Wellesley Town Election Guide 2023
Wellesley’s Annual Town Election will take place on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Here is The Swellesley Report’s guide on all you need to know about exercising your right to vote.
Ways to cast your vote in Wellesley
Vote by mail
Completed mail-in ballots must be RECEIVED by Town Hall, no later than 8pm on Tuesday March 7, 2023. They may be brought to the Town Clerk’s Office or to the drop box outside of Town Hall. Vote by Mail ballots may NOT be dropped off at polling locations.
Note: applications to vote by mail are no longer being accepted. (The last day to get an app to the Town Clerk was February 28 at 5pm.)
Vote in person at the polls
The polls will be open for in-person voting 7am-8pm. Polling map here.
Don’t know which precinct you’re in? Here’s how to find out where to vote in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
- Precincts A & C: Bates Elementary School, 116 Elmwood Rd.
- Precinct B: Sprague Elementary School, 401 School St.
- Precincts D & E: Warren Building, 90 Washington St.
- Precincts F & G: Shipley Center, Dana Hall School, 142 Grove St.
- Precinct H: Tolles Parsons Center, Council on Aging, 500 Washington St.
Wellesley Town Election candidates:
Contested races—names are listed in the order on which they appear on the ballot:
- Select Board—3 candidates, 3-year terms, 2 openings—Odessa Sanchez; Thomas Ulfelder; Elizabeth Sullivan Woods
- Natural Resources Commission—3 candidates, 3-year terms, 2 openings—Martin Jay McHale; Michael D’Ortenzio; Jaden Crawford
- School Committee—3 candidates, 3-year terms, 2 openings—Christina Horner; Catherine Mirick; Neal Glick
Uncontested races—names are listed in the order on which they appear on the ballot:
- Moderator—1 opening, 1-year term—Mark Kaplan
- Board of Assessors—1 opening, 3-year term—Stephen Burtt
- Board of Health—1 opening, 3-year term—Shira Doron
- Housing Authority, 1 opening, 1-year term—Lisa Kaufman Heyison
- Trustees of the Wellesley Free Library—2 openings, 3-year terms—Anne Rappaport; Linshi Li
- Planning Board—1 opening, 5-year term—James Roberti
- Board of Public Works—1 opening, 3-year term—Jeffrey Weschler
- Recreation Commission—1 opening, 3-year term
Candidates’ Q & A posts
All of the candidates running in contested races took the time to answer questions from The Swellesley Report. For your convenience, below is a round-up of the candidates’ Q&A posts.
Town meeting candidates
Town Meeting is the legislative body for the Town of Wellesley. There are 240 voting town meeting members elected by eight precincts. Each precinct has 30 members elected to three-year staggered terms.
In the 2023 election, two of the eight precincts are contested races.
In Precinct B, there are 11 candidates running for 10 open slots, and in Precinct E there are 14 candidates running for 12 open slots.
Sample ballots for each precinct
If you have any election/voting questions, please call the Town Clerk’s Office at (781) 431-1019 x2252.
Learn more about how adopting net-zero energy code could affect Wellesley
The Wellesley Select Board and Climate Action Committee are co-sponsoring a webinar on Wednesday, May 8 (7-8:30pm) to discuss the Municipal Opt-in Specialized Energy Code (Opt-in Code). This power couple is also co-sponsoring Town Meeting Article 36, which calls for adoption of the code effective Jan. 1, 2024.
The webinar will go over the code, and address issues such as electrification requirements for new residential and commercial construction, building efficiency, cost, and incentives.
The Select Board and Climate Action Committee are urging support for this new code in an effort to help the town meet aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, as outlined in the town’s Climate Action Plan.
Brookline, Cambridge, and Watertown are among early adopters of the Opt-in Code.
Wellesley is particularly targeting building emissions since they account for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas output in town. The Select Board recently approved (see Wellesley Media recording of Feb. 13 meeting) Wellesley’s participation in the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program designed to help commercial property owners finance energy improvements.
For more on the Opt-in Code, check out the recent Charles River Regional Chamber webinar on the topic.
Fewer Wellesley Public School students, but costs still up $3 million
By contributing reporter Jennifer Bonniwell
Wellesley Public Schools are asking for an additional $3.1 million in taxpayer funding—a 3.68 percent increase—for the 2023-2024 school year, with the biggest surprise being a state- mandated $710,000 increase in special education expenses.
The proposed budget does not cut any existing teaching or curriculum, except related to enrollment declines. The district said it would cost $2.6 million more than last year’s budget to maintain the same level of teaching and curriculum, or a 3.06 percent annual increase.
The proposed $87.9 million school budget makes up about 45 percent of the town’s $201 million fiscal 2024 budget. The School Committee approved the budget on Feb. 7. The Advisory Committee reviewed the budget during its Feb. 8 and March 1 meetings and is expected to vote on the budget in advance of Town Meeting, which begins March 27.
The full 388-page school budget is available on the district’s website.
Costs Up, Students Down
The school budget increased despite a continued decline in enrollment, a disconnect that the school district wasn’t fully able to explain to the Advisory Committee.
Enrollment in Wellesley schools has fallen 8 percent from 4,426 students in kindergarten through 12 th grade in fall 2020 to 4,069 students in fall 2022. This year, 24 percent of school-aged children living in Wellesley do not attend Wellesley public schools.
“I see this as a perennial question, ‘If we have fewer students why is it costing us more to educate them,’ “ said School Committee chairwoman Leda Eizenberg at the March 1 Advisory Committee meeting (school presentation begins at the 1-hour 42-minute mark of the Wellesley Media video). “The lion’s share of expenses are nondiscretionary and have largely to do with step and lane [salary] increases within the educator contract, as well as health benefits and expenses and inflation.”
But Eizenberg also pointed to what she called “pandemic-recovery-related” costs to try to get back some of the learning loss and provide mental health support.
For example, the district plans to hire another math teacher and math coach at the middle school and launch a new “flex block” to allows middle school students to get extra help in English and math. And the district plans to add an adjustment counselor at each of the elementary schools to help address mental health issues.
The proposed budget includes $77.8 million in salary and health benefits, which is $1.57 million or 1.85 percent higher than last year. Salary changes are due to raises provided for in current contracts, minus savings due to turnover and enrollment declines, according to a presentation by Superintendent David Lussier at the Feb. 8 Advisory Committee meeting (schools presentation begins at about 24 minutes into the Wellesley Media recording).
There is no allowance for potential expenses due to ongoing negotiations with the Wellesley Educators Association. The School Committee cited confidentiality in negotiations and has declined to estimate how much a new contract may add to the proposed budget.
If the new contracts negotiated with the teacher unions result in additional expenses, those would be disclosed in the district’s adjusted budget in fall 2023, Lussier said.
Special Ed Costs Up 14%
The biggest driver in the budget increase, Lussier said, was the 14 percent state-mandated increase in special education out-of-district placements. In past years, these special education costs increased about 2.5 percent per year when service remained the same. The 14 percent mandate applies to all Massachusetts school districts.
“Wellesley is not alone in being surprised and frustrated with this mandate from the state. We understand the state’s desire to support really important services for kids that we know were impacted by the pandemic. The mechanism the state chose to do this caught everyone by surprise at a time of difficult budget challenges. This was something none of us saw coming or could have projected,” Lussier said.
Lussier said the district decided to forgo other additional expenses, such as hiring a new diversity recruitment specialist, because of the unexpected special education expense.
New AP Classes, Lower Bus Fees
The district has asked for an additional $505,529 to fund strategic priorities and $15,890 for other critical needs. For example, the proposed budget includes a new AP Chinese Language and Culture course, an AP Capstone Seminar and an intensive robotics Innovation Lab at the high school. The district also plans to hire a social studies department head for the elementary schools.
“You’ll see that this budget affirms our commitment to excellence as one of our core values in a variety of ways, from more use of data to drive instruction at the elementary level to an increase in math teachers and specialists at the middle school to additional AP offerings, a supportive science course, a Spanish class for home speakers and new electives at the high school,” said School Committee chairwoman Leda Eizenberg at the Feb. 8 Advisory Committee meeting.
The district also plans to reduce the optional bus transportation fee from $500 to $400 per child. The bus fee change, which will cost the district about $80,000, is part of a multi-year effort to reduce student fees. Last year, the district ended the activity and visual arts fees for middle school and high school students. In the 2023-2024 budget, the bus fee change is classified as a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.
More About Enrollment
The district provided several charts to demonstrate the ebb and flow of public school enrollment. The peak was in fall 1969, when Wellesley schools had nearly 6,200 students, followed by the nadir in fall 1990 of about 2,800 students. The district expects enrollment to continue to decline, with enrollment dropping to 3,500 by fall 2027. (See FY24 WPS Advisory Budget Presentation, page 14).
As for causes of this current decline, Lussier noted that the town may have fewer children – 273 births in 2006 compared to 165 births in 2019 – and offered anecdotal evidence that parents moved students to private schools during the pandemic. The district has started surveying parents who withdraw students to learn more about the trend. The district also engages an enrollment consultant every few years – the most recent in 2022 — to help with projections.
State Receipts Up
State funding under Chapter 70 has increased over the past four years even as Wellesley’s public school enrollment has declined. In 2023, Wellesley received $9.6 million in state funding via Chapter 70, up 2.75% from 2022 and up 7.9% from 2019. The continued increase in state funding is due to adjustments in certain components of the funding formula set under the Student Opportunity Act, according to a written response from the school district to questions from the Advisory Committee.
Savings from Seven to Six Schools
Although building two new schools has been costly, eventually the town will see some savings from closing one of the seven elementary schools, according to district projections. In fiscal year 2025, the school district expects to save $430,789, mostly due to savings on employing a school nurse, principal and secretary, the district said in a written response to questions from the Advisory Committee.
Wellesley High School hosting standards-based grading discussion
The topic of standards-based grading will be discussed at public forum on March 9 from 7-9pm at Wellesley High School.
The meeting will include a presentation, case study, and Q&A.
A presentation on the subject was given at the Jan. 31 School Committee meeting.
- Please send tips, photos, ideas to email@example.com
Wellesley Business Buzz: Jejes Coffeehouse set to open March 8; Oath Pizza aims to debut April 1; Linden Square happenings
The latest Wellesley, Mass., business news:
Jejes Coffeehouse set to open March 8
Jejes Coffeehouse & Roastery is set to open its shop at 259 Washington St. on Wednesday, March 8 with a full men of coffee, tea, and baked goods.
For the opening, Jejes will have coffee (Espresso, Americano, Latte, Mocha, etc), tea, and baked goods (cookies, muffins, madeleines, and scones). Also, they will offer some specialty coffee menus (pour-over and Dutch brew).
“Our espresso menu uses 100% organic, fair trade coffee beans freshly roasted at our shop (you will actually see our small roastery nested in the back). Tea is also organic. Also, we will sell bags of coffee,” says owner Duse Lee.
You can find Jejes on Facebook, and soon its website will be live.
Jejes has received a Kosher certification from the KVH to make its offerings accessible to kosher/halal consumers. “So, we kindly ask our customers not to bring outside food and drinks into our shop,” Lee says.
Jejes will have 4 seats inside, plus more outside later as the weather warms. They will mainly operate on a take-out model.
Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 8 AM to 2 PM.
After receiving the Select Board’s approval for a common victualler license in early 2022, Jejes Coffeehouse had planned to open by fall 2022. But issues with a contractor delayed things.
Oath Pizza aims to debut April 1
The Oath Pizza shop in Linden Square is looking to open on April Fools’ Day according to its job postings for people to run the operation.
Keeping up with Linden Square
Linden Square is planning lots of ways to coax everybody out of hibernation to celebrate spring. New fashion is arriving in the stores, restaurants are featuring new, seasonal items, and we’re all feeling lucky that we got through another New England winter with no major snowstorm…yet! Check out all the doings here.
State to assign mediator to get past Wellesley schools contract impasse
The Wellesley Educators Association and the Wellesley School Committee, after ten months of back-and-forth negotiations over contract sticking points, have learned that the Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has determined that the two parties have reached an impasse. After initially denying a request for mediation in January, the state will now appoint a mediator to step in. The expected first move of the mediator will be to get the two sides to agree to a meeting date. Once that’s decided, it will be back to the bargaining table for both parties and a plus-one (the mediator) to discuss the long-stalled contract negotiations.
Although the mediator will retain ultimate control over scheduling meetings, an issue that has come up between the two parties during the month of February, that’s about as far-reaching as that entity’s powers go. But there will still be plenty of boxes that need checking. Most importantly, once the process is concluded, the mediator will file a confidential report (meaning neither you nor Swellesley will be able to access it) with the DLR Director. Although the file will be sealed from the public, it’s likely that the report will contain an overview of what is already a matter of public record—the unresolved issues that landed the two parties in mediation.
It is possible that the report to the DLR Director will conclude that the two sides have come to an agreement, or are close to getting there. If that’s the case, hooray! Let’s bring this thing across the finish line ASAP.
It’s also possible that the report will lead the Director to conclude that the impasse continues to exist and additional mediation is unlikely to resolve the matter. If that happens, the next phase is fact-finding. The fact finder has the authority to mediate the dispute, and reports on whether a work stoppage has occurred or is imminent. Fact-finding isn’t free, and costs are typically divided between the parties. At this point in the story, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so we’ll stop for now with the what-ifs. Except for one more.
The what-if wild card is a WEA strike, a move educators have repeatedly said they don’t want to make. Wild cards being what they are, however, it’s impossible to say what might happen. During an after-school WEA rally outside Town Hall on Wednesday, March 1, WEA speakers and over 100 demonstrators sounded as strident and determined as ever, placing the responsibility for settling the contract dispute squarely at the feet of the School Committee.
WEA members came to the rally dressed in their signature red. They jangled cow bells, banged on drums, and raised their voices in solidarity. They chanted and let up cheers when passing cars beeped encouragement. Many educators were there with their own kids, modeling what behavior in the workplace-conflict trenches looks like.
WEA representative Brian Reddy led the line-up of about six speakers, energizing the crowd with a call to action, “We didn’t create this tension. We didn’t create these conditions. and unfortunately the School Committee and central office management have shown us that public actions like this are the only thing that the will respond to…We’re here to show our solidarity in order to help the School Committee and central management understand the power that we have, and that we want this contract figured our immediately.”
Rally attendee and Wellesley High School parent Lucienne said, “It sounds to me as if they have a lot of points that need to be discussed, and they’re reasonable points. I really believe in a fair wage. I really believe that they should be given just cause and they should be given adequate time to prepare in elementary schools.”
The sticking points between the two sides continue to be about exactly those issues, part of the WEA “Fair Five.” Compensation and the way in which elementary school specialists work seem to be the particular pain points.
The School Committee in an email to families called the total compensation package they’re offering “the most generous in recent memory,” to which the WEA simply scoffs. At issue is how Unit C employees—teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, and nursing paraprofessionals—are paid. This group is paid on an hourly basis and members are eligible to receive Town benefits. Most positions are scheduled to work between 6.2 and 6.5 hours per day over 182 work days, with one paid holiday per year. The salary for a teaching assistant or a paraprofessional is generally in the mid-$20k range. According to the MIT Living Wage calculations, a living wage in Massachusetts for one adult, after taxes, is $44,405.
WEA representatives disparaged budget items from administrators’ salaries to teacher development programs that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and, according to some educators, offer dubious results. During his time at the mic, Reddy called on the School Committee to “do what’s right. Even if that means going to the town together, unified, to access adequate funding.”
The School Committee says the budget doesn’t support such a demand, which would likely require an override to achieve.
A Committee non-negotiable is the issue of how Elementary Specialists work. The WEA wants all specialist teachers at the elementary level (art, music, library, physical education) to be guaranteed a 1.0 full-time position at each elementary school. Currently, many specialists teach at more than one school.
The School Committee says a single teacher for each discipline at each elementary school is a flat-out no because there are usually not enough students to support a 1.0 full-time equivalent specialist teacher for each discipline at each location.
Throughout contract negotiations, the School Committee has been generally quiet, citing a policy of not commenting on ongoing dialogue. But it was a WEA social media post that accused the Committee of bargaining in bad faith that finally pushed them over the edge. In an email to WPS families, the Committee said about an attempt for the sides to schedule important February meetings, “…we offered full-day session dates both before and after the February break. The union bargaining team raised no objections to this approach and began exploring different dates with us in the room. We were quite surprised and disappointed by social media posts made on Thursday by the WEA leadership that accused the School Committee of proposing full-day sessions as a means to keep its silent bargaining representatives out of the bargaining process. We have no concerns about these representatives being present. This public mischaracterization of the School Committee’s interest is certainly not in the spirit of good faith bargaining.”
And that’s how a school system goes from ten months of contract negotiations to an initial request for mediation (denied by the state) to a subsequent request for mediation (approved by the state) to a mediator having to take on the responsibility to schedule a meeting.
What have they agreed on?
Here’s a School Committee-generated document on what the two sides have managed to agree on
More information about the “Fair Five” from the Wellesley Educators Association