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School Committee Ratifies Two Union Contracts, Welcomes Facilities Director

​By: Ledger Staff Reporter
LUNENBURG – At Wednesday, November 1’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Lunenburg School Committee ratified two memorandums of agreement for contracts with the cafeteria union and custodial union within the school district, and also formally welcomed a new facilities' director. 

The cafeteria union agreement will have a 3-year total impact of $72,291.94. There were language changes on personal days and evaluating new employees. A $500 stipend was added to the cafeteria coordinator position. COLA (cost of living adjustments) will be 2.5% increases over the three years of the contract. The first year will see a reconfiguration of the salary schedule, followed by the two years of 2.5 percent, Lunenburg Public Schools Business Manager and HR Director Michael Cassidy said. Cassidy added that it will have no town financial impact as it comes from a revolving account. 

For the custodial union, for the length of its contract, it will have a local budgetary impact of $169,593.33. New language was added defining rights in the contract, including definitions of work shift, breaks, and lunchtime. It will create a labor management committee that will meet regularly, and new rules will govern no school snow days when staff still have to work. New employees will start at a higher rate, and there will be the creation of a new senior maintenance position. 

School committee member Peter Beardmore said the “discussions were somewhat contentious but never disagreeable.” He said it was a real credit to the administrative team and bargaining units themselves, stating that cafeteria and custodial union members are “all in it” and “crucial members” for overall school success. Beardmore concluded that the success in the classroom wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the custodial and cafeteria staff, and that he “couldn’t be more grateful to them.” The contract passed by a 6-0 margin, including a vote by Town Manager Heather Lemieux. 

New facilities director Eric Hevy introduced himself to the school committee. Hevy boasts a substantial amount of public and community experience, serving in the United States Army for 3 years, then transitioning to facilities after working in information technology. Hevy has 12 years experience as a facilities' administrator, was involved in town politics in North Brookfield, from finance committee, school committee, and select board. He served as a youth soccer president and a high school soccer and basketball coach, and continues to serve in his 22nd year as a captain in the North Brookfield Fire Department. 

“I’m excited to be here, there are a lot of projects going on, I like to be hands-on and see things through,” Hevy said. 

The school committee unanimously approved the Washington, D.C. trip for eighth graders. The school will be going through a vendor called Exploria Through Worldstrides, which offered the lowest price, providing bussing instead of air travel, lodging in the city not Maryland, and providing meals to the students. The vendor will allow the students to see all the sights requested, it will have a 10-to-1 student to chaperon ratio, outstanding tour guides, trip insurance, and nighttime security guards all included. Most school committee members had concerns about equity with the costs associated with the trip, and hoped in the future to explore ways of providing access to all students, although $50 of the fees of the trip will be appropriated toward scholarships for the trip. 

The committee passed a Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan by a 5-0 margin, after checking with Town Counsel on any issues with consistency with existing policies. The committee members hoped to transform the legal language of the document into a more accessible snapshot of responsibilities for parents and students. 

The school committee prioritized its fiscal year 25 (FY25) capital planning project recommendations for the capital planning committee. Safety film for Turkey Hill Elementary will be the top priority, followed by a full assessment and schematic design for Turkey Hill, which will include Americans’ with Disabilities Act assessments for the renovation work needed. 

The third priority will be a 1-ton dump truck with a plow, followed by safety film for the primary school, safety film for the middle high school, an AC phase II project for the primary school, Turf Field work at the high school, a driveway assessment for the primary school, and lastly design work for the playground at the primary school. The capital planning committee will take the prioritization into consideration, but will ultimately prioritize its full list of projects for voters. 

The school department will go before the capital planning committee on November 20, and the assessment and schematic design for renovation of Turkey Hill will see an increase in projected cost to $275,000, as the original $100,000 was lesser in scope. The reasoning Beardmore came to was the need for the building design committee to be informed for Phase III of their building reuse projects. 

The high school civic and community engagement classes are organizing the annual Thanksgiving food drive. The students ask that primary school students provide canned carrots and peas, elementary school students provide canned corn and green beans, middle school students provide cranberry sauce and stuffing mix, and high school students provide turkey roasting pans, jars of turkey gravy, and cornbread mix. Students can bring the items to school in the morning, Dr. Kate Burnham said, and there is a blue food pantry box located at the T.C. Passios building for community members without students in the school district. Collections will continue until November 16. 
School Committee Votes to Appoint Whittemore as Director of 
Administration and Finance
By: Ledger Staff Reporter
LUNENBURG – The Lunenburg School Committee met in a special meeting via Zoom on Wednesday November 8 to replace the business manager/human resource director position in the district. 

Lunenburg Public Schools Business Manager/HR Director Michael Cassidy recently announced he would be shifting to a position in another school 
district, leaving a void in one of upper levels of the administration. 

The position will undergo a name change to Director of Administration and Finance, but the responsibilities will be the same. The school committee voted unanimously to authorize negotiations to form a contract for hire with candidate Ellen Whittemore for the directorship. 

Whittemore said that her husband is from Central Massachusetts, and her daughter, upon graduating from college, will be relocating to Central Mass for a position she’s already secured. She comes with experience in small school districts, having grown up in one, and previously worked in Leicester and Spencer.

The new appointee talked about her collaboration skills, and previous work in HR, and how HR and the schools’ budgets are often fused together since it is a major cost driver. She also said she has experience in corporate finance. 

She said she has experience forming strong relationships with school 
committees, as well as navigating issues with conflicting interests between the school department and school committee in previous stops. 

When asked by school committee secretary Anthony Sculimbrene why the district should hire an administrator without teaching experience, she 
responded that she has a master’s in education, is considering pursuing a 
doctorate in educational leadership, and may consider pursuing a 
superintendent’s role in her future. 

Whittemore hopes to be “collaborative” and part of the team, and to “dig in” and get background on the needed information to “support people during the decision-making process.”

Committee member Peter Beardmore said Whittemore was “extremely well qualified” for the technical aspects, but added the role is more of an “art than science.” In the end he put his trust in Lunenburg Public Schools’ 
Superintendent Dr. Kate Burnham’s support for Whittemore’s candidacy.