Tina Malhotra wins seat on Ridgefield school board
A PTA activist with a record of volunteering in the schools, Tina Malhotra, has been chosen to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education.
Malhotra — advocacy chairwoman of the Ridgefield PTA Council and the Ridgefield High School PTA, and a past president of the Scotts Ridge Middle School PTA and the Ridgebury Elementary School PTA and the PTA Council — was appointed to the seat by a unanimous 8-0 vote of the Board of Education Monday night, Oct. 19.
“I truly am an advocate for education. I wouldn’t be doing all this if I didn’t believe in education,” Malhotra, the mother of a Ridgefield High School student, told the board.
In an interview Monday night, she also said she hoped to be an advocate for diversity and engagement with the broader world.
“We can’t raise our children in a bubble. The fact of the matter is it really does take a village to raise children,” she said. “... We are about Ridgefield, but we are raising children that go into the world.”
Malhotra will fill the seat vacated by the resignation earlier this fall of Carina Borgia-Drake. The appointment will last until the November 2021’s elections.
Also interviewing for the seat Monday night was Danna Anderson. A third candidate was on the initial agenda, but withdrew.
Borgia-Drake was a Democrat, so by town charter her seat had to be filled by a Democrat. Malhotra had the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee, which had interviewed four candidates for the vacancy.
“She has extensive knowledge of policy issues before the Board of Education and has ideas she can bring to it,” Glori Norwitt of the Democratic Town Committee told the school board.
Norwitt said the Democrats were impressed with Malhotra’s broad background, noting that she had “an MBA London School of Economics, worked for the family business, helping to manage it, was living in London and India …”
Malhotra told the school board Monday night that if chosen to serve on the board she thought she might serve as a model of inclusion and acceptance in Ridgefield, leading to wider participation.
“I’m biracial,” she said. “... I think there’s a lack of minority voices ... if I do end up on a town board it will encourage other members ...
“I have a very diverse family. I truly am global,” she added.
One education issue Malhotra discussed in her interview with the board was testing. She said she understood the need for it, but had concerns about an over-emphasis on standardiized tests.
“Are we over-testing and putting kids in boxes?” Malhotra said.
“When we test too much, do we take away the joy of learning?”
Malhota is chairwoman of the Compassionate Ridgefield movement’s education subcommittee and served from 2018 to 2020 on the Ridgefield Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse. She raised students’ psychological health as another concern when asked what issues she’s interested in.
“First is social and emotional wellness,” she said. “... I’ve seen how the world is changing. We see the challenges, how children are expressing depression and fear in different ways.”
In the question and answer session with the board, she expressed an understanding of the separation between the elected school board and its staff of educators and administrators
“The board hires,” she said. “... The board is a governance and policy-making board.”
But the board should not manage “the day to day operations of the schools” — which is the job of the superintendent and administrative staff, she said.
Jon Steckler asked Malhotra why she wanted to serve in the position.
“I’ve been coming for six years,” she said of school board meetings. “I’ve been with four different superintendents ...
“It’s almost a natural transition,” said the PTA veteran. “This something I’ve been wanting to do for some time.”