HANSON — Voters at Town Meeting on May 4 should increase the Board of Health from three to five members, according to selectmen. They should also vote to discontinue use of Common Core state standards and PARCC testing in the Whitman-Hanson school district.
However, Town Meeting should reject an article to remove Hanson’s elementary and middle schools from the Whitman-Hanson regional school district, a measure that would force Whitman to do the same with that town’s elementary and middle schools.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously made the recommendations on a slate of Town Meeting warrant articles during their meeting on Tuesday, April 14.
The proposal to increase the health board’s elected membership from three to five members is a citizens petition article filed by Helen Vess and 23 other Hanson residents.
The measure would “create more transparency and help foster public trust in the department due to questionable actions of past and present three-member boards,” according to the warrant article.
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young said the Board of Selectmen was a three-member board from 1820 to 1982, when Town Meeting approved a similar citizen petition article to increase the board’s membership, for the same reasons as the Board of Health article in the May 2015 warrant.
Young said he was elected to the first five-member board of selectmen in 1983.
Selectman Donald Howard said he served on the three-member Board of Health in the 1960s and 1970s and board members got along well, and that a visiting nurse was on the board.
Board of Health member Richard Edgehille said he has served on the health board for nine years and if the board’s membership is expanded to five members, the town would see a couple of nurses, and perhaps a doctor, come forward to serve and a more professional board.
“It’s a good move,” he said. “Very positive action.”
Michael McLeod of Hanson and 24 other residents filed a citizen’s petition article, a non-binding referendum, to discontinue use of the Common Core state standards and PARCC testing and return to using the pre-2009 state education standards and MCAS testing.
The former standards and testing “made Massachusetts’ education number one in the nation and competitive with the top ranking countries in international standardized tests,” according to the warrant article.
Selectmen voted 5-0 to recommend increasing the Board of Health’s membership and to discontinue use of Common Core and PARCC.
However, the board voted 5-0 not to recommend a citizen petition article filed by Jeffrey McNeil and 17 other Hanson residents to remove the town’s elementary and middle schools from the Whitman-Hanson regional school district.
Selectman James McGahan said people are frustrated with the condition of the schools and the article can open up a discussion.
However, McGahan said the measure, if it passes, would open a can of worms.
Hanson would lose state education aid, and the town would need to form a new school committee and hire a superintendent for the town’s schools, he said.
Selectman William Scott said the article puts the cart before the horse and the town should form a committee to study the feasibility and cost of the measure.
“If the article should pass, we’d be between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
Young said the article is legal.
However, if it passes at Hanson Town Meeting, it would force Whitman’s elementary and middle schools out of the Whitman-Hanson regional school district, as Whitman could not be in a regional district of one town, he said.
Whitman would also face increased costs and need to form a school committee and hire a superintendent for that town’s elementary and middle schools, Young said.
“If this passes in Hanson, we’d also be sealing the deal in Whitman,” he said.
Selectmen also voted 5-0 to recommend that Town Meeting appropriate $10,000 to fund a study of Wampatuck Pond to evaluate contaminants and clean up recommendations.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell said he is all for protecting the water, but asked what would happen if the study comes back and says it would cost millions of dollars to fix it.
Mitchell said the measure is good as long as the town has the option and is not forced to do anything.
Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett of Hanson said she is a huge pond lover and applauds the article, but selectmen should be careful to make a balanced presentation of the article at Town Meeting and that voters know the ramifications of it.
An engineer cannot make Hanson to do anything as a result of a study, but once the town has information about contaminants and cleanup, there could be a class action lawsuit from citizens, FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
“Once Pandora’s box is opened and Pandora escapes, we may not be able to get her back in there,” she said.
McGahan said like mold in the schools, the town cannot turn its head the other way when it comes to the condition of Wampatuck Pond.
“I would rather know than not know,” he said.
Selectmen also voted 5-0 to recommend that voters approve a $22,376,854 budget proposed by Town Administrator Ron San Angelo for fiscal 2016, which starts July 1.
The plan would increase spending by 3.2-percent or $694,861.
“Its a balanced budget. It meets the needs of residents,” he said.