HOPKINTON — Members of the Town Council will choose between four candidates to fill an open seat on the Chariho School Committee that was left vacant when the Rev. David Stall resigned late last month, and officials said the town’s next representative to the committee will be selected next week.
The Town Council conducted interviews with the four candidates, each of whom had submitted an application following Stall’s resignation, during a meeting at Hopkinton Town Hall Monday. The interviews were conducted in executive session in accordance with state laws, officials said, and no votes were taken.
“The interviews were held last night and we will be making a final decision at our regular meeting next Monday,” said Council Vice President Sharon Davis during a phone interview Tuesday. Davis said that due to the nature of the interviews, which were not considered public, she could not confirm names or discuss candidates further.
The candidates include a Democrat, a Republican and two unaffiliated applicants, including one who has previously served on the School Committee.
Members of the council began their search in early October after formally accepting Stall’s resignation and calling for applicants. The pastor at First Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church, Stall was named to the School Committee in February 2020 following the resignation of Sylvia Stanley. He was selected over applicants Larry Phelps and George Dombi and had been expected to serve the remainder of the term, which is set to expire in 2022.
The person selected by the council will serve the remainder of the term and would then need to determine whether to seek reelection next November.
The resignation, which was delivered during a speech critical of committee members and efforts “to silence dissenting opinions” at the start of the School Committee’s Sept. 28 meeting, came following a series of contentious meetings in which Stall challenged mask mandates and expressed concerns that aspects of critical race theory were potentially being taught to students within the district.
The concerns over CRT reached an impasse at the end of the 2020-21 school year when several parents, including Polly Hopkins, who also spoke in favor of Stall’s decision to resign at the Sept. 28 meeting, came forward with concerns over the discussions during Chariho Anti-Racism Task Force meetings. They challenged decisions by the task force, which was formed in late 2020, to have racially-charged terms identified in a glossary on the task force’s website, as well as including links on both the task force and school websites promoting materials that unfairly labeled all those who are white as “privileged.”
Stall said late last month that he sought to have an open dialogue regarding those concerns but was shut down by Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard and School Committee Chairwoman Linda Lyall, the latter of whom he accused of refusing to include his requests on meeting agendas.
Lyall has not commented publicly on Stall’s accusations. Stall has said he “intends to file legal action” against the committee in an effort to expose efforts to silence him.
“For the 18 months I was on that committee, they did everything they could to silence me,” he said in a phone interview following his resignation. “This decision to move to the other side of the podium is one I made so that my voice can be heard. I feel like I can say more as a citizen during public comment than I was ever allowed to while I was serving on that committee.”