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Isabelle Kelly to fill vacancy on Portsmouth School Committee

She will succeed Catherine Holtman, who resigned Sept. 1

By Jim McGaw
Posted 11/24/20

PORTSMOUTH — Isabelle Kelly will become the newest member of the School Committee, as she was appointed by the Town Council Monday night to fill an unexpired term on the board.

Four …

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Isabelle Kelly to fill vacancy on Portsmouth School Committee

She will succeed Catherine Holtman, who resigned Sept. 1

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Isabelle Kelly will become the newest member of the School Committee, as she was appointed by the Town Council Monday night to fill an unexpired term on the board.

Four residents applied for the seat, which was left vacant after Catherine Holtman, who was elected to the committee in 2018, resigned effective Sept. 1. Ms. Holtman said she decided to step down due to the challenges of dealing with the pandemic while juggling work and caring for two young children at home.

Ms. Kelly, of 71 Child St., is self-employed and said she has many years of experience in higher education and in various financial, project coordinator and grant manager positions. She’s the parent of three young children, the oldest of whom started kindergarten this year. 

“I am very interested in doing everything that I can do to make the school experience a positive and enriching one for my children as well as others, and the School Committee seems to offer an excellent opportunity for this,” she stated on her application form. 

The other three candidates for the open seat were:

Michele Pope, of 174 Lepes Road — Ms. Pope is vice president of technology services at Citizens Bank in Johnston and has 35 years of experience in management consulting, technology development, and financial services. She has lived in Portsmouth since 2004 and has three children attending schools in town. “I want to serve and support our Portsmouth school community as I strongly believe that I can help influence the overall quality of the educational operating model and supporting policies used by our district,” she stated.

Jennifer Mosier, of 61 Pine Tree Road — Ms. Mosier is employed by Netsimco in Middletown, managing people, confidential information, facility training programs and compliance backgrounds. She has two children who graduated from the Portsmouth school system. “One of my children was in the Portsmouth Special Education Program during the time Portsmouth separated successfully for Newport County Special Ed. I feel I can bring a new perspective to the Portsmouth School Committee,” she stated on her application. She said she wanted to see more focus on special needs, LGBTQ issues and “gender-fluid” children.

Sandra Blank, of 100 Emmanuel Drive — Ms. Blank is a project manager, deputy program manager and engineering section manager at Raytheon Technologies, where she’s also a site representative for Raytheon Women’s Network. She has a son in seventh grade as well as 2- and 1-year-olds at home. “I am looking to provide the best education for all students in Portsmouth and support faculty and staff within the town budget,” she stated.

The council voted 6-1 to appoint Ms. Kelly after a motion by Andrew Kelly (no relation). 

Council member Keith Hamilton opposed the motion, saying he believed Ms. Pope was the most qualified candidate based on her strong financial background, which would especially come in handy during budget reviews.

Before the vote, Mr. Hamilton made a motion to table the appointment until Dec. 14 so all four candidates could be briefly interviewed, as was the case two years ago. Council Vice President Linda Ujifusa, however, said she was informed by School Committee Chairwoman Emily Copeland that she wanted to see the appointment made Monday night so the new member could begin the transition process. 

Mr. Hamilton’s motion did not receive a second, but three of the four candidates who were present for Monday’s virtual meeting briefly outlined their reasons for putting their names in the hat. Ms. Blank was not present.

All council members agreed it was not an easy decision. “I don’t think we can go wrong appointing any of them,” said council member J. Mark Ryan, adding he hoped the others will continue to be interested in serving the town in some capacity.

3 vacancies in 2 years

Ms. Kelly’s appointment was the third by the council to fill vacant school board seats in less than two years. 

In December 2018, the council appointed Karen M. McDaid and Juan Carlos Payero to the committee. The two seats became vacant due to the resignations of former School Committee Chairwoman Terri Cortvriend, who was elected that November to the District 72 seat in the R.I. House of Representatives; and another member, Mr. Kelly, who was elected to the Town Council. 

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.