WESTERLY — Diane Chiaradio Bowdy will continue to serve as School Committee chairwoman after two tie votes Thursday. Both ballots were deadlocked at 3.
The School Committee reorganizes every two years in conjunction with the local election. Reorganization appeared on a previous agenda following the Nov. 6 election, but the committee tabled action on the items and took it up Thursday. Both Bowdy, who has served as chairwoman since 2016, and Christine Cooke were nominated for the chairwoman position.
Bowdy voted for herself and was supported by committee members Rebecca Greene and Marianne Nardone. She was opposed by Mary Adams, Cooke and Christine Piezzo. The committee then deadlocked when it considered Cooke’s nomination. Cooke voted for herself and received support from Adams and Piezzo. She was opposed by Bowdy, Nardone and Greene.
The potential for a tie vote results from the absence of committee member Patrica Panciera, who suffered a stroke in October and has not yet returned to her position on the committee. Information on her current status was not available Thursday, but Bowdy has said previously that she expected Panciera, the committee's vice chairwoman, to return this month.
Adams, who nominated Cooke, explained why she made the nomination prior to the vote, saying the committee needs a leader who would run meetings “where discussion and debate are encouraged and where there is respect shown for opposing viewpoints.” She went on to say, “We need a leader who will invite the community into the process of making decisions and treat those who engage with us, even those who are critical of our work, with respect and take their comments into consideration.”
Cooke, Adams said, “is just that kind of leader” and established herself through her two years on the committee and by her work as co-chairwoman of the School Building Committee, which is currently working on the elementary school redesign project.
The committee unanimously elected Piezzo to serve as vice chairwoman after the nomination of Cooke for the position failed by a 2-4 vote with only Bowdy and Greene voting in the affirmative.
The committee observed a moment of silence at the start of the meeting in remembrance of Mario Celico, a former member of the committee and the Town Council, who died Wednesday.
This article was edited at 9:41 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2019 to correct Patricia Panciera's title of vice chairwoman.