2 of 3 school-related articles approved in Phillipston 

  • Eighty-five registered voters attended Wednesday night’s special town meeting in the Phillipston Memorial Elementary School. Greg Vine

  • Phillipston Finance Committee member Ruth French makes a motion to approve a special town meeting article calling for changes in the Narragansett Regional School District agreement while Town Moderator Kevin Flynn, right, listens. —Greg Vine

  • Town Moderator Kevin Flynn calls the Phillipston Special Town Meeting to order Wednesday night. Seated at the head table are, from left — Finance Committee member Linda Ellis, Co-chair Tom Specht, committee member Ruth French, Town Clerk Karin Foley, and Town Counsel Tom McEnaney.   —Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 8/1/2019 9:50:25 PM
Modified: 8/1/2019 9:50:13 PM

PHILLIPSTON — Two of three articles on the special town meeting warrant related, in one way or another, to the town’s relationship with the Narragansett Regional School District were approved by voters at Wednesday’s special town meeting.

Article 1, authored by Finance Committee member Ruth French, asked the town’s Selectboard to petition the Narragansett Regional School District to amend the district agreement with Templeton in such a way as to ensure children in kindergarten through fifth grade attend school in their home community. Students could be required to attend classes out of town only “in the event of an emergency which prevents the use of a building in whole or part,” if special arrangements must be made to accommodate students with special needs, or if parents request that their child attend school in the other district community.

“The current wording (of the agreement),” said French, “would allow the assignment of pupils to be voted by seven-eighths of the school committee, which, if you recall, they did, and word was that all of our students will be sent to the Templeton Elementary School. This would stop that, would not allow them to just indiscriminately say, ‘You’re all going to Templeton.’”

“For this to take effect,” she said, “it would also have to be voted by the town of Templeton.”

Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn, serving as town moderator, offered voters the chance to comment on the proposal, but none accepted the invitation. The article was then approved on a voice vote.

Voters also considered an article asking the Selectboard to petition state lawmakers to pass special legislation allowing for the recall of elected members of the Narragansett Regional School Committee.

In response to a question from the audience, Town Counsel Tom McEnaney of the law firm of KP Law said, “I’ve reviewed the regional school district agreement. The position of a school committee member is a districtwide position. People in Templeton vote for candidates who live in Phillipston and vice versa. If there was a recall that was approved through the recall process, there would then be a districtwide election and voters from both towns would vote on that because it is a districtwide position.”

“Who’s going to want to serve on the school committee and make tough decisions,” asked resident David Bramhall, “if they’re faced with an angry recall? I think it’s a bad idea. It’s tough enough getting people to run for public office. They shouldn’t have to worry about making tough decisions. We haven’t had this in 50 years. Why do we have to have it now?”

Although it was pointed out by McEnaney that all other elected officials in Phillipston are subject to recall, the article was defeated, with 29 voting in favor and 37 voting “no.”

Voters did approve another article, authored by resident Dan Sanden, directing the Selectboard to secure an agreement with Templeton officials whereby “the town of Templeton swears that it will not seek or accept monetary payments from the town of Phillipston to help pay for their new elementary school should Phillipston students be assigned there.”

The article was amended to remove a second paragraph that would have prohibited Phillipston students from attending Templeton’s elementary school unless such an agreement was reached.

“I think you should consider the fact,” said Sanden, “that whenever we put up a regional school, whatever percent of our children go to that school, that’s the percent we’re obligated to pay on that school. I did some math on this … and it looked to me that, if we had 18 percent of the kids going to that school, Phillipston would be on the hook for about $4 million. I don’t know how long the payment plan is for Templeton, but we’d be on that for the length of that plan.”

With no further discussion, the proposal was approved by a 46-24 margin.

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