Interim School Committee Member Named to One Year Term
In a special meeting this evening with attendance from Select Board and School Committee members, the three candidates for the one-year appointment to School Committee presented their statements of interest. The appointee will finish the last year of Rachel Stewart’s term after she resigned.
In her statement, Danielle Black talked about her past experience on School Committee (9 years), and her understanding of roles and responsibilities on the Committee. She also spoke directly of her union negotiating experience.
Following Danielle (in alphabetical order), Tricia Liu spoke of her STEM, technology, and business management background as well as her experience as a startup CEO. She wants to stimulate kids’ intellectual curiosity, especially in science. She also has extensive contract negotiation experience and mentioned that she is a fast learner.
Finally, Frank Parker has almost 50 years in higher education and teaching at Boston College. He was involved in town roles in the town of Hull. He mentioned that he is over 80 years old and lives in Campion Center, and wishes to serve only for one year — he would not run for re-election. Three areas he could help is in curriculum, mentioning that Weston’s writing and English have slipped (uh oh says the Owl), international (he was a representative to the Bermuda government to negotiate to close US naval installations there), and diversity (he has lived and worked in Cameroon, taught and studied in France and Germany, Southern historically-black colleges, etc–forgive me, he spoke quickly).
The meeting was then opened up to sitting School Committee members to question the candidates. Anita Raman mentioned that they have three years total experience currently on School Committee between the four current members, and she is concerned about that. She mentioned immediately that she favored Danielle because of her experience in negotiating with unions. And she mentioned her appreciation of others being willing to step up.
Alyson Muzila mentioned her appreciation for those who have stepped up, and that she wishes they could add all three. Then she asked a question about transparency and communication and asked which skills each candidate had that would help in getting closer to the constituents. I can’t type that fast. The Owl needs a stenographer on staff. All three candidates answered. How’s that?
Ken Newberg said he has spoken to all three candidates and proclaimed that he didn’t have more questions. He appreciated that everyone has new ideas but that to him, this is not the time for new ideas. This is the time for having someone with union negotiation experience sitting across the table from the WEA and all of the other unions (we have 6). All three candidates answered the question that was never posed.
Attia Linnard said that she was bummed that she had just met Frank and she would like to know him better no matter how the night ends. Attia then went on to ask about people’s sense of urgency and how each would help the School Committee hit the ground running. She wanted to know “yes or no” if cutting the operational budget is a top-two priority for each individual applicant. Frank=yes, Tricia=yes, Danielle=it depends (that’s a summary).
Next question: “How many times have you run for School Committee in Weston and what were the results?” Frank: none in Weston, but had several roles in Hull. Danielle: Four times, lost last election to Alyson. Tricia: Three times, lost three times. Personally, the Owl does not understand the relevance of this question. Unless you want to show resilience.
Alyson jumped back in and said that the Committee would benefit from any and all of the applicants. She spoke about transparency and importance of communication, equity and inclusion and the importance of a strategic plan going forward. She does think that experience would be beneficial to the committee at this time.
Then it was time for the Select Board starting with the always direct-talking Chris Houston: “I think this begins and ends with experience.” There was some other commentary that I will say was direct. He wants someone with “institutional memory”. I will leave it there.
Harvey Boshart also had no questions as he had reached out to present and past Committee members. He said he believed that there was a “gap” in institutional knowledge with all the new Committee members.
Laurie Bent asked if each candidate would run again next year for a full term. Frank Parker, who mentioned he is legally blind, clarified that he would not. Danielle Black would commit to one year and no more– she would like to travel and enjoy retirement. Tricia Liu said that she would run again after this year if she were appointed, but she won’t if she is not.
Laurie Bent then made her statement that as a newer Select Board member that she finds that experience matters, and that the learning curve is very steep. Laurie stated that it’s important to have institutional knowledge. “We have one candidate who will hit the ground running–she is a senior statesman.” She mentioned that she believed the vote was unanimous.
Alyson Muzila said “not so fast” on declaring unanimity. She spoke about the importance of finding ways to get new people in town government and how to be better at transitions.
Comments were opened up to the public and John McKenzie spoke about whether or not meetings in the future could be opened up to zoom as well as in person to get better communication in the future. All candidates answered. Mary Ellen Sikes then asked about the hiring and firing of School Superintendents and communication about that. She is concerned about the costs of that. She directed the question to Danielle about what she had learned. Danielle corrected a couple of misstatements about the number and status of the four Superintendents that passed through Weston during her time.
Anita Raman then moved to appoint Danielle Black to the one-year position. This was seconded by Chris Houston. All Select Board and School Committee members voted “aye”. Congratulations, Danielle Black.
As always, the Owl is just one hoot in the darkness. If you want an accurate view of the meeting, please watch the Weston Media Center recording when available. Me, I’m heading outside for dinner.