WALLINGFORD — When Roxane McKay was first elected to the Board of Education 14 years ago, meetings were held in a high school drama classroom. As a mother of two and parent-teacher organization president, she was looking for a way to further her contributions to the school system.
After a decade long run as board chair, McKay, a Republican, decided not to seek re-election and will end her tenure at the end of the year. She reflected on her accomplishments and time on the board during an interview this week.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said McKay, 61. “I’ve met so many educators, administrators that I admire very deeply for their commitment and their dedication to the Wallingford school system and to our students.”
After serving as president of the Pond Hill Elementary School PTO, McKay wanted to be more involved in her sons’ education and decided to run for a school board seat after several parents suggested it. The venue for meetings at the time left her scratching her head.
“I thought to myself, we are the largest percentage of any department of the town budget, why aren't we meeting at Town Hall? So I went to the mayor and I asked the mayor is that something that we could consider,” McKay said.
McKay said she is proud to have put students first. The professionalism and reputation that the school board established, and the relationship with the business community and town, have helped move the school system forward. Expecting the best from the staff is something McKay said trickles down in the expectations of students and families.
“Something that I’m really proud of that we are constantly looking at how we can be as rigorous and provide great educational opportunities for all our students,” McKay said.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said McKay’s departure will be a huge loss for the school board. Menzo said she brought a unique perspective to the board because her children went through the school system.
“She has an approachable way about her,” Menzo said. “People are not afraid to go up to Roxane and talk to her.”
Board of Education Vice Chairman Michael Votto said he remembers when McKay joined the board and recognized her as a hard worker. Votto, who developed a friendship with McKay throughout the years, said during her time as chair she was very conscientious and worked well with everyone.
“She listened to all sides, she allowed everybody to speak their mind and made sure it was done in an orderly fashion,” Votto said. “She made sure everyone had a voice on the board.”
Menzo called McKay a champion of bilingual education and programs for English language learners. She supported innovations like HUBCAP, a non-profit business incubator space designed to increase college and career readiness, Wallingford STEM Town, an initiative to increase opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and the procurement of a college and career specialist, Menzo said.
“I am proud to say that I worked with Roxane,” Menzo said.
McKay said the fact that she and Menzo were philosophically aligned when it came to instruction helped to establish educational rigor as a priority for the district. She said the best thing the school board did was to hire Menzo, an accomplishment she is most proud of.
McKay said she felt like it was time to leave the board having made her contribution. All she can hope for, she said, is that her service was valuable for the community.
“I don’t know what next the steps are going to be for me but there are a lot of ways to contribute and donate your time in Wallingford so that hopefully, your contributions make the town a better town,” McKay said. “That’s always my hope that whatever I do I leave that position in a better way and my work was valued.”