|North Adams City, School Officials Elect Daunis to School Committee|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
01:03AM / Friday, August 14, 2020
|A joint meeting of the School Committee and City Council was held Thursday night to fill a vacant seat on teh committee.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City and school officials on Thursday unanimously elected Emily Daunis to fill a vacant seat on the School Committee.
Daunis, who ran unsuccessfully last year, was one of eight candidates who expressed interest in the vacancy.
"I know how fortunate we are to have so many exceptional candidates and unfortunately we're only able to select one," said School Committee Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger. "And I am putting forward the name of Emily Daunis, who's active already within the school system and is kind of catalyst in already making school policy change, and also happens to be the first runner up from the election from last year."
Boulger's nomination was seconded by City Councilor Jason LaForest.
Each candidate was given three minutes to speak, in order of there letters of interest being received, and up to 10 minutes if any of the officials had questions. No questions were asked.
In addition to Daunais, the other candidates were David Sookey III, who also ran in 2019 and has a background in public and private school education; Richard Kelley, who has spent 28 years in higher and elementary education; Ian Wilson, a member of the Traffic Commission and a parent who felt he could bring some "real world perspective"; Rachel Branch, a former member of McCann School Committee and mayoral candidate who offered a lengthy administrative resume; Carrieanne Crews, a parent and family support and training program director at the Brien Center; Alyssa Tomkowicz, an admissions counselor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; and Raya Kirby, a parent, social worker, member of the Parks and Recreation Commission and former teacher.
Daunis is the director of patron programs and donor engagement at the Clark Art Institute and has a background in fundraising. She called into the remote meeting while on a camping trip with her husband and three children.
"I'm very passionate about the success of our school system here in North Adams," she said. "I think public education is very important for everyone. I sort of bring a dedication to the health and the safety for all our teachers, our students, our families and of course our community. And I will actively work to facilitate strong communication between our schools and our families."
Daunis will complete the unexpired term of Robert Moulton Jr., who resigned after saying on his public access show that Black Lives Matter was a terrorist group and that the COVID-19 pandemic was overblown. She had placed in fourth place behind Moulton by 101 votes in the November election.
Moulton was also serving on the City Council and resigned at the same time. He was replaced on council by Peter Oleskewicz, who participated in Thursday's meeting.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, referred to Oleskewicz's selection largely based on his placing 10th in November's election and said the officials could go that way if they wished.
"But I would like to encourage everyone to be deliberative in their approach to this, understanding that we just heard very diverse messages from a very strong pool of candidates," he said.
There was little deliberation although several officials encouraged the other candidates to stay involved in the city and consider running for election.
"I hope each of you would consider running for elected office either the School Committee or council," said Councilor Jason LaForest. "In the next term, there's a very specific reason why there are two year terms and chief among those is to have diverse and renewed boards."
School Committee member Tara Jacobs commented on the diversity, caliber and qaulity of the candidates.
"It just makes me so happy to see so much interest from people who are willing to put their names forward and that I hope, regardless of who ultimately ends up gaining the seat, that that interest is sustained into the next round," she said.
City Councilor Keith Bona encouraged the mayor and superintendent of schools to find something that could keep them engaged, adding "if you could combine them all in one you'd have a super candidate."
Councilors participating were Bona, Lisa Blackmer, Marie T. Harpin, President Paul Hopkins, LaForest and Oleskewicz; School Committee members Ian Bergeron, Karen Bond, Boulger, James Holmes, Tara Jacobs and the mayor.
Bernard said he had filed Chapter 23(b)(3) disclosure document on the advice of the state Ethics Commission because he had a relationship with Daunis' husband, who had been a member of his campaign committee.
"I feel that I can adequately perform my official duties as chair objectively and fairly," he said.