2012-13)
• BoE Liaison to OHS Building Committee (2013-present)
• BoE Liaison to FLHS Building Committee (2013-present)
Why am I running for a second term on the Fairfield Board of Education?
• To continue to approve and advocate for a sound, fiscally responsible school budget
• To participate in the rollout of the recently-approved District Improvement Plan
• To continue to advocate for improved and expanded communication
• To advocate for equitable facilities for all students in Fairfield
I first became involved with BoE issues when my oldest child entered the Fairfield Public School system in 2003. From 2003-2011, I served on my children’s school’s PTA and attended a multitude of town meetings related to education. In 2011, I was elected to my first term on the Fairfield BoE, where I quickly realized that, although my past experience helped prepare me for serving as a Board member, there was much more to learn. After four years of service on the BoE, I have gained a greater understanding of the complexities and challenges of our educational system and my goal is to use this knowledge and experience to continue to evolve and strengthen all of our public schools in Fairfield. As my youngest child enters the 8th grade, I remain committed to actively advocating for our children and our schools. I hope, with your support, to serve a second BoE term and to continue to be a voice for the parents, students and taxpayers of our town.
JENNIFER JACOBSEN - Four Year Term
• 17 year Fairfield Resident.
• 20 years in the field of Education
• 3 children currently in our schools.
• Master’s Degree in Education with a specialization in School Counseling.
• I have been certified in 3 states pre-k through grade 12 in Pupil Services.
• Special Needs arena including IEP development and Implementation and Crisis Intervention experience.
• Early Childhood Education
Fairfield Schools Experience:
• Fairfield 5 YR. Strategic plan under Dr. Clark.
• PTA member serving in various volunteer capacities including Community Outreach for student service learning opportunities with our district and well beyond.
• Fairfield Cares PTA representative for the last three years at two of our schools. I am currently the coordinator for Fairfield Cares, which serves as our local prevention coalition that aims to address substance abuse and mental health within our public and private school student population.
• Curriculum review panels
• Attended or watched almost every Board meeting for the last 10 years so I am fully up to speed on our facilities plan, policies, and function of the Board and am prepared to serve as a knowledgeable member in a collaborative and respectful manner.
• Girls Scouts of America Troop Leader, 10 years running.
• Our community and district is facing some tough times with looming state funding at risk. I have been engaged at the state level happenings, have read the budget proposals closely and feel at this point we must work together creatively to protect our district and our community by working together in a collaborative and respectful manner to not only sustain our excellent school system but Fairfield at large.
• Identify efficiencies.
• Value public input and dialogue.
• Advocate for the approved budget
• Make difficult choices when they arrive ever mindful of the short and long-term impact of those decisions upon our students, staff, facilities and community.
• State Advocacy and Knowledge:
I read every bill related to education, every budget, every State Board of Education agenda and policy proposal. I follow the state department for changes that may affect us and advocacy proposals by education organizations, who also influence those decisions.
For two years I worked, in tandem with many others, to pass state legislation pertaining to digital security and transparency for students and parents. In this role, it was necessary to work collaboratively throughout the state and with several organizations including parent groups, the CT State PTA, educators, the ACLU-CT, the CT Parental Rights Coalition and special education organizations along with state representatives. The measure passed unanimously in both chambers with bipartisan support.
What this experience taught me is that when stakeholders from seemingly vastly different ideological perspectives come together to focus on creative solutions to an issue we can find our common ground, while ardently holding true to our values. I am committed to that process on the BOE should I earn your vote.
Fairfielders knowledge regarding what is occurring on the Federal and State level in education has become increasingly important as we now see that decisions outside of our town can have a tremendous impact upon us. I come prepared with this knowledge and will continue to be aware of such influences upon our district.
• Build upon the hard work of all of the boards I have watched before me and operate collaboratively with those serving today.
• Strengthen and move our district forward as a body.
• Work towards ensuring that Fairfield kids get the very best we can give them on the road to their successful journeys as both students and individuals who can move into their adult lives confident that we have provided them with the tools needed to thrive in their post Fairfield School lives.
• Confront whatever challenges, fiscal or otherwise, come our way with integrity and fidelity to our values so we may preserve all that we have built within this community for those who have made Fairfield their home.
• Communicate factually with the public about our schools, their value and how we achieve efficiencies and contain costs while maintaining high quality.
Why Run Now?
First, because I know I am ready. I know that I am as knowledgeable as a citizen can be on education issues from D.C. to Fairfield.
I have advocated on our behalf before other town bodies and am prepared to take on this great responsibility within our community.
Mostly, because at this juncture, as we face uncertainty we need strong voices on all of our boards to compliment those we have serving today.
There is simply no way on a website to completely share with you my capacity in the field of education or dedication to students and learning, therefore I urge you to contact me anytime to get together or simply ask any questions. As we move forward I will be sure to provide ample opportunity face to face to discuss my candidacy with you.
Jennifer Jacobsen, M.Ed. Receives National Endorsement from the Network for Public Education
JENNIFER LEEPER - Four Year Term
• I worked as a school administrator in New York City at one of the highest achieving elementary schools in all of New York State. There I managed the school's data-driven instructional model and coordinated testing. I analyzed this data and worked side-by-side with teachers to help them use it to inform how to adapt their lesson plans and individualize instruction so that each student was supported and challenged. Additionally, I was the director of special education. I liaised with families, the Committee on Special Education and managed new referrals, reviews, and the Related Services team.
• I was directly involved in the heavy lifting of educating children in our rigorous and changing academic climate. I worked closely with teachers to support them and truly understand that they are the backbone of schools and are under increasing pressure to meet a wide variety of challenging demands. I understand the work it takes to differentiate instruction so that each child achieves their greatest potential.
When we moved to Connecticut, I earned a job at the State Department of Education in the Performance Office. There I collaborated with stakeholders state-wide to expand the federally mandated school and district accountability system beyond simply student testing data. The system now features student growth, access to courses that prepare students for college and careers, as well as access to the arts, among others.
This system is a model to other states looking to diversify the ways in which they approach school and district accountability. Assessing the work of a school purely on testing data is not only incredibly misleading but also dangerous as that tendency has eroded the foundation of our education system. We need to be providing a well-rounded and robust education that instills a lifelong love of learning in our students so as to produce thoughtful and critically-thinking citizens.
Educated at Wellesley College (BA Political Science and Religion) and University of Chicago (Master's in Public Policy), married to Nick Leeper, Principal at Ross, Jeffrey, & Antle, and together raising our 2 sons.
JENNIFER MAXON-KENNELLY - Four Year Term 2015 - 2019
• B.A. in English from College of the Holy Cross, M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Fairfield University
• I have worked over 26 years in education – currently teaching at Greenwich High School
• I have three children in the Fairfield public school system.
• Current member of the Board of Education
• Have served four years as chair of the BoE Policy Committee, and as BoE liaison to SEPTA, FWHS Roof Committee and PTAC
• I have directed a townwide Odyssey of the Mind outreach and recruitment effort.
• Awarded PTAC's 2016 Alis B. McGrath Friend of Education Award
• Member of Stratfield, Tomlinson, and Warde PTAs
• Member of the Gaelic American Club
• Member of Our Lady of Assumption parish
• I am committed to the philosophy that education is best delivered and improved in a collaborative atmosphere involving communication among all stakeholders.
• I am committed to fiscal responsibility, in ensuring educationally-sound resource expenditure
• I am committed to a balanced focus on the achievement of all of Fairfield’s students
I have made a professional life commitment to education, which provides an invaluable perspective to reference in serving on the Board of Education. Professionally, I am expected to meet the needs of ALL of my students; that expectation forms my approach to serving on the BoE.
CHRISTINE VITALE - Two Year Term
Binghamton University, BA Political Science and English
Management Consultant, The Charles Group, Specializing in Association and Event Management
Bookkeeper, The South Norwalk Boat Club , Specializing in Accounts Receivable, Point of Sale, Administration
Management Consultant and Bookkeeper, The Vitale Family, Specializing in three children: Katherine, Julia and John
Partnership with Bill Vitale :)
• Fairfield Ludlowe High School PTA Board Member, President, 2014-2015, VP Fundraising, 2017, School Climate Committee Representative, 2015-2017, Treasurer, 2015-2016
• Roger Ludlowe Middle School PTA Board Member, President, 2013-2014, PTA Council Board Member, VP, Leadership, 2016-2017
• Timothy Dwight Elementary School PTA Board Member:, Budget Representative, Board of Education Representative, Reflections Chair, Middle School Redistricting Representative, Community Outreach Chair, SEPTA Representative
• Tomlinson PTA, SEPTA Representative, 2010-2011
• Fairfield Special Education PTA (SEPTA), Treasurer, 2016-2017, Budget Representative, 2015-2016, Secretary, 2010-2011
• Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County, Inc., Nominating and Placement Chair 2005-2007, School Partnering Chair 2004-2005, Fundraising Treasurer 2003-2004, Make a Note of It Chair 2002-2003
• The Connecticut Association of Schools Volunteer Recognition Award, 2017
• Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County Outstanding Service Award, 2005
For the past decade, I have been an active volunteer within the Fairfield public schools and a vocal advocate for education within our community. Not wanting to see the progress of the last few years lost, I have decided to take the next step by running for the Board of Education.
The uncertainty of state funding has put our town and school district in a vulnerable position. The Board of Education may be forced to make some very difficult, unexpected, decisions in the upcoming years. Our town needs and deserves to have board members who are committed to working together in a bipartisan manner to listen, prioritize, and strive to meet the mission of the Fairfield Public Schools.
As a past PTA President, I come to the table with a strong working knowledge of the issues, a history of engaging families, and a proven track record of advocacy. If elected, I will continue to be a voice for all children while also being responsive to the needs of the larger community.
Like many, my husband and I chose to move to Fairfield because of its access to New York, its affordable housing, and its wonderful recreation opportunities. We chose to stay and raise our three children here because of the schools, and the smaller communities they create.
All three of my children have benefitted from a Fairfield Public School education. I want those young families, who might not yet have children in school, to have the same benefits my children have had. Good schools also benefit property and business owners. An investment in our schools benefits the whole community on a multitude of levels.
Over the next few months, I hope to learn more about your concerns and find answers your questions.