Joe-So And Jessica Jostle Vacant School Board Chair Issue

Jessica Martinez at Democratic Town Committee endorsement session July 2019. At right, school board member Albert Benejan.

Board of Education member Joe Sokolovic is urging his peers to fill the vacant chair position after the board voted to remove Jessica Martinez, citing her personal issues, three weeks ago.

For Sokolovic the issue is clear, the policy-setting board for the largest school district in the state needs direction it isn’t currently receiving.

Hernan Illingworth, as vice chair, is the de facto leader.

Joe Sokolovic

Three weeks after Martinez was dumped as chair, board members are lobbying for the necessary five votes.

Illingworth served notice of a virtual board meeting for March 23, 6 p.m.

Martinez followed up with an email castigating Sokolovic as a “rogue” operator, a sobriquet that has sometimes stuck to her. She writes: “Number 2 item on the agenda, Discussion on selecting the new Chair is NOT important at all. Mr. Illingworth is fully capable of carrying out the duties of chair until need be!!”

Sokolovic asserts the district has a huge leadership void without a chair including assessing the job performance of Acting School Chief Michael Testani who will take over in a permanent capacity in July.

So it’s unclear when the slot will be filled. See email thread to board members

Hernan Illingworth, March 18

Good afternoon,
We are planning on having a virtual meeting through the Teams app on our IPad. The meeting will be on Monday March 23 at 6pm. Instructions on how to access the app is forthcoming. For those members that do not have the IPad can upload the app on a laptop or phone.
This is all new to us so please be patient as we are trying to work through all this.

Jessica Martinez, March 20

Good afternoon,
I hope all is well and that everyone is weathering this pandemic as best as they can. I have refrained from putting my two cents in a lot of the back and forth, especially with the fact that everyone continues to “reply all” instead of allowing the interim Chair to do his job, which he is well capable to do!

I am available for virtual meetings anytime, especially for important items that need to be addressed and can’t wait. I do not see the big deal of virtual meetings to get things done. Let’s do our job and accomplish what we are elected to do. Should there be anything to address. I just used Zoom to have a virtual board meeting with Capital Prep Harbor School yesterday and it was amazing and easy to use. It also gets recorded for the record.

We should NOT and I will make sure we will NOT take on any matters that will need community input! To be specific and the only item I see that we will be hearing from the public to weigh in is, whom will be the next Chair!!

Number 2 item on the agenda, Discussion on selecting the new Chair is NOT important at all. Mr. Illingworth is fully capable of carrying out the duties of chair until need be!! What is the rush? Let’s understand that we will not have Mr. Taylor with us virtually and I’m sure we won’t have Ms. Allen as well. But hey, we don’t operate as a cohesive proactive team, we are reactive to most things!

Mr. Sokolovic continues to take actions that are completely OUT OF ORDER. He continues to act as a rouge board member, as the sole voice or representative of the board, he continues to cause division and spread lies. I personally am sick and tired of the nonsense.

Mr. Sokolovic you do NOT speak on my behalf and you do NOT represent all parents and children needs/views. Get it together and please do grow up. Maturity is an important quality that should be in adult board members.

Superintendent Testani, your administration and Interim Chair Illingworth, you all have been doing a wonderful job managing this crisis during such a time we have never experienced in history. I commend you for every well thought out and calculated step you have taken to ensure not only health and safety but also, that our children will still be educated. I look forward to meaningful meetings with purpose and outcomes focused on the children and district.

Joe Sokolovic, March 20:

Joe Sokolovic proud rogue board member. Pray tell do list the lies I’ve told. Provide proof. As we all know I always could back up my accusations. Still waiting on the proof from the last false accusations.

Anywho. Public speaking and input can also be done remotely. We can Provide a call in number and time for public speakers. We are a board of education that needs to come together and vote. Not sit on the sidelines in silence.

Stay safe all.

And let’s start taking responsibility for our own actions or inaction. This finding one person to blame for our shortcomings as a board is too easy to see through.


One comment

  1. First off, let me say that I hope our families, students and staff stay safe and healthy, which should be every bodies first concern. That being said, we are months behind on several critical issues even before the Corona virus: district goals and objectives have not been set. How can we fairly and objectively evaluate the superintendent and his job performance without giving him goals? This is not only unfair to the students and taxpayers it’s also unfair to the superintendent who in his first year needs a serious objective performance evaluation in order to grow and understand what the board expects from him. Not doing so, especially with so much of the public viewing this as a political appointment, does a disservice to Mr. Testani. It appears to me that Mr. Testani is doing an excellent job, but with no formal evaluation, there is no way to objectively tell based on dispassionate data. We are also behind and need to get the ball rolling on a new 3 year district strategic plan which needs updating; we have to plan for the increasing likelihood that schools are done for the year and that many of our children will begin next year even further behind their suburban peers, due to the digital divide and other factors. I’m sure there are many other issues I’m missing that will come to light once we start meeting, discussing, and voting.

    We need to meet regularly as a board, vote on issues, give the superintendent support and direction, all of this can be done just as effectively virtually. There is no need to shirk or delay the responsibilities vested in us by the public.

    Joe Sokolovic
    Rogue Board Member


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