State Board of Education

Members

Allan B. Taylor, Chairperson — Hartford

Allan B Taylor

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 — East Hartford

Estela LopezEstela López was reappointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in February 2015, and was elected as Vice Chairperson of the Board in March 2017. 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 chairs the Board’s Accountability and Support Committee and served on the AdHoc 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 2019.

Erin D. Benham — Wallingford

Erin Benham

Erin D. Benham was reappointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in February 2015. She serves on the Board’s Accountability and Support Committee and the Legislation and Policy Development Committee. She has taught in Meriden Public Schools for 36 years and is 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 2013. Her term expires in February 2019.

Erik M. Clemons — New Haven

Erik Clemons

Erik M. Clemons was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2016 and is a member 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.

William P. Davenport — Litchfield

William DavenportWilliam P. Davenport was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2016 and is a member of the Accountability and Support Committee. Mr. Davenport is the director of the Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program and has served as an agriscience teacher at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury since 1986. He was selected as Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year in 2004, and has served on the Teacher of the Year Council since 2005. Mr. Davenport received numerous awards as a teacher and advocate for agricultural education, and is a member of the National FFA Organization Board of Directors, the Litchfield County Farm Bureau, and the Connecticut Farm Bureau. Mr. Davenport received a B.S. and M.S. in animal science from the University of Connecticut, and a sixth-year diploma in administration and supervision from Southern Connecticut State University. Mr. Davenport’s term expires in February 2020.

Makayla R. Dawkins — New Haven

Makayla R. DawkinsMakayla R. Dawkins was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in August 2018 as one of two nonvoting student members. Makayla is a senior at James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, where she is the recipient of High Honors with Distinction from the National Honor Society, the 2018 Edgewood Black History Notable Award, and the 2018 AP Biology Academic Excellence Award. Ms. Dawkins was elected as a student representative on the New Haven Board of Education (term expires June 2019). She represents students in the district, helps solve problems encountered by students in school, and promotes and encourages the involvement of students in organizing school activities. Ms. Dawkins was vice president of the student council and co-captain of the James Hillhouse Math Team. Throughout her sophomore and senior years, Makayla has taken various college courses. Ms. Dawkins is a 2018 Bezos Family Scholar, a year-long leadership development program that amplifies youth voice and action to inspire change on issues. Makayla is an active community leader. She demonstrates her leadership role as a peer advocate for Planned Parenthood and as a youth educator with Believe In Me Empowerment Corporation (BIMEC), where she worked with young children who have incarcerated parents. Makayla was a recipient of the Yale University Pathways to Science Scholarship and dedicated the summer of 2018 to scientific cancer research. Ms. Dawkins has had the opportunity to write for the Yale Daily News, and writes articles for the Hillhouse Centennial, the school newspaper. Following graduation in June 2019, Makayla plans to major in education and minor in business administration. Her term expires in June 2019.

Donald F. Harris — Bloomfield

Donald HarrisDonald 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.

Tarini Krishna — Ridgefield

Tarini KrishnaTarini Krishna was appointed to the Board by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in August 2018 as one of two nonvoting student members. Tarini is a senior at Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, where she holds Highest Honors, is a member of the National Honor Society, and Mock Trial Captain. Ms. Krishna was awarded Top Mock Trial Attorney in the state at the 2017 Connecticut High School Mock Trial Championship. Tarini has been a consecutive recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and National French Gold Awards: Levels I & II (95th percentile), National French Silver Awards: Level III (90th or 85th percentile). Ms. Krishna demonstrates leadership and community service through philanthropic work to include educational and cultural activities among National Charity League, Inc. with board positions of president, vice president, and treasurer. Tarini volunteers as a mentor, debate leader, speaker, and president of the Junior Board of Mentors at Ms President US, a nonprofit community organization dedicated to empowering, inspiring, and preparing girls for the importance of civic duty and to aim for the highest civic leadership positions. Ms. Krishna also served as Ridgefield High School’s representative at the American Legion Auxiliary Laurel Girls State in 2018. As captain of the Turning Pages club at her school, Tarini fundraises to sponsor underprivileged girls’ education in partnership with the Social Outreach Foundation in India. Ms. Krishna is involved with her school magazine, The Ridgefielder, as a contributing writer, and dances at MacDonald Pin Studios. Following graduation in June 2019, Tarini plans to major in political science. Her term expires in June 2019.

Mark E. Ojakian, Ex Officio — West Hartford

Mark OjakianMark 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.

Malia K. Sieve — Norwich

Malia SieveMalia 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 TrefryRobert 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.

Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell — Commissioner

Dianna WentzellDr. Dianna R. Wentzell has been an educator in Connecticut for over 25 years. She was appointed as Commissioner of Education by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in April 2015, after serving as Interim Commissioner since January 2015. Dr. Wentzell began her career in education as a social studies teacher and later as a teacher for gifted students. Prior to her appointment as Interim Commissioner, she served as the State Department of Education’s Chief Academic Officer, overseeing the Bureau of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, and the Standards Implementation Division. Before joining the Department, Dr. Wentzell served as assistant superintendent of schools in Hartford, and in district leadership positions with a focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment in both South Windsor and the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) magnet schools. Dr. Wentzell has a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College, a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Hartford. As Commissioner of Education, Dr. Wentzell serves as the secretary to the State Board of Education.