Originator of Referendum Recall Election Seeks to Remove Six School Committee Members

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Six out of seven School Committee members have been targeted for a referendum recall election. The effort comes in the aftermath of a Feb. 10 meeting in which members reviewed several reasons for denying Superintendent Everett V. Olsen a contract extension of at least one year.

The reasons for rejecting Olsen’s request varied, according to member Chris Sanders who delivered the presentation. Among them, Olsen admitted to participating a year ago in an angry email exchange with an unidentified parent. The conflict took place after he’d suffered a disappointment over the proposed renaming of the Stony Brook School. The town’s Naming Committee had sought to rename it the Everett V. Olsen Jr. Middle School. A 2019 annual Town Meeting article to accomplish the change was defeated 118 to 115.

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Sanders listed the issues in a public meeting at Stony Brook School. He said some of Olsen’s financial practices didn’t “comply with Massachusetts General Laws and have damaged the school system’s reputation for fiscal responsibility.” There was a purchase that didn’t follow procurement law, and a legal breach of confidentiality of executive session negotiations when Olsen read meeting minutes that contained information about his contract.

But some 300 teachers and school employees, including the leadership team of the principals, spoke in favor of Olsen, who arrived in Westford as the School Department’s business manager in 1986 and has spent 49 years as an educator.

The recall of Chair Avery Adam, Mingquan Zheng, Chris Sanders, Megan Eckroth, Alicia Mallon, and Gloria Miller was initiated by Sue Mackay Higgins, president of Westford Against Substance Abuse.

“We just need a few more votes in precinct 5,” she said. “We stand behind Bill Olsen and we’ll do what we have to do to make sure this referendum goes through.”

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Four of the six School Committee members did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

“The committee has heard from all sides and is working to come to a resolution,” said Mallon.” I hope the public will be patient while we do so. In the meantime, I will continue to work on budget, policy, and advocating for the inclusion of special needs students and families.”

“As I have nearly completed my first three-year term as a member of the School Committee, recall or no, my name will be on the ballot in May, said Miller. ” I look forward to sharing my entire record of service to the schools and community for the voters’ consideration this spring.”

The seventh committee member, Sean Kelly, voted in favor of extending Olsen’s contract.

“…I know Bill to be a kind, loving, intelligent, hard working, driven leader,” Kelly said at the Dec. 10 meeting. “He’ll always have my vote.”

To recall elected public officials, the following must be observed:

  • The official being recalled must have more than six months remaining in the term and have fulfilled more than three months of service. The petitioner must submit an affidavit with a reason for the recall. At least 25 voters representing each precinct must sign the document.
  • A  petitioner has 20 days following the filing of the affidavit to submit it to the town clerk. The document must contain the signatures of at least 10 percent of registered voters, with names and addresses from each precinct. The forms are provided by the town clerk and a 20 day period of activity begins.
  • Within 24 hours after receiving the document, the town clerk must submit it to the registrar of voters of each precinct, who shall, within five working days certify the signatures.
  • If the town clerk certifies the petition, the board of selectmen would receive the document within five working days.
  • Also within five working days, the board of selectmen must give written notice of the petition and certificate to the officer who is being recalled.
  • If the officer does not resign from office, a notice of the petition and certificate must be provided to the officer within five days after delivery of the documents.
  • If the official does not resign within five days after receiving notice of the recall, selectmen shall order an election to be held on a date not less then 60 nor more than 90 days after the date of the town clerk’s certificate of sufficient petition.
  • If, however, a town election is to be held within 100 days after the date of the certificate, the board of selectmen shall hold the recall election on the date of the other election.

UPDATE – A quote from Alicia Mallon was added at 5:20 p.m., Feb. 19. A quote from Miller was added at 6:15 p.m.