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UPDATED June 28: Sarah Montague, a former Minuteman High School parent, was chosen as Arlington's new Minuteman School Committee representative at the Select Board meeting Wednesday evening, June 21. The committee oversees the Minuteman Regional Technical Vocational School District, which draws students from nine municipalities, including some 200 Arlington teens.

The vote was 4–1; Ann Horgan received the other vote. Board Chair Eric Helmuth, Board Vice Chair John Hurd, and board members Diane Mahon and Steve DeCourcey voted for Montague; board member Len Diggins voted for Horgan.

The vote ends the tenure of J. Michael Ruderman, the Precinct 9 Town Meeting member whose three-year committee term will end June 30. Ruderman had applied for reappointment.  

Interviews preceded by controversy

Each municipality that sends students to Minuteman has a representative on the committee. The nine-member committee appoints and evaluates the school’s superintendent-director, approves the district budget and adopts goals and policies to support students’ educational achievement.The committee is currently scheduled to meet next on July 18.

The public interviews, which are uncommon, and the vote at the same meeting, follow months of turmoil at Minuteman including public protests about Superintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson's decision in April not to renew the contract of longtime Principal George Clement; that contract is set to expire June 30. Many critics have also called Dawson's overall approach consistently alienating to the district's mid-level managers and teachers. Dawson, in her job only since July 1, was put on administrative leave in May, with Kevin Mahoney now acting in her stead. Clement is also on leave, with Kathleen Bouchard currently in the role of acting principal. Readsome of the background here >> 

Board members did not mention the situation during the meeting.

Montague has “unique experience being a past parent, and clearly has a passion to serve in this position,” said Hurd.

Mahon said that Montague would fill the role’s three vested interests: parent constituency, teacher constituency and School Committee.

Diggins, the only board member to prefer another candidate, favored Horgan, saying that she “has impressive experience in town -- and exudes a calmness that would be good in tough situations.” 

Helmuth said: “Everyone we heard from has something to contribute, loves Minuteman and was impressive in different ways. It’s an embarrassment of riches that so many qualified candidates stepped up and applied.”

Hurd, too, was impressed by all the candidates. “Everyone showed a passion for the school and provided unique perspectives and genuine reasons why they want to serve.” 

Besides Ruderman and Montague, the remaining candidates were Paula Dimattia and Janet Marsden; the latter, hearing the four previous candidates’ interviews, decided to withdraw yet said she would continue to advocate for Minuteman. To see the candidates’ resumes and cover letters,click here >>

Montague comments

Montague said her motivation to seek the position is her passion for education. 

After her then middle-school son learned about Minuteman, Montague said he became “effusive about Minuteman. My husband and I hadn’t seen that level of excitement from him since kindergarten, and we were in complete support.” Montague’s son is now on track to become a paramedic.

“I have a passion for supporting teachers, and the school’s teachers are extraordinary. I’ve always put the interest of organizations ahead of my own career. I’ve worked across a variety of industries and fields, including nonprofits, and am a trained facilitator,” she said. 

“The school is a gem and needs to continue to be a gem. It’s time for a change in the school committee. Other towns are advocating for change and to give confidence to incoming parents. We need to make the students know that we stand behind them.”

She raised the issue that board members did not, saying that Minuteman's teachers had been under tremendous stress for many months. “Now, with a new [acting] superintendent[-director] at the helm, they're feeling less stress,” Montague said, adding that Dawson "was much too internally focused, acting like a few clicks down from a principal."

Seeks to improve communication, add programs

Montague said opportunities exist to improve communication with the parents, which would take the burden off teachers. 

“There needs to be a more concerted coordination between the school, school committee and parents’ organizations. I’d have office hours to make myself available and encourage all School Committee reps to do the same, so we look like we’re operating in concert.” Montague also recommended posting the school’s newsletter on the town website.

“If the school continues to get funding and add programs, we need to have advocacy out in the town, and school committee members have a role in that,” said Montague.

Montague recommended ramping up the school’s vet tech program. “Look at how many people adopted pets during the pandemic,” she said. “There’s a desperate need for vet techs, and the school has an opportunity to create a program to meet that demand.” Bouchard, at the school committee meeting a week ago, reported that the overall veterinary program is expanding and that its veterinary assistant program hopes to add a teacher and also to offer additional services in the near future.

Montague also said she’d like to interface more with the Arlington Select Board so that its members could gain a basic knowledge of the school’s programs and could answer questions and be proactive.

Regarding her working relationships, Montague said, “My style is not combative. I’m assertive, but reasonable. We’ll need to make some changes in how we communicate. I wouldn’t be difficult to work with, even though I think significant change is needed.”

The meeting lasted two hours.

Watch June 21 Select Board meeting on ACMi:

May 1, 2023: Minuteman students walk out; union votes no confidence in superintendent 

   


This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Thursday, June 22, 2023. It was updated later in the day to add clarifying copy and quotes. It was updated June 28, to add ACMi video window.

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