LONGMEADOW, MA – Following the abrupt resignation of four School Committee members on Jan. 23, the Select Board and remaining members of the School Committee held a joint meeting on Jan. 31 and appointed former Windsor Locks superintendent Susan Bell to fill one of the vacant School Committee seats.
Bell, who was appointed in a 6-0-1 vote, currently serves as an elected member of the School Council at Blueberry Hill Elementary School and on the Board of Directors at Longmeadow Montessori. She has children enrolled at both schools.
Bell’s appointment was contingent upon her delivering to the Town Clerk a signed resignation letter designating Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 as the effective date of her resignation prior to her being sworn in to office.
That date was selected so that Bell (the appointed member) would not be on the committee during interviews on Feb. 25 for the four empty School Committee seats, and so that if she wanted to apply for a seat then, she could.
The Town is currently accepting applications from residents to fill four seats on the School Committee for terms ending on June 11, 2019, which is when the Annual Town Election takes place.
Eight residents had applied for the appointment on Jan. 31, and a motion was made to have former School Committee Chair Janet Robinson fill a vacancy, but she ultimately withdrew her name from consideration.
“I am flattered that you are all wishing to appoint me, however, I would like to make sure that you are all aware in my letter of intent to seek being put on this committee, I had requested that you all reconsider the length of the appointment,” Robinson said. “After having sat on the School Committee for three years and served for three years, I think a four-week appointment…that doesn’t give anyone any time to get up to speed with what they need to be doing, whether that be me…or somebody who has never sat on the committee. Whether you want to call it a lame duck or not, truly that’s what that position is going to be, because that person is not going to have the knowledge, (and is) not going to be able to get up to speed to be making informed decisions.”
Robinson said it’s “asking a lot” of someone to fill a seat for four weeks then have to reapply for the same seat.
“If that is the case, I’m going to tell you all that I’m very flattered, but I will respectfully decline,” Robinson said. “To come in and roll up my sleeves and work really hard for four weeks, and then have to reapply, is a bit disheartening.”
Bell, who said she has 17 years of experience in education and is “very interested” in not only serving in the short term but also until June, stated her primary reason for applying for the seat was to “provide some stability” during this transition for the School Committee.
“I want to help from the standpoint of having the experience of working on a school board and understanding the work pretty deeply,” Bell said. “While I haven’t worked in Longmeadow specifically, I certainly understand the responsibilities and roles of the School Committee.”
Bell cited her experience with budgets, which is something that could come in handy as the School Committee attempts to create a school budget to submit to Town Manager Stephen Crane in March.
“I think I can bring a lot to the table in this transition period knowing that I’m going to need learn the Longmeadow system, but at the same time understanding the process by which all of the work really gets done,” Bell said. “I believe very strongly that I could bring that stability to the School Committee, both in that short term and as well the mid term.”
The School Committee had been left in a state of flux with only three active members – Armand Wray, Bronwyn Monahan, and Ryan Kelly – meaning it couldn’t operate at quorum.
One day after the Special Town Meeting where voters approved a warrant article that would allow for the recall of elected officers in the Town of the Longmeadow, School Committee Chair Beth Baron, Vice Chair Kerrin Morrin, Melanie Rothstein, and Stephanie Jasmin submitted resignation letters to Town Clerk Kathy Ingram indicating their resignations were effective immediately.
Baron, Morrin, Rothstein, and Jasmin all voted in November 2018 not to renew Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea’s contract, a controversial move that has drawn heavy criticism from residents, administrators, and students in town.
The Select Board and School Committee will collectively meet once again on Feb. 25 to interview applicants for the four vacant School Committee seats.
Applications are available in the Select Board’s office or online at www.longmeadow.org on the Select Board’s page “Application for Appointment to Board/Committee/Commission.” Applications should include a cover letter and current resume, and the deadline to submit an application is by noon on Thursday, Feb. 21.
– By Jeff Hanouille/Longmeadow News