VIDEO: Superintendent and Parent Resolve Differences; Strive for a ‘Peaceable Community’

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Superintendent Everett “Bill” Olsen and parent Kristi Bates joined host Joyce Pellino Crane on the set of “Main Street” on Feb. 26 to clarify a brief email rift they had last summer.

Like the nation, Westford has been experiencing a series of issues and controversies — some of them related to the exploitation of social media — that has some wondering what has become of this “peaceable community,” a term created years ago to describe the town’s culture.

But recently, the town has faced unwanted surprises, including an email exchange between Bates and Olsen that raised concerns among members of the School Committee.

“This is the type of issue that has the ability to, once out in the public, turn a peaceable community, which Westford is known for, into a not so peaceable community,” said Olsen

Bates had introduced one of two articles at the March Annual Town Meeting that sought to name the Millennium School, a modular, temporary building, after Olsen. Once the School Department staffers move to another building, Olsen’s name would follow. An article placed on the warrant by the Naming Committee to change the Stony Brook School’s name to the Everett V. Olsen Jr. Middle School, was dismissed with no discussion.

Olsen  said he allowed disappointment to cloud his thinking. So when Bates asked to meet with him a few months after Town Meeting, he declined.

“I got too personally involved in this,” said Olsen.

The tone of Olsen’s email raised concern among the School Committee members. It was one of a list of issues that led the School Committee to deny Olsen an extension to his contract, which ends June 30. That matter will be taken up again at the next School Committee meeting, according to Chair Avery Adam, but in the meantime Olsen and Bates have formed a connection and buried the hatchet.

“Kristi suggested we try to get ahead of the issues at hand,” said Olsen. “An issue we thought was resolved last August has now grown some life again and we all know what happens when issues become a public matter. That’s why we’re concerned. We want to set the record straight for the public.”

Bates said the emails — which are public documents because they were sent using the town’s email address –were requested of the town clerk by a reporter working for a regional newspaper.

Bates said she and Olsen have made amends.

“I think we’re in a very good place and that’s exactly why I’m here,’ she said. “Getting (Bill’s) email over the summer was difficult but it was addressed.”

Bates said she, Olsen and an unidentified School Committee member met last summer and cleared the air.”

“We really did move forward,” Bates said.

UPDATE – An explanation of the March Annual Town Meeting article to change the name of Stony Brook School was added on Feb. 28.