Carolyn Sacco

Although plagued with vacancies for the past months, the New Haven Board of Education may soon fill its last vacancy with Matthew Wilcox, the current Director of the Health Sciences Library at Quinnipiac University.

Last week, Mayor Toni Harp announced Wilcox’s nomination, soon after her previous nominee Liam Brennan LAW ‘07 dropped out of the running to pursue a career as the executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in West Haven. In an interview with the News, Wilcox said that he is not only looking forward to working with Board of Education members and New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Carol Birks, but with district parents, teachers and students as well.

“I hope to be able to bring some possible different perspectives,” Wilcox said. “And I also want to help the system build some trust in the community, continuing their efforts in transparency.”

The lack of communication between New Haven parents and the Board has emerged as a point of contention in recent months. Members of the parent activist group New Haven Public School Advocates cited lack of transparency as one of their complaints about former Board Vice President Jamell Cotto, whose reappointment was struck down by the Board of Alders in January. According to notes from NHPS Advocates’ Feb. 8 meeting, the group is advocating for transparency, emotional intelligence and educational expertise, among other qualities in its Board members.

On Feb. 25, the Aldermanic Affairs Committee voted to approve the nomination of Yesenia Rivera to the Board of Education, after the nominee committed to elevating parents’ voices once she is formally a member. NHPS Advocates member Maritza Casanova read the group’s endorsement of Rivera at last week’s meeting.

Wilcox has also garnered the approval of some NHPS Advocates members as well — district parents Jill Kelly ‘91 FES ‘19 and Sarah Miller ‘03 expressed enthusiasm regarding Wilcox’s nomination in interviews with the News. Miller noted that Wilcox’s experience in education and seeming “lack of conflicts of interest” is encouraging.

“I found him friendly but quiet, and I have faith that he will be an independent thinker on the Board,” said Kelly in an email to the News.

Wilcox moved to New Haven roughly two decades ago to take a job in the Yale School of Public Health as a librarian. Since then, all three of his children have attended city public schools.

According to Wilcox, he enjoyed working in an academic environment during his student years, and “fell into” the library profession as a result, attending graduate school for library sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“We’ve seen some of the good and bad of New Haven schools,” Wilcox said. “And we know that a lot of the good we saw was because the parents who came before us worked to make some things work…[we] wanted to continue those efforts.”

Wilcox and his wife are also highly involved in communities outside university systems. Joanne Wilcox works as a parent coordinator and volunteer for Riverside Academy, and both husband and wife work with Pecha Kucha — a program originated out of a Japanese architecture firm where participants have roughly seven minutes to present a slideshow about one of their passions to an audience of community members. Since becoming involved in the program about four years ago, Wilcox has seen speakers present topics ranging from art to drug legalization.

According to Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, the Board of Alders Aldermanic Affairs Committee will vote to approve Wilcox’s nomination sometime this month.

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu