You'd never know that our proposed 3 + 3 Representation Model is alive and working well in Essex already (in a 4 + 4 format for EWSD), given the hue and cry with which elected officials have greeted it.
They've raised a host of red herring concerns, debunked below.
"It's illegal." Um, no. The state would not have allowed the school board to implement an illegal representation scheme.
"You haven't provided for redistricting." We could've added a clause to set up a Redistricting Commission, when and if the two populations differentiated by 10%. But if that happens, our School Board will be in the same boat. The schools and municipality can collaborate to appoint folks to redraw the lines we'll share -- or the Town can delegate that task to EWSD. No use having our charter set up a competing plan for redistricting. We'll cross that bridge together with EWSD, if ever needed.
"The School Board has an even number of members but an odd number of votes." This doesn't prevent a tie, and the person who keeps saying this should stop. Westford has two half-votes, which means a 4.5 to 4.5 tie is not only possible but has happened at least once since 2017, depending on whom you ask. Everyone at the table somehow coped, collected themselves, negotiated a plan they could all agree on, and moved on, by all accounts.
The Selectboard reached a 2-2 tie vote on passing a resolution related to mask-wearing on June 9, 2020. The tie vote killed the motion, reflecting the will of several public members who spoke against it.
"Adding a seat to the Selectboard is a bad idea. We have enough trouble now finding people to run." Not true. Although the School Board has had difficulty getting anyone to run for certain open seats over the years, the Selectboard has had no such problem. Nearly every year, the number of candidates who submit petitions exceeds the number of seats, at least until the ballot goes to the printer. There's a pattern of candidates pulling out just before that second deadline which we find curious and unfortunate. People who wish to run shouldn't be arm-twisted out of doing so by powerful people behind the scenes, which is a possible reason for the reduction in competition. The Selectboard had 10 applicants, 8 of whom interviewed for a vacant seat on June 15, 2020. No lack of interest nor qualified candidates here!
This plan draws a new line for political gain. The Village line -- the only line defining these districts -- was defined in 1892 when the Village incorporated.
The EWSD School Board uses the Village line to demarcate its 4 "Town" and 4 Village representatives; the Town Selectboard appointed a Governance Subcommittee with 2 TOV and 2 Village reps; and the Selectboard uses the same Village line in its merger plan to set up Special Taxing Districts, as well as its representation model. This Charter Change uses districts that are widely accepted based on a historic boundary that defines much of what makes two parts of our town unique.
"There is no transition plan." Don't need one. Because sitting board members' terms must expire naturally, the transition is automatic. The new 6th seat is filled at the next annual meeting; subsequent district seats are filled as at-large seats expire. Click here to see animation.
"Boris and Natasha" are behind this. No, the authors of this petition aren't Russian spies. We are Essex residents who care about Better Government and see a better way forward because we've gone to many meetings, talked to thousands of residents, and studied the issues thoroughly. We are appalled that the Chair of the Selectboard would mock our efforts by giving us disparaging nicknames in an e-mail to three other elected officials on Friday, January 17, 2020 at 12:44 pm.
We addressed others in this Letter to the Editor of the Essex Reporter on February 10, 2020.