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Incumbents Retain Power on Montgomery-Rocky Hill School Board

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted November 9, 2023

In a particularly nasty school board election, chock full of name-calling and personal attacks, the three incumbents held their seats with a definitive margin.

Incumbents Christina Harris, Victoria "Cookie" Franco-Herman, and Zelda Spence Wallace swept each of Montgomery's 19 voting districts, and Rocky Hill voters elected the champions by a margin of more than two votes to one over the Respecting Parents slate.

From left: Christina Harris, Zelda Spence Wallace, and Victoria "Cookie" Franco-Herman ran on the Champions for Students platform.

Final Vote Count

The top three won the election.

  • Christina Harris, 3,502 (19 percent of the vote)

  • Victoria “Cookie” Franco-Herman, 3,417 (19 percent of the vote)

  • Zelda Spence Wallace, 3,361 (19 percent of the vote)

  • John A. Sangiovanni, 2,594, (14 percent of the vote)

  • Santi Buscemi, 2,581, (14 percent of the vote)

  • Deatte Gettinger, 2,580, (14 percent of the vote)

The Champions' message was basically to trust educators as certified professionals; to make school a place where students feel safe in their learning environment, regardless of their gender identity; and to allow for the teaching of truthful, accurate history while rejecting censorship of lesson plans and curricula.

Sangiovanni, Buscemi, and Gettinger ran on the Respecting Parents platform. The candidates on each platform differed significantly on key issues.

The Respecting Parents platform candidates advocated for parents to have more of a say in what their children learn at school. They supported adopting a policy that would require school staff to notify parents of their children’s gender identity and sexual orientation if their children expressed or exhibited a preference in school — for example, if gender-nonconforming students wish to change their names, be called by new pronouns, or request other accommodations. They also advocated that teachers should provide alternative lessons and texts if and when parents object to a particular book that had already been vetted and approved by school administrators — especially when the educational materials conflict with the family’s moral and spiritual beliefs.

From left: John A. Sangiovanni, Santi Buscemi, and Deatte Gettinger of the Respecting Parents platform.

School board president and newly re-elected board member Spence Wallace told The Montgomery News, “I’m humbled the Montgomery community chose decency, excellence, and dignity in this election. The Champions’ campaign focused on the issues facing our great schools, and we remained positive while doing so. This election season was unique as it was wrought with divisive tactics and personal attacks.

"Running for re-election with Cookie [ Franco-Herman] and Christina [Harris] was a privilege. Quite frankly, those two women inspire me to work hard for our students and their families. I promise I’ll continue to focus on the important, relevant matters our district encounters, for those who did and did not vote for the Champions.”

The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent a press release to The Montgomery News, stating that "voters across the country sent a clear and convincing message Tuesday, rejecting an extremist education agenda, which censors our history, bans books, harms our students, stigmatizes trans students, LGBTQIA+ students, and educators, and students with LGBTQIA+ parents...

"From Virginia, to Pennsylvania, to Kentucky, to Wichita, Kansas, and beyond, voters supported candidates with a vision to tackle learning loss, loneliness and literacy, boost critical thinking, teach honest history, hone practical skills, and keep students safe from gun violence."

Candidates endorsed by Moms for Liberty and the 1776 Project lost 8 out of 10 races nationwide on Tuesday, according to a press release from Christian F. Nunes, National Organization for Women (NOW).


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