Checkoway Named School Committee Chair. Vice Chair? Let’s Wait On That

Photo: A Zoom capture of Amy Checkoway

Amy Checkoway was unanimously elected chair of the Belmont School Committee at its organizational meeting a week after the Town Election. She takes over the reins of the six member board from Andrea Prestwich.

An education policy researcher for a large international consulting firm, Checkoway enters her third year on the committee having won a seat in 2019.

“I’m really committed to building and fostering really strong working relationships with all members of the committee, with our town leaders and perhaps most importantly with our community,” said the Pequossette Road resident, adding there is also a need to improve the committee’s governance structure, decision making and communications.

“I don’t think I have all the answers. I recognize what a challenging time this is, and the trust that needs to be repaired on many fronts,” she told the committee.

Newcomer Meg Moriarty was named the committee’s secretary.

A request to create the position of vice chair to the committee never got a chance to be voted as the committee decided to spend the fortnight between gatherings to allow the proposal to sit and wait.

Committee member Mike Crowley noted the need for the new post was necessary due to the avalanche of work Prestwich undertook during the height of the pandemic without a designated second in line to help manage it.

“The role of the chair in ordinary times, it can be an overwhelming amount of workload,” said Crowley. “It would be very helpful to be able to share the work that the chair currently has as their responsibility in order for this committee to be more effective,” said Crowley.

Prestwich, who led the committee for nearly the past year, said it was not just the volume of work but also the wide range of meetings – executive, negotiating, finance – that requires coverage.

While the vice chair position would be similar to the Select Board’s post, Moriarty wondered if anyone would wish to undertake the position noting that no one was eager to step into the secretary’s role – Moriarty was nominated for the role and accepted after one member deferred and the four remaining members were left quietly eyeing the others resembling a scene from the western “Deadwood.”

“That’s a very fair point,” said Checkoway.

While she acknowledges the need for the position, member Kate Bowen felt it would be helpful to have clearer guidance about the leadership roles and spreading the authority.

While Crowley pointed to an urgency to vote to add the vice chair position since the burden and volume facing the chair remains considerable, the measure was tabled as there are two new members who weren’t involved in previous dialogue, and despite having been discussed in the past, some agreed with an obscure parliamentary point that it wasn’t listed as an item in past meeting agendas.

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