Sunday, April 29, 2018

Needham's May Town Meeting: The Community Rises to Support its Children

Now that spring has arrived, it’s time for Needham’s Annual Town Meeting, a tradition that goes back to the Town’s founding in 1711.

A review of the 2018 Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting shows that several important items will be discussed and debated, including funding for school and town operations, various capital projects, zoning for marijuana establishments, changing name of “Selectmen” to “Select board”, pedestrian safety, and the purchase of property for the planned new fire/police headquarters.  It will be a busy four nights as Needham’s elected representatives to Town Meeting hear from various boards who have both proposed and studied the 66 articles that will come before the Annual and Special Town Meeting on May 7, 9, 14, and 16th at Needham’s Town Hall.

This is my 12th Town Meeting as Needham’s superintendent, and I continue to be impressed with the high level of coordination, discussion, debate, analysis, and management that are evident in this annual ritual of local town governance.  In particular, the organization and preparation of the Selectmen, Finance Committee, School Committee, Planning Board and others is impressive and allows Town Meeting representatives to understanding key issues and ask questions that clarify or question information so that individuals can make thoughtful decisions and votes.  The boards are supported by talented staff members and Town leaders, including Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, Assistant Town Managers Dave Davison and Chris Coleman, Police Chief John Schlittler, Fire Chief Dennis Condon, DPW Director Rick Merson, and a variety of other Town department heads who work tirelessly to provide answers and responses that will inform good decision-making.

Keeping everyone in line—and as he is frequently clear about, “Within the four corners of the article in question”—is Town Moderator Michael Fee who presides over Town Meeting with firmness, integrity, focus, balance, and a good sense of humor at the right time.  He is unflappable during serious and sometimes controversial debates; and he is also patient, evenhanded, and fair to all who seek to share their perspective, ask a question, or offer a comment.

This year School Committee Chair Aaron Pressman will share with Town Meeting a brief report on the Needham Schools, and he will review the school department’s budget request for the 2018-19 school year.  As in years past, Town Meeting members will ask clarifying questions about school needs and this year Mr. Pressman will respond with as much information and data as possible to satisfy the request.  And if this year is like the others I have witnessed, Needham Town Meeting Members will again ask good and hard questions and then rise to support Needham’s young people with a budget and resources that will boost and enrich their learning—and, in turn, strengthen the community. 

If you would like to read more about Needham’s Town Meeting: 2018 Needham Town Meeting Information

For information about the FY19 School Budget plan that will be proposed to Town Meeting: Needham Public Schools FY19 Budget Message to Town Meeting

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