Two Hopkinton school board members quit abruptly

HOPKINTON, MA — The school board called a special meeting Friday at 5 p.m. to address the abrupt resignation of two of its members, Meg Tyler and Joe Markey, earlier this week.

City Clerk Connor Degan confirmed by email to Hopkinton Patch that Markey and Tyler had delivered documents to his office announcing their immediate resignations.

“Yes, they resigned from the committee,” he said.

The resignations punctuate a tumultuous time for the school board, which was already tired of navigating changes to COVID-19 policies regarding masks and testing over the past two years.

On January 31, a resident named Lori Nickerson filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office, claiming that a Zoom meeting conducted by Markey and Tyler with a resident who planned to report to the committee violated the policy of the law on public meetings.

At the February 3 school committee meeting, the allegation was raised. A letter from Becky Abate, president of the Hopkinton Teachers Union, was also read at that meeting which criticized the actions of Markey and Tyler.

“Mr. Markey and Ms. Tyler have chosen to operate independently of the committee on which they serve,” Abate wrote on behalf of the union’s executive board.

“[Markey], and Ms. Tyler, acted in the shadow of private Facebook groups to advance their position on a topic already so controversial for this city,” Abate continued. “In doing so, they have created a very public divide between themselves and their colleagues. Mr Markey has frequently praised the school committee for staying “unified” despite their differing opinions. It is disheartening to see unification weakened at a time when it is so critical.”

In an investigation led by Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh, Markey and Tyler were cleared of wrongdoing at a February 15 school committee meeting because a quorum of school committee members was not present. . However, as it was with Christopher Melton running for a seat, it cast a shadow over the intent of the meeting.

During the investigation, copies of emails and electronic messages were voluntarily given to the Superintendent’s office by Markey and Tyler. Correspondence showed they were discussing how to gain public support for lifting the mandatory mask policy in school buildings as well as encouraging the community to contact committee members in opposition to the new school calendar. The calendar, which was approved on February 15, includes more public holidays to respect Hopkinton’s diverse population, such as Diwail and Lunar New Year.

Attorney Nancy Campany told a special school committee meeting on February 15 that there did not appear to be any intention to communicate Markey and Tyler’s views to other committee members, which would concern the attorney general’s office.

However, because Melton posted information about the Zoom meeting on Facebook and discussed the topics, it shed light on the use of social media involving officials.

President Nancy Cavanaugh will be a candidate for re-election. Melton also submitted nomination papers to run for the seat.

According to Degan, the city is consulting with its legal counsel to determine if it is too close to the May 16 annual municipal election to add the positions on the ballot. The deadline for submitting nomination papers is March 28. If the attorney determines it is too late, the city may post the positions. The school committee and select council could meet to appoint temporary replacements until next year’s election.

School committee positions are for three years. Markey’s seat is on the ballot in 2023, while Tyler’s seat is elected in 2024. If the city appoints temporary replacements, the seats would still be on the ballot in those years.

With the departure of Markey and Tyler, there are two vacancies. A quorum of three members must be present for a meeting to take place. If a current member is absent, a meeting cannot continue.

The school committee will consider this issue at a special meeting on Friday at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the select council will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. to discuss other measures, such as temporary replacements or the possibility of placing vacancies on the 2022 ballot.