Chatham school board appoints new member

CHATHAM – The Board of Education appointed Melony Spock a member of the board this week, filling a vacancy. Ms. Spock will serve on the board until the budget vote and election May 17, 2010.

She and one other candidate, Ted Minor, submitted applications and were interviewed by the board at the public meeting Tuesday September 8.

Ms. Spock, 43, has lived in the district for 13 years and was president of the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School PTA for three years. She has two children in the MED school and a child who attends pre-school. She also worked at Berkshire Farm Center School.

“I feel like, working in a school for that long, I know how they work,” she said about her 15 years at the Berkshire Farm Center school in Canaan. She also said after working with the PTA she understand how important it is to have community input in board decisions. “It should be more of a collaborative effort,” she said about the district.

Ms. Spock has been part of the district’s Strategic Planning Committee for four years and helped with the committees to hire the new MED principal and the new district superintendent.

Mr. Minor, who was the other person who submitted an application for the board seat, said at the meeting, “We need to be an attractive place to work and an attractive place to bring children to.” He talked about coming from a business background and treating students as clients. “I’m a student-first person,” he told the board.

The board did not give a reason for the decision to select Ms. Spock.

In his closing remarks before the selection, Mr. Minor said, “I’m sure that whoever you pick will do a fine job.”

At the meeting the board also appointed some new teachers. Stephanie Campbell, formally a reporter for the Chatham Courier, was appointed to a teaching position in Social Studies at the high school. Teresa Zema was appointed to a part time position in home economics.

The board also heard from Paul Freeman, a lawyer in Hudson, who was there to represent families that have issues with the district’s new one-bell busing system. He spoke to the board mostly about families that have court-ordered custody agreements requiring students to go to one parent’s house on certain days and to the other parent’s house on others.

“I believe there are exceptions to every rule,” he said about the district’s current position that it can no longer accommodate one student’s special bussing request without meeting all 40 requests. He said that parents with custody agreements are “mandated to do what they do.” He mentioned case law and said he had spoken with a state official.

The one-bell system puts students from all grades, kindergarten through 12, on the same transportation schedule grouped in the same buses. As a result, each bus is at or near capacity, and the district has said that it cannot guarantee students who ask to ride a different bus will be able to do so.

“It’s the board’s policy to save money for the district’s taxpayers,” said Mr. Freeman about the one-bell system.

A parent at the meeting said the board had not taken into account the cost to parents who now have to leave work early and drive more to pick up students. Another parent said that her child-care provider was now out of work because five students she looks after are unable to get to her afterschool care program. That parent also said that she was asking for her child’s whole route to change so the student will be picked up and dropped off at her babysitter’s house not her own, but the district would not approve that request.

“We hear what you are saying,” said board member Mike Clark, but he added, “At this point we can’t make a change.”

The board plans to discuss the one-bell system again at the next workshop meeting Tuesday, September 15 in the high school library. For more information go to the district website at www.chathamcentralschools.com.

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