The Foxborough Board of Selectmen and School Committee voted 8-0 in favor – with one abstention – of appointing Christina “Tina” Belanger to interim member of the school committee to replace Kate Kominsky, whose resignation took effect on June 30.
Belanger emerged as the top choice from a field of five candidates at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting because of her experience on the town’s Advisory Council and familiarity with the school department. Belanger will serve the committee as an interim member and will sit on the board from now until the next town election in May – a term of roughly 10 months.
“I was impressed with all five [candidates] and I think any one of them would serve [the school committee] well,” said school committee member Bruce Gardner. “I think two [candidates] have immediate, relevant experience that could have a short-term impact based on their very recent activity within the schools. Between those two, one of [the candidates] has had tremendous public support. Knowing we represent the public, I [nominated] Tina Belanger.”
Joining Gardner’s support of Belanger in the appointment process was school committee vice-chair Katie Adair, Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis and selectman Virginia Coppola.
“I want to thank all the candidates who came forward because they took the time this evening to come and talk to us and share their love for Foxborough and the school system,” Adair said. “All [the candidates] have very unique qualities that I think would be strengths to the committee in different ways. Having served on the [Advisory Committee], I think it is very valuable [experience], so I [supported Belanger].”
Belanger, a Foxborough resident for 12 years, has two sons in the town’s school system – one in seventh grade and one in fifth grade – and recently just finished a three-year term on the town’s Advisory Committee where she served as a liaison for the school department.
“I’m familiar with our budget process and the issues that are pending before the school department right now,” she said. “I’m very familiar with the budgets and the ins and outs. I’ve been through the entire binder. I know the challenges the school department faces and when you’re on the advisory committee you see the balance that is needed between the municipal side of our town and our school sides.”
Belanger added that her experience on the advisory committee has shown her the value in both sides of town working together for one common goal – to improve the community.
“You see how valuable both sides are to our community and the need to work together for the best interest of everybody in this town,” Belanger said. “Both our students and our senior population and everybody else. On the advisory committee, you work collaboratively and you have to respect everyone’s point of view. You get very diverse points of view and you get a lot of experience listening and weighing very conflicting points of view and coming to your own reasonable decision based on facts before you. I think I could bring that to the table at the school committee level.”
Belanger said she became interested in serving on the school committee because she’s participated at the PTO level, on school council and the advisory committee.
“I’m willing to work and am encouraged and completely in sync with Mrs. Spinelli’s statement last August that the school department needs to go from great to greater and I’d like to be apart of that,” she said.
Belanger also has a strong background in law. She graduated from George Mason University School of Law in 1994 and before her first son was born, she practiced government contracts law and construction litigation for a law firm outside of Washington D.C. for a number of years.
When asked what challenges Foxborough Public Schools and the school committee are currently facing, Belanger pointed to the results of the district’s Climate and Culture survey.
“I think some of the negatives in the Climate and Culture survey are the biggest challenges facing the school committee,” Belanger said. “Particularly addressing the issues on school safety and bullying. I know there have been great steps made but the responses to those questions in the survey were a little disheartening. I can’t remember the exact numbers but I remember that being one of the biggest concerns when we discussed it. I’ve been attending these parents leaders advisory council meetings once a month for five or six years and that was one of things that came up. I see it as being a big challenge.”
Other candidates receiving support from members of the joint committee (selectmen and school committee) were Brian Walton (three nominations) and Marsha Maxwell (two nominations). The joint committee spent nearly 45 minutes interviewing five candidates – Maxwell, Belanger, Doris-Ashapa-Olsen, Michael Davison and Walton – for the vacant seat on the school committee. At the conclusion of the interview process, the selectmen and school committee members discussed for nearly 15 minutes the proper way to tally the votes and make nominations for the candidate they support.
After much discussion, the two boards agreed to have each member make a nomination followed by a vote for one of the top two candidates to emerge from those nominations. Belanger and Walton emerged as the finalists and Adair motioned to appoint Belanger as the interim school committee member. Gardner seconded Adair’s motion and the joint committee voted 8-0-1 in favor of Belanger. School Committee chair Beverley Lord abstained from voting because she did not oppose of Belanger’s appointment but nominated Walton for the position.
“[Belanger is] an excellent candidate,” Lord said.
Belanger replaces Kominsky, who abruptly resigned from her seat on the board shortly after the May 21 school committee meeting. Kominsky served on the committee for nine years but never as the chair or vice-chair. Kominsky’s resignation came shortly after the board opposed her nomination for chair at the May 21 meeting.
Following her resignation, Kominsky was critical of members of the school committee, telling The Sun Chronicle, "a school committee that does not follow its own processes, nor value diversity of thought or respect for colleagues is not an organization I wish to be a part of today.”
To read the full story in the Sun Chronicle, click here.
DeVellis said the reason the appointment was done at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting was because both the selectmen and school committee had to take part in the process.
“By statute we have to have a joint meeting between the selectmen and the school committee,” DeVellis said.
The other four candidates were encouraged to run for school committee in May’s town election, where there will be two open seats on the board.