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Process of Filling Vacant School Committee Seats Underway

Editor’s Note: On Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, Susan Bell was appointed to fill a vacancy on the School Committee. We will have more on this in our Feb. 7 print edition of the Longmeadow News.

LONGMEADOW, MA – The Longmeadow Select Board and remaining members of the School Committee held a joint meeting on Monday, Jan. 28 to discuss filling the vacancies on the school committee following the abrupt resignation of four members last week.

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 on Jan. 23 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.

With their resignations, the School Committee has been left in a state of flux with only three active members – Armand Wray, Bronwyn Monahan, and Ryan Kelly – meaning it can’t operate at quorum.

That will soon change, though, as the Select Board and remaining members of the School Committee will appoint a fourth member to fill one of the vacancies on Thursday, Jan. 31 – the earliest it can be made under Massachusetts Law.

The remaining seats will be be filled via appointment as well – likely by the end of next month.

Select Board Chair Mark Gold on Monday said he called former School Committee Chair Janet Robinson and had a personal discussion with her, asking her if she would be willing to have her name put up for consideration to fill the vacant School Committee seat on Jan. 31 so that the School Committee could get “back into business.”

“Janet has served on the School Committee, she served as chair of the School Committee, and in my opinion she would bring an awful lot of knowledge to the School Committee in a time when they really need it,” Gold said.

Others at the meeting didn’t seem opposed to Robinson as a candidate, but didn’t want to commit to anyone specific until Thursday’s meeting, which is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Longmeadow High School.

The Town of Longmeadow is seeking residents to fill the remaining vacancies on the School Committee. Any Longmeadow resident interested in being considered for appointment to fill the vacancies is required to submit an application to the Select Board’s office, located at 20 Williams St., Longmeadow, MA, 01106 by noon on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Applications are available in the Select Board’s office or at www.longmeadow.org on the Select Board’s page “Application for Appointment to Board/Committee/Commission.” Applicants are asked to submit a cover letter and current resume with their application.

The appointments will be for terms ending June 11, 2019, which is the next Annual Town Election. The School Committee has the dual responsibility for implementing statutory requirements pertaining to public education and meeting local citizens’ expectations for the education of the community’s youth.

Applicants will be required to attend an interview conducted jointly by the Select Board and School Committee at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25 at the Longmeadow High School, meeting room A15.

In their resignation letters, Baron, Morrin, Jasmin, and Rothstein all referenced the divisiveness that has been going on since they voted not to renew O’Shea’s contract.

Jasmin wrote: “I accepted the position on the Longmeadow School Committee with the objective of positively effecting student educational, social, and emotional outcomes. Every decision I made as a committee member was made with students as my priority and I stand behind those decisions and I am proud of the work accomplished. The present division within the School Committee and among the Longmeadow community serves only to divert attention away from the needs of students and for this reason, I hereby resign from the Longmeadow School Committee, effective immediately.”

Rothstein wrote: “Please accept this as notice of my resignation as school committee member of the Longmeadow Public Schools, effective immediately. It has been an honor to have served in this capacity since being elected in June, 2017. I selflessly undertook this role with enthusiasm and honest intentions. My goal was to support the great work of the district, evaluate needs, and objectively address areas for growth and improvement. Every decision was informed by fact and acted upon in good faith, in the best interest of the district. I am very disillusioned and discouraged by the deliberate politicization of education that has befallen the town, which includes calculated mischaracterizations, misrepresentation of information and false narratives. The daily vitriol has created an unhealthy community environment of hostility and intimidation which deters from the work that needs to get done and precludes me from adequately performing such duties. The ensuing division is a tragic disservice to the children of Longmeadow and the beauty of our community. I am proud to have introduced new district initiatives, guided school policy and supported district goals, all of which, will improve the educational experience and well being of our students. I am privileged to have collaborated with many intelligent, dedicated and caring individuals.”

Morrin wrote: “This letter serves as notice of resignation from the Longmeadow School Committee, effective immediately. I have been privileged to work with some incredibly passionate and committed people during my time on the board. Although I recognize that I was elected to serve on the School Committee, I never viewed the role as political in nature. I focused my judgment and decision making on the students and what I believed, to be in the best interest of the district. I am disheartened and discouraged by the vitriol and false narratives that have (been) spread by some, as well as the discord and fracture within the community and the board itself. It is clear that this division will not end without significant cost to the town – be it time, resources or community morale – of which I cannot be a part. The continued division has gotten in the way of the most important responsibility of the district – the students. I am hopeful that this resignation will help to refocus the attention back to students and the continuous improvement of the district.”

Baron wrote: “I set out in 2017 to serve on the School Committee after a dozen years serving in volunteer positions that always benefitted the students of Longmeadow. I stand behind all the decisions I have made and all the work I have undertaken while serving during my term. I now find myself in an untenable situation where I believe the School Committee is no longer being given the opportunity to function in its role to serve the best interests on the students. At this time, it is best for me to focus my endeavors on projects and in spaces where my work is beneficial, productive, and valued. Effective immediately, I, Elizabeth Baron, submit my resignation from the office of the Longmeadow School Committee. Best of luck to those who will continue to work to improve our school district. It is my hope that our students remain the central focus of all the decisions that will be made.”

– By Jeff Hanouille/Longmeadow News