WILBRAHAM – Following an impassioned speech on the Republican Caucus floor, incumbent School Committee Chair Marc Ducey refused his nomination to run for a second term on the School Committee and resigned his appointment with the Republican Town Committee.
Ducey stated that it was his “need to distance himself from the extremists” in the Republican Town Committee that led to his decision to refuse the nomination.
“Unfortunately, there is an extremist group sitting here in this auditorium that is more concerned about promoting their single agenda, than what is in the best interest of our schools and our town,” Ducey said. “These individuals have misrepresented the good work of many of my colleagues and me.
“They manipulate the truth, lie about motivations, and attempt to besmirch the characters of good people – people who have volunteered their time to benefit the community in which we live,” he continued.
Prior to the caucus, at least three protestors stood outside the main doors of Wilbraham Middle School holding up signs opposing Ducey’s reelection to the School Committee.
The group handed out a flyer entitled, “Anyone but Ducey.”
The document cited Ducey’s lack of respect “for the opinions of others,” in regards to a citizens petition by Jolene Guzzo for a non-binding ballot question during the town election, which asks residents whether they were opposed to Common Core State standards.
The text also suggested that Ducey was in favor of Common Core, stating he voted in support of the Common Core New Math Series on May 27, 2014.
“Regarding Common Core I want to clear,” Ducey said. “I, along with my colleagues have pushed back on many issues surrounding Common Core and PARCC (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers exam). Do I support abandoning it? No. For the past two decades the state has decided on the educational standards of our children are required to master – not us. To abandon these statewide standards without the Commonwealth’s buy-in would be irresponsible.”
At the bottom of the document, a quote from Michael Dane states, “Marc Ducey never fulfilled his last campaign promises, don’t expect anything different this time! We can do much better!”
The flyer also described Ducey as a “Republican in name only” and a “member of Wilbraham’s shadow government.”
Ultimately, town Republicans voted to nominate William Bontempi and James Burke to face off against their opponents come May 16 during the town election for two positions on the School Committee, both for three-year terms.
Incumbent School Committee member Michelle Emirzian was nominated by the Republican Town Committee, however residents did not chose her to run for a second term as a Republican.
Bontempi said he has “no animosity” toward Ducey and Emirzian and his decision to run came about because of the Common Core.
“When my second grader comes home and I can’t figure out her homework, that’s a problem,” added. “I graduated from the number five liberal arts college in the country. I have two doctorates. My wife and I are arguing, trying to figure out what’s going on with the new math homework.”
Bontempi, an associate surgeon for two hospitals in the region, said he understands the work involved with being a member of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee.
“I have the ability to make room on my plate,” he added.
Bontempi noted his three children will be in district schools for the next 15 years.
“I want to make sure that those 15 years are as good as the 15 years I had [in] Greenfield,” he said.
He added that his goal is to “look very carefully at what’s going on through the budget, through the School Committee meetings, and as a parent I want to be involved in how these schools are run. I want to be involved in how this town helps our schools.”
Bontempi did not address topics such as the fiscal year 2016 budget shortfall of $1.3 million or the decline in enrollment the district faces at the middle school level during his approximately five minute nomination speech.
Burke, a retired Department of Corrections employee and substitute teacher in the district, said he can “clearly see a committee where its members will openly discuss their thoughts and their ideas” if he were elected to one of the two open School Committee seats.
He added that the Common Core “is not taking us in the direction that we need to be headed.”
Burke emphasized that he would like to see more local control of school curriculums as opposed to state and federal backed ones.
“I believe that unfunded mandates are not to be tolerated and that we need to have a direct legislative representative to bring our concerns to the general court in Boston,” he added.
Ducey said the School Committee is one of the founding members of the Western Massachusetts Education Leaders Coalition, which has brought local school districts together to voice their concerns about unfunded mandates and issues such as PARCC and Common Core.
“School Committees from across Massachusetts have overwhelmingly voted in favor of our actions with a 69 to 21 vote,” Ducey explained. “That is over 75 percent. And just a few weeks ago Gov. [Charlie] Baker has endorsed our course of action by directing the chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to begin such a review. State leaders and school committees across our Commonwealth are listening and supporting our work.”
In other business, Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Russell will run as the Republican candidate during the May 16 election for a three-year term. He ran uncontested during the caucus.
Incumbent Town Moderator George Reich, incumbent Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera, incumbent Tree Warden?David Graziano, incumbent Library Trustee Raymond Burk, incumbent Water Commissioner James Dunbar, incumbent Cemetery Commissioner Donald Bourcier, and incumbent Housing Authority member Peter Manolakis were also uncontested.
Human Resources Coordinator Herta Dane was nominated for town clerk as a write-in candidate for a three-year term.
No Republican candidates were chosen for two Planning Board positions, one for a five-year term and another for a year.
The Democratic Caucus is scheduled for April 3 at 7 p.m. in the Brooks Room of the Wilbraham Town Library. The town’s Democrats will also chose their nominees for the open positions for the Town Election.