PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth School Board has a new member.
Sondra Blank, who holds an executive position at Raytheon Technologies and a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Lowell, was named to the committee by the city council at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Blank has “an engineering and project management background that could match the kind of skills that (Allen) Shers had, and that’s what tipped me off,” said Council Vice Chair Linda Ujifusa. , acknowledging the strong pool of applicants.
Shers died unexpectedly Nov. 5 at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. He was 72 years old. Shers had joined the school committee in 2015.
To fill its seat, the council solicited nominations from the community; there were six candidates on the board’s agenda on February 14, but one of those six candidates withdrew his candidacy.
From this pool of candidates, Councilor Leonard Katzman nominated Blank and Councilor Keith Hamilton nominated Lisa Janssen, an office manager at Janssen Family Chiropractic who served on various school subcommittees.
Blank won the seat by a 4-3 vote, with councilors Daniela Abbott, Hamilton and chairman Kevin Aguiar opposing (they voted for Janssen).
Many councilors recognized the impressive qualities of all the candidates. Blank’s term will last until the fall elections.
In a message to the Daily News, Blank said she looked forward to serving the community.
“I am honored to have been selected by the City Council and will work diligently to continue the progress the committee has made for our students and staff,” Blank said. “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Allen Shers, he was dedicated to this city and its future. I send my deepest condolences to his family at this difficult time. I intend to continue his efforts with the capital subcommittee and to continue the excellent work he has done.
Shers was chairman of the capital planning subcommittee. Frederick Faerber III, a member of the school committee, after Shers’ death, said his knowledge of real estate was “very useful in discussions of the capital needs of the school department”.
Shers has worked as a real estate broker, consultant and appraiser for more than 40 years, his obituary states.
Blank, in his application, said his problem-solving experience would be relevant for a position on the school committee; as an engineer, she worked in planning and costing on major projects.
A resident of Portsmouth for 16 years, Blank is the mother of an 8th grader, a three-and-a-half-year-old and a two-year-old.