Longtime school board members not running for re-election
Martens, who had served on the education subcommittee of the Representative Town Meeting since 2004, felt the board could use his expertise while battling a lawsuit. Having worked in finance and with structuring companies, Martens felt he could help the board with his background, prior involvement in town politics and insight as a parent of three young boys in the system.
“I wanted to join because it seemed like an important place to be,” he said. “I thought since I’d been on the subcommittee for so long, I could help out, given all the stress. Without all that controversy, I may not have been that helpful in running, but with all that was going on I thought I should step up.”
Sullivan also has a history in town politics, having served on the board of selectmen for four years and the RTM for eight years. She stepped back from town politics in 2011 to spend time with her husband and three children, Jessie, Lila and Tiger. But in 2012, Sullivan’s husband died in a helicopter accident and she decided joining the Board of Education would help her stay connected to the community in her free time.
Together, Martens and Sullivan served the board during a tumultuous time in Darien history. Now, as their terms as board members are up, both are not running for re-election, but reflecting positively on their time on the Board of Education.
In addition to getting the school through the lawsuit, Martens and Sullivan helped Superintendent Dan Brenner, as well as the interim superintendent that served before him.
Martens said one point of pride from these past few years is the care the board took in hiring the new superintendent.
“We took our time to find Dr. Brenner,” Martens said. “We had some other candidates that might have been acceptable, but we all as a board stayed to find the right guy, and I’m really proud of the fact that we did that and in my view, we got the perfect guy. We were able to settle things down and get the right people in to restore credibility.”
Sullivan said she’s proud of the fact that during the past several years, the board increased its transparency by doing things like adding public comments to their meetings and putting more information on their website.
“When I ran, there was a need for a little more transparency and a little more interaction with parents and other members of community, and I think we’ve achieved that,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure the administration understands that our priority is No. 1, the children, and No. 2, their parents.”
Now Sullivan and Martens are leaving their role as the parents: Sullivan’s children graduated from Darien High School and are in college and graduate school, and Martens has only one son left at the high school, while the other two also graduated from DHS and are in college. This is part of both members’ reasons for not running for re-election.
“We’ve gotten through that period and there are so many wonderful people that can serve,” said Martens, also citing a busy job as one of his reasons for leaving the board. “It’s good to let those people come on now. I’m more of a change person than I am an ongoing person.”
Still both members look at the improvements they’ve made and time they’ve done with the board and feel glad about the work they did as a group.
“I think it’s a privilege to serve,” Sullivan said. “People in Darien serve a lot, so all people who are on the PTO, CDSP, any level that you can interact at a volunteer level can be additive and can be great. It’s a town value, and I think it’s a good one that gets reflected in kids’ performances.”