State Board of Education
Allan B. Taylor, Chairperson — Hartford
Allan B. Taylor was reappointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2017 and has served as the chairperson of the Board since 2005. Mr. Taylor recently retired as the legislative and legal advisor to the Hartford City Council, after 37 years in the private practice of law. He has an extensive record of public service in the Hartford community. He earned an A.B. from Harvard College; an M.P.P. from the Kennedy School of Government,Harvard University; and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Mr. Taylor has served on the Board since 1994, and serves as Chair of the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee. Mr.Taylor was elected as the Northeast Area Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) in 2014-15 and 2008-09, president-elect of NASBE (2010), and served as NASBE president in 2011. In recognition of his significant accomplishments and contributions to public education at the local, state and national levels, Mr. Taylor was selected by NASBE as a recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. His term expires in February 2021.
Estela López, Vice Chairperson — East Hartford
Estela López was reappointed to the Board by Governor Ned Lamont in April 2019, and was elected as Vice Chairperson of the Board in June 2019. In January 2015, Dr. López was appointed Interim Provost of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, and served in that capacity through June 2016. Prior to that, she served as a senior associate with Excelencia in Education. She is the former vice chancellor of academic affairs of Connecticut State University System, serving from 2002 to 2007. From 1997 to 2002, Dr. López served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern Illinois University. Dr. López has received numerous awards, including the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association 2008 Achievement Award and the 2006 Latina Citizen of the Year Award. She is Chair of the Board’s Accountability and Support Committee and a member of the Academic Standards and Assessment Committee, and has served on the Ad Hoc Committee on Accountability. Dr. López was elected as the Northeast Area Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) in 2018. Dr. López earned a bachelor’s degree from Queens College, and both a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Spanish literature from Columbia University. Her term expires in February 2023.
Erin D. Benham — Wallingford
Erin D. Benham was reappointed to the Board by Governor Ned Lamont in April 2019. She serves as Chair of the Board’s Legislation and Policy Development Committee and a member of the Accountability and Support Committee. She taught in Meriden Public Schools for 36 years and is the retired president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers and executive committee vice president of AFT Connecticut. She also serves on the board of directors for Project Excel and The Sisters' Project. She earned a bachelor's degree from Saint Joseph College and a master's degree and educational leadership degree from Southern Connecticut State University. Mrs. Benham was the recipient of the President's Award by AFT Connecticut in 2019 and 2013. Her term expires in February 2023.
Bonnie E. Burr — Brookfield
Bonnie E. Burr was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in February 2020. Ms. Burr is the assistant director and department head with the Cooperative Extension System at the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. She provides leadership and assistance to 105 faculty and staff managing a wide variety of outreach and educational programs involving public engagement in local, state, regional, national, and international programs. Ms. Burr serves as state chair of the State Committee United States Department of Agriculture and Farm Service Agency for Connecticut. Ms. Burr earned a B.S. in animal science and agriculture from the University of Connecticut, and an M.S. in administration and public and nonprofit administration from Western Connecticut State University. Ms. Burr serves on a number of community organizations, including as ex officio member, 4 H Education Center at Auerfarm; the Steering Committee of Working Lands Alliance, American Farmland Trust; the New England Holstein Dairy Cattle Association Board of Directors; and Connecticut trustee for the Eastern States Exposition. Her term expires in February 2024.
Miguel A. Cardona — Meriden
Dr. Miguel A. Cardona was appointed Commissioner of Education by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. Dr. Cardona comes to the State Department of Education with two decades of experience as a public school educator from the city of Meriden. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and then served as a school principal for 10 years. Miguel transitioned to the central office to lead the work of performance and evaluation in the district. In 2013, he assumed the role of assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Dr. Cardona served as the co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force as well as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council. He also taught for four years as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Educational Leadership. Dr. Cardona attended Meriden Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. Miguel attended Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and UConn, where he completed his master’s in bilingual/bicultural education, Administrator Preparation Program, doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (superintendent) certificate. A lifelong Meriden resident and product of its public schools, Miguel is very active in his community, having served or currently serving on several non-profit charitable organization boards of directors. As Commissioner of Education, Dr. Cardona serves as the secretary of the State Board of Education.
Erik M. Clemons — New Haven
Erik M. Clemons was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2016 and serves as Chair of the Academic Standards and Assessment Committee. Mr. Clemons is the founding chief executive officer and president of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology Inc. (ConnCAT), an organization that prepares youth and adults for educational and career advancement through after-school arts and job training programming in the areas of health sciences and culinary professions, and links adult learners with local corporate partners. Prior to that, Mr. Clemons served as the executive director of the Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership, Inc. and as the director of career technical training for the New Haven Job Corps Center in New Haven. He is the Chair of the board of the Housing Authority of New Haven and is a member of the board of Connecticut Voices for Children. Mr. Clemons received a B.S. degree in sociology from Southern Connecticut State University and a M.A. in theology and ethics from Hartford Seminary. Mr. Clemons’ term expires in February 2020.
Karen DuBois-Walton — New Haven
Dr. Karen DuBois Walton was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in February 2020. Dr. DuBois Walton is president of the Elm City Communities Housing Authority of the City of New Haven, president of the Glendower Group LLC, and president of 360 Management Group Co. She previously served as the chief operating officer for the Housing Authority for the City of New Haven, as well as chief of staff and chief administrative officer for a former New Haven mayor. As a clinical psychologist, Dr. DuBois Walton served in positions with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Yale University Child Study Center. Dr. DuBois Walton earned a B.A. in psychology from Yale University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Boston University. She serves on numerous boards and commissions and is an active member of the New Haven community. Dr. DuBois Walton is the recipient of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut’s Women’s Empowerment Award and the Greater New Haven NAACP’s Community Service Award. Her term expires in February 2024.
Elwood Exley, Jr. — West Hartford
Elood Exley, Jr. was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in March 2020 and serves as a member on the Accountability and Support Committee, and the Legislation and Policy Development Committee. Mr. Exley is the owner of Exley Communications LLC, a 31-year-old enterprise that which provides editorial services to major corporations in Connecticut and beyond. In collaboration with the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, Mr. Exley manages the Alma Exley Scholarship Program (https://almaexleyscholarship.org), which encourages greater diversity in the teaching profession. Established in 1995, the program provides support and recognition to outstanding college students of color preparing for careers in education. Previously in his career, Mr. Exley served as a speechwriter to senior executives at United Technologies Corporation, and also as a manager at United Technologies International. Earlier, he was assistant director of public relations at Connecticut General Corporation, now Cigna. He began his career as a reporter and editor at newspapers including the Hartford Times, where he was business editor. Mr. Exley has been teaching English language learners at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford since 2015. Previously, he served for several years as a hospice volunteer with Hartford Healthcare. He has served on the boards of directors of Community Partners in Action, which advocates for criminal justice reform and manages alternatives to incarceration and reentry programs aimed at reducing recidivism; Bloomfield Education Foundation, which supports enrichment programs the schools; and DemocracyWorks, which promoted greater participation in the democratic process. He also served as chair of the Enfield Human Relations Commission. Mr. Exley earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wesleyan University. His term expires in February 2024.
Donald F. Harris — Bloomfield
Donald F. Harris, Jr. was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in February 2017. Mr. Harris has been an active member of the Bloomfield community for the past 55 years. A graduate of Bloomfield High School, he became a teacher, coach, athletic director, vice principal and principal in the Bloomfield Public Schools. Mr. Harris serves as the chairperson of the Bloomfield Board of Education, and served as the deputy mayor of the Bloomfield Town Council from 2007-2011. He currently serves on the Connecticut Commission on Equity and Opportunity, the Capital Region Education Council Board of Directors, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Board of Directors, the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce Advisory Board, and the Rotary Club. Mr. Harris received a B.S. from Springfield College, and an M.S. and sixth-year degree in education administration from the University of Hartford. Mr. Harris’ s term expires in February 2021.
Mark E. Ojakian, Ex Officio — West Hartford
Mark E. Ojakian was appointed by the Board of Regents for Higher Education in September 2015 to serve as president of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) System and serves as an ex officio, non-voting member of the State Board of Education. As president of CSCU, Mr. Ojakian oversees 12 community colleges, four state universities and Charter Oak State College. Prior to being appointed president of CSCU, he served as chief of staff to Governor Dannel P. Malloy. Mr. Ojakian has also served as deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and as deputy comptroller in the Office of the Comptroller, where he supervised more than 250 employees and over $1 billion in state accounts. Earlier in his public service career, Mr. Ojakian served as the special advisor to the commissioner of the Department of Higher Education. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and a master’s degree in international relations from the American University in Washington, D.C.
Martha Paluch Prou — Bloomfield
Martha Paluch Prou was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in February 2020. Mrs. Prou is the director of administration and compliance at Phoenix Manufacturing Inc., a machined aerospace components manufacturer. Previously, she served as an operations specialist at Phoenix. Mrs. Prou manages the AS9100 and National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) certified quality system, export compliance and international logistics program, and IT and cybersecurity. Mrs. Prou has served as the membership and database manager at Association Management Group in McLean, Virginia, and the confidential assistant at the United States Department of Commerce, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services. Mrs. Prou earned a B.A. in international studies with a minor in economics from Johns Hopkins University. She is bilingual in English and Polish, and conversational in French. Her term expires in February 2024.
Awilda Reasco — New Britain
Awilda Saavedra Reasco was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in February 2020. She has 33 years of experience in public schools and higher education. Mrs. Reasco is the director of pre-collegiate and access services at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Mrs. Reasco leads a college preparatory program for high school seniors who have the potential and desire to attend the university but do not meet regular admissions standards. This CCSU program provides academic preparation to do college-level work and courses in personal and professional growth. In addition, she served as the special counsel to the president on Latino affairs and chair of the Latino administrators at CCSU. Mrs. Reasco was the facilitator of a group that studied race relations and a diversity issues consultant for the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). She is a member of the Connecticut Association of Latinos in Higher Education (CALAHE) and the Connecticut Association of Educational Opportunity Programs (CAEOP). She received the YWCA Women Leadership Award, the CCSU chapter NAACP Dedication Award, and the CCSU Latin American Student Organization Advisor Award. She is a strong advocate for first-generation and low-income students and their families. Mrs. Reasco earned a B.A. in psychology from Central Connecticut State University and an M.S. in social work from the University of Connecticut. She is bilingual in Spanish and English. Her term expires in February 2024.
Malia K. Sieve — Norwich
Malia K. Sieve was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2016 and serves on the Accountability and Support Committee. Ms. Sieve is a director at HCM Strategists in Washington, D.C., where she works with system and institutional leaders from regional universities and community colleges and elected officials on higher education goal setting, monitoring, and policy development in states across the country. Prior to her current job, Ms. Sieve worked as an independent consultant for HCM Strategists and for AEM Corporation, where she provided policy direction on strategic planning and developing data systems to improve outcomes. She also served as associate director for policy and research for the Connecticut Board of Regents of Higher Education, director of the United Way of Connecticut Community Results Center, and project director of the Connecticut Policy and Economic Council. Ms. Sieve received a B.S. degree from the University of Connecticut, School of Family Studies, and a M.S.W. from the University of Connecticut, School of Social Work. She served on the Norwich (CT) District Data Team and on the Huntington School Governance Council (Norwich, CT). Ms. Sieve’s term expires in February 2020.
Robert J. Trefry, Ex Officio — Fairfield
Robert Trefry was appointed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy as Chair of the Connecticut Education and Career System Governing Board in October 2012, and serves as an ex officio, non-voting member of the State Board of Education. He served as the chair of the State-appointed Bridgeport Board of Education from 2011 to 2012. Mr. Trefry is the retired president/chief executive officer of Bridgeport Hospital and executive vice president of the Yale New Haven Health System. He is a Columbia University certified executive and organizational coach, and currently is an executive and organizational coach with Path Quest Coaching and Consulting. He currently serves on the boards of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. Mr. Trefry has an undergraduate degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, and a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the School of Business at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is a life fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives and a member of the International Coaching Federation.