Whitman School Committee member Dan Cullity announced his resignation from the panel, effective June 30, during the Wednesday, June 9 meeting. He had already sent a letter to the committee indicting his intention to resign due to family issues that would limit his ability to devote significant time to the responsibilities of the office.
“It would not be fair to the district if I could not give it 100 percent,” he said, reading from the letter. “It was a tough decision that I was making.”
Cullity said his wife and family are his top priority.
“My biggest regret here is not seeing the fully funded kindergarten and, really, that’s a missed opportunity,” he said noting full-day pre-K is now the focus of lawmakers. “Every child deserves an education, not just the ones who can pay for it.”
He wished the rest of the committee success, hoping they have a great year.
The School Committee was scheduled to meet jointly with Whitman Selectmen on Tuesday, June 15 to discuss the process of appointing someone to fill the vacancy. [See story, page one]
“We know that’s a tough decision and we appreciate your commitment to the committee and we understand,” Chairman Christopher Howard said. “At least, I understand. For me, family always comes first.”
The Regional Agreement contains a provision that explicitly covers this type of situation, Howard said. If a vacancy arises, Selectmen and remaining committee members from the town concerned appoint a member within 30 days who will serve until the next election.
“Our collective charge at this point is to try and make sure that that group comes together,” Howard said, noting he wanted to limit discussion since the issue was not posted on the agenda.
The School Committee recognized Facilities Director Ernest Sandland as the recipient of this year’s Dr. John F. McEwan Do What’s Right for Kids Award, which recognizes an “unsung hero(s)” who is/are a member of the district staff or team demonstrating extraordinary vision, creativity, competence and execution of his or her job responsibilities. Margaret McEwan presented the award.
The award carries a cash award he can use for professional development or a project that benefits his department.
“John believed that a school is not a building, but a community of support that maximizes personal growth and development for all students and staff,” she said. “By providing a safe and protected learning environment to deliver in-person learning for students and staff, by improving the design of air flow with the installation of the I-Wave [ionized air filtration system]… and by reconfiguring classroom and office setup for social distancing during the COVID pandemic, I know that John truly valued Ernie Sandland.”
She said Sandland knew air quality would be an issue as soon as the pandemic began and started to research safe and effective ways to help with the problem.
“Due to Ernie’s early diagnosis, research and persistence, all classrooms and buildings were equipped before students arrived at the beginning of the school year,” she said, as many other school districts faced supply delays. It also helped with the agreement to a memorandum of understanding with the WHEA on working conditions for teachers during the pandemic.
The School Committee approved a new bus contract with First Student, done through a collaborative bid with Abington, according to interim Business Manager John Tuffy. The contracts were drawn up between the bus company and each individual town.
“We went out for a three-year bid with the fourth and fifth years being optional, and solely an option of us (W-H) as to whether we’d accept a fourth and fifth year,” Tuffy said. “That’s a decision to be made down the line.”
The bid process was open for a month, resulting in three inquiries, two organizations asking for bid packages and one bid — from current provider First Student. Tuffy said the package was affordable based on what was budgeted by the district and includes a first year increase of 5.7 percent; and increases of 3 percent in years two and three as well as increases of 3 percent if the district chooses to extend the contract to years four and five. He called the increases in line with what he has seen in other districts and were lower than the rate of increase after the last contract process when the first year increase was 9 percent; the year two and three increases were 4 percent and the last two years saw 3 percent increases.
Tuffy’s interpretation of contract language leads him to believe changes can be made later, if needed.
“I think there will be an additional conversation in the future pertaining to busing, but that doesn’t mean that we can hold off here,” Howard said.
Tuffy said the district is charged for the bus, not the number of runs a bus makes.
In other business, the committee discussed the establishment of a strategic plan working groups to work through the summer in an effort to coordinate budget efforts for next fiscal year. Some sessions would be open to the public.
“If we’re going to put the time in, it needs to turn into action,” Howard said. “It gives us a degree of organization and clarity.”
The first session will be an open meeting from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 23.