Concord School Board unseats member Kate West

By EILEEN O’GRADY

Monitor staff

Published: 01-04-2023 6:48 PM

Concord School Board members will be voting to fill a vacancy within their ranks as former member Kate West will not be returning to serve on the nine-member body.

At the first meeting of the year Monday, School Board President Jim Richards said West no longer resides in Zone A, the cluster of wards she represents. According to the district’s charter document, board members forfeit their seats if they move out of their elected zone.

“I just wanted to thank Ms. West for her service to this board and the community and the children of the district as well as the citizens of our community,” Richards said. “I personally appreciate all of her hard work and all of her contributions. We will miss her and her input.”

West, who has served on the board since 2021, has been an advocate for racial equity in Concord schools and served on the district’s Anti-racism/Equity Task Force, and also frequently spoke up for students with learning disabilities.

West’s name has been removed from the list of school board members on the district’s website. She was not present at Monday’s meeting and missed the December monthly meeting.

West, a single mom, said she lost her housing in September and has been staying with friends in Concord while she’s been trying to find a permanent place to live.

“I respect board members for the time they put into the decisions that they make. They have the best intentions … but as far as I am concerned, I was ousted from my position,” she said. “I was voted into my position to represent my district. I have not taken up residency anywhere else.”

The requirement that school board members reside in their elected zone for the full duration of the term was codified by the Concord School District Charter Commission this year, and the requirement was added to the charter by a city-wide ballot vote on Election Day in November.

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At the meeting, Superintendent Kathleen Murphy polled each school board member at the table, asking them to state their address to confirm if they reside in the school voting zone they represent. Each of the eight members in attendance confirmed they reside in their zones.

West said she doesn’t believe the board’s decision to remove her sends the right message to families that are struggling with housing.

“I think houseless students deserve representation on the board as well,” she said.

School board members voted unanimously to move forward with filling the vacancy soon. According to school policy, Richards will nominate someone to fill the role for the remainder of 2023, which will be subject to approval by the full board. Concord voters will choose who fills the seat for the next two-year term at the November city election.

Board members also decided through a unanimous vote to edit their policy to add that the president must make his nomination public at least 24-hours in advance of board consideration and that members of the public be given the opportunity to comment ahead of the vote.

It’s not the first time the school board has seen a member depart before the end of their term due to relocation. In August 2020, former board president Jennifer Patterson stepped down in the middle of her term due to moving out of state. The board appointed a former member, Maureen Redmond-Scura, to fill in until Concord residents elected current board member Pamela Walsh to the position the following November.

The January board meeting was the first for new members Cara Meeker and Sarah Robinson, who were elected in November. In a series of three votes, Richards was re-elected as President of the Board, while Walsh was elected as Vice President and Brenda Hastings was elected as Secretary.

The board has postponed appointing a deputy clerk – a role that serves as an alternate to the School District Clerk, Patrick Taylor – until the February meeting, to leave more time to seek candidates.

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