Editor’s note: Updated March 10 with the select committee calling a meeting for Saturday.
Joe Markey and Meg Tyler filed papers this week with the city clerk to immediately resign from the school committee, and the committee called a special meeting on Friday to advertise vacancies. The select committee announced a meeting on Saturday at 11 a.m. to discuss the possibility of placing the vacancies on the 2022 ballot.
“I need a break,” Markey wrote via email. “It’s been two long years, and as I look at all the things available, the time already invested beyond what most people would do, and how I want to spend my time moving forward, I’m happy to open up the place to one of 18,000 other Hopkintonians who want to pick up where I left off.
Markey added: “Hopkinton is home [to] many capable and highly committed citizens, many of whom are drawn here by an interest and passion for good schools. I am confident that the community will continue to be well served by new volunteers motivated to run for office and complete the remaining year of the term.
Tyler, who was in her second term, also indicated that the time had come for her to focus elsewhere.
“Serving on the Hopkinton school board for four years has been an educational experience and a privilege,” she wrote via email. “I saw the inside of the machine. New voices and new ideas will be a boon for the committee and the community. Without a doubt, I am impressed with the good work being done in our district. However, I must now focus my attention on my family and the work that nurtures and inspires me.
While Markey said he had “enjoyed” his time on the school committee, the committee has recently faced some splits.
After Markey and Tyler strategize with a resident (who is a School Committee 2022 candidate) to build support for lifting the mask mandate and oppose a new school calendar that added extra holidays, another resident filed a complaint under the Open Meetings Act and the Hopkinton Teachers Association released a statement harshly criticizing Markey and Tyler for their behind-the-scenes efforts.
Markey and Tyler expressed disappointment that school committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh read the HTA letter at a meeting without informing them first, and they were also frustrated that they had not received more support from their colleagues regarding the Open Meetings Law complaint. Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh conducted an investigation which determined that Markey and Tyler had not broken the law.
All members also noted the role that social media – especially Facebook groups – have played in making it harder to be in public office.
“My opinion is that social media has contributed to a deterioration in social skills,” Markey said. “I quit social media in 2016. It’s far too easy and gratifying for some to make a catchy remark for tastes and hearts, disregarding the real people involved. The government works through public meetings tediously People who want to make a difference should come in person or write letters. I always advise people to get off social media and go to meetings.
According to City Clerk Connor Degan, the city is consulting with 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 application documents is March 28. If the attorney determines it’s too late, the city could post the positions and the school board 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 up for a vote in 2024. If the city appoints temporary replacements, the seats would still be on the ballots in those years.
The only seat on the ballot this year belongs to Speaker Nancy Cavanaugh, who pulled out paperwork to run again. Chris Melton – the resident who consulted Markey and Tyler on mask and scheduling issues – also pulled out papers challenging that seat.
Markey, following his success leading the group that oversaw the construction of Marathon School, was elected to the school committee in 2020, just as the pandemic took hold. He noted how this limited his ability to contribute in other areas, as the committee had to spend so much time “trying to figure out just how to keep the train on track and educate students in the midst of a myriad complications”.
He wrote that he does not regret his time on the committee despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“Clearly the whole system failed last year when many school districts were essentially shut down,” he wrote. “While Hopkinton has done better than most, from what I can see the hybrid model and quarantine day practices have set many kids back and we are still seeing the ramifications of that. I guess I wish I could have done more, but know that I did my best. Some of the disruptions were due to good health reasons, but I saw disruptions rooted in administrative challenges at the state and national level.
Markey, who indicated that he plans to remain involved in his children’s youth scouting and sports programs and become more involved with the Hopkinton Center for the Arts, also wrote that he has “spoken to people working at the state level to ensure that the disruptions that have occurred over the past two years will never happen again.
He is also proud to encourage more diverse viewpoints within the school committee.
“One of the accomplishments of which I am most proud is the committee’s adoption last year of new standards and protocols that provide a framework for a greater diversity of opinion in committee deliberations than previous standards that focused on compliance,” he said. “Over time, I hope the new norms will lead to more comfort in exercising and tolerance of dissent while maintaining cohesion, respect, and focus on the educational mission.”