Editor’s note: Updated March 10 with the Select Board calling a meeting for Saturday.
Joe Markey and Meg Tyler filed paperwork this week with the town clerk to immediately resign from the School Committee, and the committee called a special meeting for Friday to announce the vacancies. The Select Board announced a meeting for Saturday at 11 a.m. to discuss the possibility of placing the vacancies on the 2022 ballot.
“I need a break,” Markey wrote via email. “It’s been a long two years, and as I look at all the things available, time already invested above and beyond what most people would do, and how I want to spend my time moving forward, I’m happy to open the spot to one of the other 18,000 residents of Hopkinton who want to pick up where I left off.”
Added Markey: “Hopkinton is home [to] many capable and highly engaged citizens, many drawn here by an interest and passion for good schools. I am confident the community will continue to be well served by new volunteers motivated to run in the election and close out the remaining year of the term.”
Tyler, who was in her second term, likewise indicated the time was right for her to turn her focus elsewhere.
“Serving on the Hopkinton School Committee for four years has been an educational experience and a privilege,” she wrote via email. “I have seen inside the machine. Fresh voices and fresh thinking will be a boon to both committee and community. Without doubt, I am impressed by the good work that goes on in our district. However, I now need to fix my attention on my family and the work that nourishes and inspires me.”
While Markey stated that he enjoyed his time on the School Committee “immensely,” the committee recently had to deal with some divisiveness.
After Markey and Tyler strategized with a resident (who is a 2022 School Committee candidate) to build support for lifting the mask mandate and opposing a new school calendar that added additional holidays, another resident filed an open meeting law complaint and the Hopkinton Teachers Association released a statement harshly criticizing Markey and Tyler for their behind-the-scenes efforts.
Markey and Tyler expressed disappointment that School Committee Chair Nancy Cavanaugh read the HTA letter at a meeting without first notifying them, and they also were frustrated that they did not receive more support from their fellow members regarding the open meeting law complaint. Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh led an investigation that determined Markey and Tyler did not violate the law.
All members also have noted the role social media — specifically Facebook groups — has played in making it more challenging to be in public service.
“My opinion is that social media has contributed to a deterioration of social skills,” Markey stated. “I left social media in 2016. It’s far too easy and rewarding for some to snap off a snappy remark for likes and hearts, without considering the real-life people affected. Government works through tediously boring public meetings. People wanting to make a difference need to show up in person or write letters. I always advise people to get off social media and into meetings.”
According to Town Clerk Connor Degan, the town is consulting its legal counsel to determine if it is too close to the May 16 Annual Town Election to add the positions to the ballot. The deadline to turn in nomination papers is March 28. If counsel determines it’s too late, the town could post the positions and the School Committee and Select Board could meet to appoint temporary replacements until next year’s election.
School Committee positions are for three years. Markey’s seat is on the ballot in 2023, while Tyler’s seat is up for a vote in 2024. If the town appoints temporary replacements, the seats still would be on the ballots those years.
The only seat on the ballot this year belongs to Chair Nancy Cavanaugh, who has taken out papers to run again. Chris Melton — the resident who consulted with Markey and Tyler on the mask and calendar issues — also has taken out papers to challenge for that seat.
Markey, following his success leading the group that oversaw the building of Marathon School, was elected to the School Committee in 2020, just as the pandemic was taking hold. He noted how that limited his ability to contribute in other areas as the committee had to spend so much time “trying to figure out simply how to keep the train on the track and educate students amidst a myriad of complications.”
He wrote that he has no regrets about his time on the committee despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“Clearly the whole system failed last year when many school districts were essentially closed,” he wrote. “While Hopkinton did better than most, from what I can see the hybrid model and quarantine day practices set many kids back and we’re still seeing the ramifications of that. I guess I wish I could have done more, but know I tried my best. Some of the disruption was for good health reasons, but I saw some disruption rooted in administrative challenges at the state and national level.”
Markey, who indicated he plans to stay involved with his kids’ Boy Scouts and youth sports programs and get more involved at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts, also wrote that he’s been “talking to people working at the state level for ways to ensure that the disruptions that happened the past two years won’t ever happen again.”
He also takes pride in encouraging more diverse viewpoints on the School Committee.
“One of the accomplishments that I’m most proud of is the committee’s adoption last year of new norms and protocols that provide a framework for greater diversity of opinion in committee deliberations than the prior norms that emphasized conformity,” he stated. “Over time I hope the new norms will lead to more comfort exercising and tolerating dissent while maintaining cohesion, respect and focus on the educational mission.”