The state Senate voted 34-1 Wednesday to approve World Wrestling Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Linda McMahon to Connecticut’s school board.
"I thought the skill set that she brought to the position was her record of organizational and business success," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford. "I think a large institutional bureaucracy such as the state Board of Education could really benefit from that type of professional discipline."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell in January announced her decision to name McMahon to the board to replace the retiring Alice Carolan, former adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport and an administrator with Naugatuck Public Schools.
Some critics have questioned the choice because McMahon, a longtime Greenwich resident who wanted to become more involved in the state’s schools, lacks experience in education.
McMahon was certified to teach French in North Carolina in the late 1960s but admits that it is the extent of her experience in the field. McMahon has overseen literacy programs for WWE and sits on the board of trustees of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Her supporters said her outsider’s perspective will benefit the school board.
"I certainly wouldn’t want an entire state Board of Education with people of her skill set," McDonald said. "But I do think there’s room for somebody with chief executive officer experience."
During a confirmation hearing last week, some lawmakers said they thought McMahon should be disqualified because her professional wrestling entertainment company promotes sex and violence.
State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the Education Committee, said there was a "disconnect" between McMahon’s nomination to the school board and "the wildly unreasonable things that happen on television through your organization every day."
But state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who has young children and voted for McMahon, said "that may be a little unfair to put that all on her. Obviously parents have a responsibility as to what their kids watch."
State Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, a former educator and past chairman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, was the only one to vote no. It is a "contradiction" to appoint the CEO of WWE to the state school board, Hartley said.
"That particular business is very different from the sport of wrestling that we promote in our middle schools and high schools," Hartley said. "It lacks civility and the decorum I think we want to see in our youth and in our athletics for our youth."
McMahon’s nomination now goes to the House of Representatives.
– Staff Writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at
email@example.com or 750-5352.