Meet your Darien school board candidates
DARIEN — In the rush and excitement of this year’s presidential election, Darien residents are also gearing up for town races.
This year, voters are electing representatives to serve three-year terms on the Board of Education. With three candidates and three open spots, the race is uncontested but crucial as the town looks to further strengthen its school system.
Jill McCammon — R
Born and raised in New Orleans, La., Jill McCammon got her bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. before working in management consulting and earning a master’s in food studies from New York University. McCammon then worked in the food industry for a few years before moving to Darien in 2007 for its lifestyle, library and good schools.
The mother of four boys under age 9, McCammon said her life is “a little crazy, but fun.” She has also seen a lot of the Darien schools, with three of her sons at Tokeneke School in third grade, second grade and kindergarten. McCammon also served on the Council of Darien School Parents (CDSP) as a budget representative for one year and a co-chair for two years. From these experiences, McCammon said, she wants to see more consistency across the Darien school system.
“My understanding is that parents are having different experiences,” she said. “I think the curriculum and other initiatives were spottily implemented in the district for many years and, as a result, parents were having different experiences for reasons that are not necessary.”
Once elected, McCammon also wants to focus on a more collaborative education with other boards in town, as well as building capacity and services in the special education department.
“Education is a community value in Darien,” she said. “It’s a value of mine and I want to see our school systems provide an excellent education to all learners. I’m particularly excited in how education is changing as technology and globalization change.”
Christa McNamara — R
Incumbent Christa McNamara is running for her second term after being elected to the board in 2013. McNamara grew up in Rye, N.Y. and has a bachelor’s degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and a master’s degree in elementary education from Manhattanville College in New York. McNamara earned her master’s while working at Bloomberg in New York City.
She and her husband moved to Darien from the City 14 years ago for its schools and close community. McNamara has three children, including two sons who are enrolled in a Darien elementary school and a daughter in seventh grade at a private school who went to elementary school in Darien.
Prior to serving on the school board, McNamara served on the Representative Town Meeting and on the Education Committee as a clerk. She also was the vice chair of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at Royale School.
“I wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “I have children in the school system, I wanted to be involved and I had the ability with a supportive family to give back with time and energy. I thought I had something to offer the board.”
During her first term, McNamara worked with the special education services board and administration to fine tune how special education services are delivered to the community. She also assisted in hiring Dr. Dan Brenner, the superintendent of Darien.
McNamara is running for a second term to continue the momentum from her first. With plans to sit on the facilities committee, she hopes to help evaluate options for the Darien High School cafeteria, as well as tackle the upcoming budget.
“I very much enjoyed my time serving,” she said. “I think at this point with our somewhat new administration, it was important to have the continuity to continue my term.”
Tara Ochman — D
Raised in Redding, Tara Ochman, candidate for the Darien school board, lived in New York City for 10 years and worked in nonprofits and politics before moving to Darien almost a decade ago.
“I had been so involved for the past six years, sitting in on Board of Education meetings. I’ve sat in parent leadership positions for four different superintendents for six years. You get perspective of the district and ask yourself, ‘What do you do with all this?’ ” she said. “In a small community, why wouldn’t you be involved and try to have a voice?”
Ochman said she would like to make sure the board’s role is clear to the parents of the district and district policies are well communicated, well enforced and meet the needs of all students in the community.
“I’ve seen a lot of change and how that change has been applied, where we’ve made mistakes and where we’ve done things right,” she said.
After seeing three children into elementary schools in town, Ochman said it is especially crucial to set strong foundations and policies during those years. A drive to do this and a passion for education and the town is what makes her want the position on the board.
“I really do feel in a small town, you’re all in this together, which sounds trite, but you just realize the people working on the board are working for the betterment of our schools,” she said. “I have a vested interest for Darien as a town and a strong educational system only benefits small towns.”