Post image for Election Update: Races for BOS and Regional School Committee

The deadline for candidates to withdraw from the Town election ballot passed last Friday. So, it’s past time for an update.

Last week, selectmen approved the Warrant for the Southborough’s Town Election to be held Tuesday, May 11th at Trottier Middle School from 6:30 am – 8:00 pm.

Since I last posted about the election, I learned of a second race on the ballot. That race is between Northborough residents, but Southborough voters get to weigh in.

Regional School Committee Race

Three candidates are competing for two seats representing Northborough on the Regional School Committee. I tend to feel that Southborough should decide on our seats and Northborough on theirs, but each is on the other’s ballot, so. . .

Mariam Ibrahimi is throwing her hat in the ring. Ibrahimi just graduated from Algonquin in 2019. She is the Vice Chair of the Northborough Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is running against two current members on the committee. (You can view her press release here.)

Kathleen Howland, a professor at Berklee College and the Boston Conservatory, was elected in 2018. (You can learn more about her through her 2018 campaign announcement with links here.)

Karen Ares was appointed to fill a vacant seat last June. She is Executive Administrator at Blackstone Valley Education Hub. Her experience includes administrative roles at Dudley Charlton Regional and teaching science at Auburn High. (You can view her application for last summer’s vacancy from the June 2020 meeting packet here.)

Technically, the two seats are just on the committee that makes decisions related to Algonquin Regional High School. But the committee frequently also meets with Northborough’s and Southborough’s K-8 committees throughout the year. The combined committees discuss or vote on issues where the administration is looking for a consensus approach across all three districts. and serve as the Superintendent’s manager.

Each seat comes with a three year term.

Southborough Races

Neither Andrew Dennington or Michael Weishan have withdrawn from the ballot. Both will vie for one seat on the Board of Selectmen. Expect more coverage on that in the future. (You can read my past coverage here.)

Speaking of the BOS, one member of that board is worth noting for her candidacy for another position. Selectman Chelsea Malinowski is running uncontested for a seat on the Board of Health.* The seat is currently occupied by Dan O’Rourke who is not running for re-election.

There are no other races in Southborough. You can view the list of names that will appear on our ballot here.

*[Editor’s Note: Although it ended up being correct, I jumped the gun on the morning of March 23rd by stating that there was only one candidate for the BOH seat. The filing deadline was that evening and at that point there were two candidates who had pulled papers. As I had previously shared Mark Pietrewicz pulled papers on March 10th for BOH. On the weekend of March 20-21st, Malinowski pulled and filed papers. Ultimately, Pietrewicz is listed as not having collected enough signatures by the filing deadline of 5:00 pm on the 23rd.]

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Post image for Acknowledging 20 years serving Southborough’s United Parishes

Above: Representatives from the United Parishes of Southborough offered a long overdue congratulations to Bob L’Heureux on his retirement from the council after 20 years of service. (contributed photo, scroll down for details)

For 20 years, Robert L’Heureux served the community as a representative on the United Parishes council. Although he retired in 2019, the pandemic kept other council members from gathering to congratulate him last spring. 

This spring, council members were finally able to recognize his service in person. They shared a photo and details:

contributed photo - scroll down for detailsIn the 1970’s, the clergy of Southborough formed the United Parishes of Southborough Clergy Council. In 1999 they felt that there was a need for a similar group composed of lay members of the community churches.

The United Parishes Lay Ecumenical Council was formed from 2 members of each of the churches in Southborough. In 2002, the two Councils became the United Parishes of Southborough, Inc.

Robert (Bob) L’Heureux was one of those Founding Members having moved to Southborough with his family in 1963 and becoming a member of what was then the Southborough Federated Church.

Bob continued this volunteer service on the Lay Council through 2019. Just before Covid he retired his position as Representative of the First Community Church on The Council. He had attended years of monthly committee meetings, helped plan and set up all the Annual Easter Sunday Services, and assisted in planning the Annual Thanksgiving Services.

All of this in addition to the many roles he has filled over the years at The First Community Church where he is Deacon Emeritus and Administrative Assistant to the Pastor.

He was presented with a framed Letter of Appreciation and a Gift Certificate to his favorite restaurant by a gathering of members of the Lay Council. A gathering together that has not been possible until now because of Covid. His sage input at meetings will be greatly missed.

(photo Front row: Will Monaghan of St. Anne’s Church, Karen White of St. Mark’s Church, Anne Elfland of Sr. Matthew’s Church; Second Row: Robert L’Heureux of First Community Church, Dianne Simmons of First Community Church, Barbara Jandrue, Director of the Southborough Food Pantry)

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CA: Selectmen debate IT staffing levels

by beth on April 13, 2021

As I’ve previously covered, tonight the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee will discuss the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The discussion is sure to cover staffing levels for departments, including the IT Department. 

Prior to the 2020 Annual Town Meeting, Town Administrator Mark Purple pushed for the hiring of a full time IT professional to support the IT Manager. Selectmen only approved part-time hours. Initially, Advisory was pushing for full time. In the weeks prior to Town Meeting, Advisory members agreed to support the lower ask for FY20.

The Town had difficulty filling the part-time role over the summer. Then, IT Manager Tom Laflamme resigned in the fall. Recruiting his replacement took months. While a new IT Manager was (finally) hired in late March, his start date isn’t until April 19th. The level of staffing he’ll need for the upcoming year starting July 1st is still an unsettled issue.

Selectmen debated the issue last week. The Commmunity Advocated recapped the discussion of the split opinions:

As selectmen are still reviewing a variety of town departments’ budgets for the 2022 fiscal year, they emphasize that they’re trying to avoid headaches for taxpayers and employees during an already tough financial time. . .

In their budget, the team has also marked money for a part-time technician position that would work 19.5 hours-per-week. 

Individuals in town government have, over the years, debated whether to convert that existing part-time position into a full-time one aimed at keeping the IT department updated and meeting the demands of the town. 

However, town officials are now hesitant to make the change.

Town Administrator Mark Purple suggested that the Board should put more money aside for contracted services this year. That would give Southborough’s incoming IT manager flexibility to evaluate whether he actually needs extra hours from a technician. 

If he determines that is necessary, Purple suggested, the IT department could supplement its needs with contracted services for the next year. Then, it could request more money next year.

“I always get worried when we add new positions because they become embedded in the budget,” Purple said during an April 6 Board of Selectmen meeting. 

Town brainstorms price tag for new position

According to Purple, a new full-time IT position would cost the town an additional $60,000. 

Using contracted services, in comparison, would lower that price tag as Southborough would not need to pay full-time benefits to a new employee.

“This would give [the IT Manager] a year and [then we can] strategize from there,” Selectmen Brian Shea said, supporting Purple’s suggestion.

To read the selectmen’s split opinions on the subject, click here. Selectmen held off on voting on any of the budgets to hear Advisory’s recommendations. They may vote on some or all of the budgets to propose to voters tonight. (Click here for the agenda.)

Updated (4/13/21 12:51 pm): I accidentally left out the article link.

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Post image for ARHS Mascot Study Group to make recommendations to Regional School Committee – Thursday

This summer, the school district responded to a petition calling for the renaming of Algonquin Regional High School and the elimination of the Tomahawks as the school’s mascot. The district didn’t determine a renaming worth serious pursuit. The administration did agree “a close examination of the tomahawk is worthwhile and necessary”. A study group was formed to take on that work.

This Thursday, the group will report to the Regional School Committee. The committee is expected to vote on the issue in two weeks.

In prior communications, Algonquin Principal Sean Bevan explained to parents:

The [Mascot Study Group’s] charge is to ultimately develop a recommendation for the Regional School Committee about whether the mascot should be changed and, if so, what the timeline and costs of that change may be.

In messages last week, Superintendent Gregory Martineau stated that the group will be presenting its recommendations at the April 15th meeting.

The Regional School Committee won’t make final decision until the community has a chance to weigh in. Martineau’s announcement previewed:

Following Thursday’s presentation, I will provide community members with a digital form to communicate information that they think is important for the RSC to read prior to taking a formal vote to maintain or retire the ARHS mascot. The formal vote will take place at the Wednesday, April 28, 2021, Regional School Committee meeting.  

The group’s recommendations aren’t yet outlined, but its worth noting the group’s most recent slideshow showed almost all surveyed staff were in favor of or supportive of a change. (See graphs below right.)
Staff surveys on ARHS mascot preliminary
Of ARHS staff surveyed in before they formally discussed the issue, 66% were in favor of or leaning towards replacing the mascot and 27% were neutral. Only 9 out of 110 were in favor of or leaning towards keeping it.

Staff surveys on ARHS mascot after discussionsFollowing discussions, a second survey found 97% on the side of change, only 3% neutral, and none opposed. Some, but not all, of that difference could be attributed to a drop off in survey participants. 18 fewer staff members took part in the second survey.

Based on a story by the Algonquin Harbinger (the student newspaper), it appears that student opinions in surveys and focus groups may have been more split.

Also worth noting is the change in spirit wear and marketing for ARHS Athletics that took place over the school year.

Algonquin Athletics A As I highlighted in December, the school store has been selling clothing without the tomahawk symbol. A stylized A was adopted to stand for Algonquin Athletics.

The school does still refer to the mascot for its teams, but using the long-popular shorter moniker, the “T-hawks”. Algonquin Athletics does still show the symbol in its twitter page header, but its profile photo has been replaced by a version of the A.

The Mascot Study group is composed of 16 participants covering a range of constituencies including students, staff, parents, and school committee members.

The group was recruited to study the issue following discussions with organizers of a petition for change. The petition, now with over 5,000 signatures, stated:  [click to keep reading…]

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Post image for Reminder: Sign up for Rec’s full & ½ day summer camps and CIT programs (Updated)

Above: Don’t wait too long to sign up your 3-15 year olds for summer fun through Southborough Rec camps and CIT programs. (images edited/cropped from past Rec Facebook posts)

It’s the time of year when families look to start nailing down camp plans for the summer. So, before the program fills up, I’m reminder readers about Southborough Recreation’s summer camp.

As I posted previously, this will be the first summer that Rec is holding a full day summer camp. They are also still offering a half day option for 3-6 year olds and CITs.

Camp and CIT options cover ages 3-15, though they will be split by age groups. (Note about the younger ones: Campers must be potty trained.)

It’s also the first time in my memory that all ages will be gathered on one campus. Rec’s flyer describes:

Located at the Woodward School, our program provides unique access to quality indoor and outdoor facilities to fit the needs of all children. . . 

Each day will boast a variety of traditional camp activities for your child that include but are not limited to sports, arts & crafts, special events, on-site entertainers, and more!

Registration will be more limited than usual due to Covid restrictions. That means it could fill up soon. (For the youngest campers, two weeks of the 1/2 day option have already sold out. For 7-11 year olds, one week has sold out.)

At this point, restrictions also mean there won’t be any field trips planned (that includes the weekly jaunts older campers are used to taking to St. Mark’s pool.)

Rec does still plan to bring in special visitors to help with the fun. As usual, they’ll be organizing the camps around weekly themes. This summer, those are:

Camp themes

For more details on the summer camps and CIT program, check out my post from February. (For other camps and activities for kids this summer, click here.)

Updated (4/13/21 8:23 am): The draft was accidentally posted before I could verify status of camps this morning. As I inserted above, for campers ages 7-11 Week 7 is full. Click here for summer camp registration.

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April 11 - NSBORO Students-Staff in Quarantine-Isolation

Above: Over 200 NSBORO students and staff were quarantined or isolated this week.

The Northborough-Southborough schools’ weekly Dashboard for April 5 -11 shows 9 new cases were confirmed across the districts. (That’s 287 over the course of the pandemic.) 209 students/staff were isolated or quarantined. 

Student participation increased in the Covid-19 screening program, but remains well below the 80% goals.

Below are charts and info from the latest Dashboard and my tracking of their data since the start of the school year.

April 11 - NSBORO Covid-Dashboard p 1 April 11 - NSBORO Covid Dashboard p2 April 11 - NSBORO Covid Dashboard p3 April 11 - New cases in NSBORO schools by week April 11 - Southborough Students-Staff in Quarantine-Isolation April 11 - Algonquin Students-Staff in Quarantine-Isolation

The Town updated its Covid-19 figures “as of” 8:10 am this morning. 26 cases have been confirmed reported in the past 15 days, 5 since Friday.

The Town’s cumulative total over the course of the pandemic was increased to 471 cases with 41 cases labeled active. (For details, click on graphs below.)

April 12 - tracking Covid in Southborough April 12 - Cumulative total Covid in SouthboroughApril 12 - Covid by ages in Southborough April 12 - Covid by ages in Southborough over time

For the most recent data from the state on positivity rates and vaccinations, click here to read Friday’s post.

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Events this week: NSPAC Meeting with Special Ed Attorney; Joys of Nature – Vernal Pools

April 12, 2021 11:38:03 AM
Thumbnail image for Events this week: NSPAC Meeting with Special Ed Attorney; Joys of Nature – Vernal Pools

Here are some highlights of events in and around Southborough this week.

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The week in government: Planning Hearings; BOS and Advisory on Budgets and ATM Articles; School Committee

April 12, 2021 10:34:53 AM
Thumbnail image for The week in government: Planning Hearings; BOS and Advisory on Budgets and ATM Articles; School Committee

Here is a selection of the committee and board meetings for the week along with my selected highlights from the agendas.

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Town Meeting Update: School budgets

April 9, 2021 04:34:26 PM
Thumbnail image for Town Meeting Update: School budgets

In preparation for Town Meeting discussions, NSBORO schools administration has posted Budget documents for the next fiscal year. I’m pulling together some highlights of what they are asking voters, and how it is being pitched.

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Covid Update: Southborough still red; 46% of residents at least partially vaccinated

April 9, 2021 01:02:47 PM
Thumbnail image for Covid Update: Southborough still red; 46% of residents at least partially vaccinated

Mass Public Health posted its weekly reports last night, and the Town updated its figures this morning. So, it’s time for an update.

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Town Meeting Update: Possible phased approach for Public Health budget using Special Fall Meeting

April 8, 2021 04:53:47 PM
Thumbnail image for Town Meeting Update: Possible phased approach for Public Health budget using Special Fall Meeting

The Board of Selectmen voted to support holding a Special Town Meeting this fall. But the motion was qualified as a “soft” commitment, reflecting the Board’s uncertainty of what’s ahead.

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Obituary: George B. ‘Peter’ Cunningham, 78

April 8, 2021 03:32:33 PM
Thumbnail image for Obituary: George B. ‘Peter’ Cunningham, 78

George B. ‘Peter’ Cunningham, 78, of Southborough passed away on Monday, April 5, 2021 at Metro West Medical Center in Framingham, after a very short illness.

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On the market this week in Southborough

April 8, 2021 01:50:29 PM
Thumbnail image for On the market this week in Southborough

What went on and off the market this week.

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Ken’s Food seeking variance to expand to east – April 21 ZBA Hearing

April 8, 2021 12:17:34 PM
Thumbnail image for Ken’s Food seeking variance to expand to east – April 21 ZBA Hearing

Ken’s Foods is again going before the Zoning Board of Appeals. This time, the business is seeking to expand its distribution center on its east end.

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