Letter to the Editor: Elect O’Toole In Precinct 2, A Bold Student Voice

Photo: Devan O’Toole (left)

To the editor:

Belmont faces many challenges and immense opportunities in the coming years. It’s up to Town Meeting to seize those opportunities and to work toward innovative solutions. That requires Town Meeting Members unafraid to ask tough questions and put in the necessary work. It also requires a range of perspective in Town Meeting. The voice of Belmont students and young people continues to be lacking.

The Belmont High School Building Commission has zero student representation. Decisions on school funding and education issues that affect students’ lives each day are often made with little student input. When the administration asked students to give feedback on Mr. Sullivan as part of the significant decision of whether to fire him, the virtually unanimous student opinion was blatantly ignored. Belmont schools are experimenting with new technologies that are promoted by administrators and education corporations as “innovation,” but in reality can be counterproductive to learning. Talk of diversity and civil rights in our schools is often thrown around without input from our students of color. In discussions about recreational marijuana regulation, the danger to teenagers and young people is consistently brought up as one of the primary reasons against loosened marijuana laws. It’s critical that young people have a seat at the table in these decisions. In fact, ensuring that students are part of the conversation strengthens our judgments and benefits everyone in Belmont.

In an era of regression and uncertainty due to Trump at the national level, it’s more important than ever for Town Meeting and local government to push forward with new ideas and bold leadership. It’s vital that Town Meeting Members don’t just talk but walk the walk and put in the work necessary to drive real change. We must not accept the longtime status quo just because it is “how things are done.” It’s important to ask questions and hold our leaders accountable. I’m confident that Devan will bring a fresh, valuable, and much-needed voice to Town Meeting.

There’s no better person to stand up for our schools than Devan, who has been in discussions with school officials as Belmont High School Senior Class President and Student Representative to the School Committee and has already worked to support the new high school. He was also co-leader of the school’s Make a Statement Day, helped with the student Yes for Belmont effort, and has been deeply involved in the Belmont High School and Belmont communities in more ways than can be explained in this one article. Perhaps most importantly, being in the classroom five days a week simply allows for a unique and critically important perspective. Devan understands our schools’ intricacies and has a thorough understanding of the needs facing a new Belmont High School.

In the coming years under Trump, local government is where progress can and must continue. There’s so much work to do. To rebuild Belmont High, ensure adequate education funding, and facilitate the highest quality education. To push forward on clean energy and take action to protect our environment. To support immigrants and refugees in an uncertain time. To ensure transparency and accountability in town government. Devan has the energy, commitment, and leadership skills to meaningfully contribute to Town Meeting discussions and to make concrete progress.

I’m energized and beyond excited to support Devan O’Toole’s candidacy for Town Meeting in Precinct 2. Join me in supporting a bold student voice for Belmont’s future. Email devantownmeeting@gmail.com to get involved, and be sure to vote on Tuesday, April 4.

Daniel Vernick

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1

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