HOWELL – Five residents were interviewed for the vacant Board of Education member position left open by Jeanne DePompo, who had to resign, but school officials elected to choose the second runner up from November’s election – Angel Sanchez.
A notice was posted by the school board on July 5 letting the community know about the vacancy and asking any residents interested in filling the role to submit their intent to Assistant Business Superintendent Ronald Sanasac by July 11. The five candidates were then interviewed in public at the regular Board of Education meeting on July 12.
“Deliberations were thoughtful and it was a very, very difficult decision because we’re fortunate to have a wealth of wonderful candidates,” said Board President Timothy O’Brien after returning from a 45-minute executive session to discuss the candidates.
O’Brien said the reason behind choosing a candidate so quickly is because they wanted the new board member to participate in the board’s upcoming retreat, which is likely to be in August. Sanchez will now serve as board member for this year’s remaining seven meetings. When asked during his interview if he will run for reelection in November, he answered with an unwavering yes, adding, “I’m in it for the long term.”
Aside from Sanchez there was another familiar face, Ira Thor, who also ran for a seat in the November regular election. There were also three new faces:
- Amy Cores, a 15-year Howell resident and family law attorney who is planning a run for State Senate.
- Robert Smith, a 10-year Howell resident and retired military instructor who sat on the township’s zoning board for two years.
- Kelly Machu, a 23-year Howell resident, school insurance professional and volunteer ESL teacher.
Despite their diverse backgrounds, all five candidates were unified in the fact that they all have children who are currently in Howell schools or who have graduated from the school system.
Thor, who was the first runner up in the November election, said he has no desire to run for any other position within Howell outside the Board of Education. When asked where the school board could be strengthened, he highlighted connecting with the community as an ongoing issue, and that a solution could be striving for more casual conversations outside the typical meeting setting, which can be intimidating to some residents.
Sanchez said quite the opposite. He’s been in Howell for eight years – coaching soccer, football and wrestling – and has served on the school board’s operations, safety and education committees. He said the board’s community outreach is already strong, and that residents have every opportunity to join committees and come to meetings if they want to be involved.
The vote in favor of Sanchez was not unanimous. Board member Christy Mangano, who also ran alongside Sanchez and Thor in the November election, voted no. Board member Al Miller had to abstain since he arrived late to the meeting and missed a portion of the interviews.
O’Brien said that each individual who threw their name in the ring for the position would make an excellent board member. “I want to thank all of you for stepping up and coming out tonight,” he said.