If you left or tuned out of this past Monday’s epically long Board of Selectmen’s (BoS) meeting early, then you missed an informative and often tense discussion over the town’s elementary school plans.
The penultimate agenda item focused on whether the BoS would support a Citizens Petition for a non-binding referendum about keeping Wellesley a 7-elementary-school town rather than eliminating one under the Hardy-Hunnewell-Upham plan that’s been taking shape for years. Backers of the petition are looking to get the referendum on the March ballot.
The petition text was proposed as follows: “Do you believe the Town of Wellesley should keep our current seven neighborhood elementary school model by rebuilding and/or renovating the Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham Elementary Schools, instead of closing one school and redistricting all of our elementary students into six schools? Please vote YES or NO.”
The BoS voted 4-1 against the petition as worded, which means that as things stand, this question will not appear at the polls on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
However, should the request receive signatures from 10% of Wellesley’s registered voters (approximately 1,800 signatures) by Feb. 4, 2020, the ballot question must by law be permitted to appear.
During Citizen’s Speak, Wellesley resident Mari Passananti, said that the plans for a new Hunnewell School represent an “extravagant, ludicrously priced plan” which “eliminates green space.”
“By 2021 I’m highly confident that every registered voter in this town will understand that a vote for the massive tax hike will also equal a vote to close the Hardy School, and that is what I think many people at Town Meeting didn’t totally grasp,” Passananti said. “That vote for a big Hunnewell was a vote to close Hardy…Don’t let a School Committee and a Superintendent with a Father Knows Best attitude push through a contentious proposal.”
BoS Secretary Jack Morgan in comments addressed to Passananti said, “You are casting aspersions on our Superintendent as well as our School Committee. We have talked about the decline in civil discourse here in Wellesley. You are disrespecting the School Committee, this Board, and the 80% of Town Meeting members who voted in a way that you didn’t want.”
After some more back-and-forth, Passananti said, “If you turn us down, we’ll get the signatures we need and the question will appear on the 2020 ballot. You have a chance to stand up for democracy. Please do so. The citizens deserve a vote.”