Being a school committee member during a pandemic is difficult.
To be honest, being a school committee member is a challenge even during the best of times.
It requires time away from your family and other activities to read reports, attend meetings, study changes to curriculum and policies, and listen to parents and community members. Beacon Hill has also over the past 20 years increasingly limited the scope of authority formerly enjoyed by school committees over their districts. Day-to-day oversight and the power to hire and fire now rests almost exclusively in the hands of the superintendent. And the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has strict control over most curriculum pieces and educational frameworks.
When school committee members do get to make a policy decision, it can often inflame passions among parents and guardians concerned about the welfare of their little ones.
So imagine serving on a board at a time when anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of your constituency may strongly dislike whatever decision you make. That’s the joy of making educational policy during a pandemic.
Abington School Committee members Jacyln Abrams and Lisa Augusta formally announced last week that they will not be seeking a second term on the board. Neither specifically cited the pandemic in their decisions. But what we can’t ignore is the lack of people lining up to run for the open seats.
As of this writing, only Orange Street resident Heidi Hernandez has pulled papers for school committee and is actively collecting signatures. That means, with one week left to qualify for the Town Election ballot, there remains zero official interest in the second open school committee seat.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: After this article published, we were notified that Caroline Ellis pulled papers to run for school committee Monday morning.]
Those who have served on a school committee typically have found it a very rewarding experience, and loved having a front-row seat to watch the community’s students grow and mature and thrive. Abington is also blessed with a large number of highly qualified, interested, and thoughtful parents and community members who would make very capable school committee members. We hope one of these residents decides this week the benefits outweigh the challenges, raises his or her hand, and volunteers to serve. (It can only get better, right?)
As we mentioned earlier, next Monday, March 8, at 5 p.m., is the deadline to turn in nomination papers for this year’s annual Town Elections. Judging by the lack of contested seats, we can only assume that means residents are happy with the town leadership. Right?
Those interested in running for municipal office can still contact the Town Clerk’s Office about picking up nomination papers (Town Hall is currently closed to the public but departments remain open and working). Town Clerk Leanne Adams can be reached by phone at (781) 982-2112, or via email at LMAdams@abingtonma.gov
Here’s a list of those who have pulled nomination papers so far: Alex Hagerty, Board of Selectmen; Christine Henrikson, Board of Selectmen; Tim Chapin, Board of Selectmen; Jaclyn Abrams, School Committee (not running); Chris Schultz, Board of Health; Melissa Pond, Board of Health; Erik Henrikson, Sewer Commission; Bill Cormier, Water Commission; Richard Muncey, Water Commission; Ann Kent, Board of Assessors; Gail Bergin, Library Trustees; Henry DiCarlo, Library Trustees; Mary Gillis, Library Trustees; Jeff Rangel, Planning Board; Melodie Olson, Housing Authority; Kevin Whalen, Board of Health; Heidi Hernandez, School Committee.
TOWN ELECTIONS, PT. 2
Selectmen are currently evaluating other locations to hold the Annual Town Elections, which are scheduled for Saturday, April 24. Emerald Hall has served as the town’s polling location for the past couple of years. But multiple selectmen would prefer to hold voting at a town-owned building. It cost the town $1,700 to rent Emerald Hall for the day last year, more than it would cost to open up a public building for a day. The facility might not even be available for rent this spring, according to Town Manager Scott Lambiase, who told the Board of Selectmen last week that the function hall is up for sale. The high school gymnasium has served as the town’s sole polling location in the past, but some people have complained the parking is too far away from the gym. Beaver Brook and Woodsdale elementary schools, as well as the senior center, are among the facilities also being considered.
Remember all those discussions online about why certain things in town are allowed to happen? Or wondering who made a certain decision? Well now is the time to propose fixes.
Selectmen have opened the Town Meeting warrant, which means residents can now file suggested changes to the town’s bylaws, or request other items be placed on the Town Meeting agenda. Any registered voter can petition to have something brought up; all they need to do is write it up and collect signatures from 10 registered voters, and – voila – it’s on the agenda. Selectmen, who control the meeting agenda, must include all citizen petitions, according to the town charter.
The warrant closes on April 12, so any petitions or requests need to be in by then.
Selectmen voted last week to schedule the Annual Town Meeting for Monday, May 24. The plan is to currently have it inside the middle/high school auditorium, with overflow seating available in the gymnasium.
In a miracle upon miracles, the state graced Abington with 250 doses of vaccine so that the town can provide second shots to seniors who have already received their first shots. Unfortunately, the town still isn’t able to provide first doses to anyone new.
The clinic will be held Wednesday. Again this is only for Abington seniors who received first doses during an Abington-sponsored clinic. Those who qualify for Wednesday’s clinic should have been contacted by the Health Department. If you’re unsure, please call the Health Department at (781) 982-2119
The Board of Selectmen last week added their voices to the chorus of municipal boards and officials who think the Baker Administration’s policy of cutting cities and towns out of the vaccination effort is dumb. (Our word, not theirs.) You can read the text of their letter here.
Meanwhile, as we near the 1-year anniversary of everything going kablooie (that’s an official journalism term), the Baker Administration is moving ahead swiftly with the state’s re-reopening effort.
Starting today, the capacity limit on restaurants is lifted, as long as they can keep tables six feet apart.
Matthew Hanley, proprietor of J.P. Ryan’s, said the change means he can allow 25 more guests into his tavern.
There’s a whole list of other changes effective today. And if we’re all good, starting March 22, TD Garden and Fenway Park will allow fans to attend games. No word yet if the vaccination clinics taking place at Fenway beer stands will remain active during games.
CEASES & DESISTS
The Planning Board has issued a pair of cease and desist orders over the past couple of months and both will be discussed at its meeting Monday night. A new truck storage business on 662 Adams Street has been on the board’s radar for several months, after it purchased a residential home, removed the side of a hill, and opened for business without pulling most of the needed permits. The business is now belatedly going through the site plan review process, which allows the Planning Board and public to discuss whether the operation has the proper drainage system in place, won’t be a nuisance, meets all the appropriate zoning bylaws, etc.
The board is also wrangling with the owner of a house on John L. Sullivan Way. The board alleges the homeowner illegally filled in parts of a stormwater retention basin for the subdevelopment, which backs up to Ames Nowell State Park. The homeowner disagrees. Complicating matters is that the development is still technically privately owned – the streets and related stormwater drainage systems haven’t been accepted by the town yet. So it may legally be a private matter between the homeowner and the developer. It will all be discussed Monday night.
The Board of Health Monday night will discuss possible regulations for donation bins. There are multiple donation bins around town where people can drop off and donate unwanted clothes, linens, and fabrics. But some people have mistaken the bins for mini-transfer stations where they can just dump anything, resulting in an unsightly mess at some spots. The board will consider what options are available to get the problem under control.
Board of Health, 6 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes a COVID-19 update, a vaccine update, and discussion about donation boxes.
Planning Board, 6 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes proposed 7-unit condo at 286 Spruce Street, site plan review 662 Adams St., illegal filling at 67 Oak St., retention pond filling at 12 John L. Sullivan Way, proposed zoning bylaws changes (FEMA maps and Progress Street), and the possible creation of a stormwater management revolving fund.
Board of Library Trustees, 7 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes the director’s report, discussion about the FY 22 budget, and COVID-19 policy updates.
Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes the proposed retail marijuana shop at 1410 Bedford St., and a certificate of compliance for 1238 Bedford St.
Board of Assessors, 11 a.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes a discussion about month end numbers and the motor vehicle excise tax.