One of only two contested races in the May 4 town election resulted in an upset for the School Committee. The other put a long-term participant in town government on the Select Board.
Voting was light with only 2,150 registered voters turning out. That number amounted to 11.8 percent of the 18,154 who could have voted in Westford. Early ballots totaled 300, according to Town Clerk Patty Dubey.
The seven-member School Committee had a tumultuous three-year term that included creating new teaching routines under the shadow of a deadly virus. Members Alicia Mallon, Chair Gloria Miller, Avery Rockwell Adam, Sean Kelly, Mingquan Zheng, Valery Young and Chris Sanders weathered a difficult decision to offer a hybrid learning system to prevent the spread of COVID -19 inside classrooms. The committee also allowed students to learn remotely throughout the pandemic.
The committee members attempted to deny a retiring Superintendent Bill Olsen a one-year additional contract for the 2020-2021 school year. The decision — opposed only by Kelly — met with such anger from teachers, administrators, parents and students in a crowded Stony Brook School auditorium last June, that the committee members agreed to the year-long extension of his contract. At one point during the large Stony Brook assembly, former member Megan Eckroth fell under such heavy criticism that she walked out of the meeting and later opted not to run again.
In the May 4 election this week, Adam was bested by newcomer Kathryn Clear who received 1,150 votes to Adam’s 850. Adam’s fellow incumbents Mingquan Zheng and Chris Sanders will each return to the committee for three more years. Zheng, was the top vote-getter in the race with 1,354 votes. Sanders received 1,129 votes.
Challengers Meghan F. O’Connell and Steven D. Wilkins received 479 and 454 votes.
With select board member Mark Kost choosing not to run for another term, candidates Eric R. Barber-Mingo and John H. Cunningham jumped into the race with Cunningham coming out on top. He received 1,134 votes to Barber-Mingo’s 919, a Chelmsford attorney. Among many other involvements, Cunningham sat on the Capital Planning Committee for nine years.
Property Tax Assistance for Qualified Seniors
The only ballot question up for a vote passed with flying colors, 1,588 to 334. It was a request for a tax exemption for seniors who have qualified for the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit and other means-tested exemptions.
With 1,622 votes, Joanne Belanger will serve another three-year term on the Board of Health.
Marianne F. Fleckner and Alisha E. Hillam will serve for three years on the Library Board of Trustees. Fleckner pulled in 1,604 votes and Hillam, 1,575.
Carol S. Engel will serve a five year term on the Housing Authority. She got 1,594 votes.
With 1,616 votes, Kate Hollister will return to the Planning Board for a five-year term.