RICHMOND — The Rev. David Stall has resigned from his role on the Chariho School Committee, citing divisive behavior by members and efforts to “silence dissenting opinions” as among the reasons he chose to step down.
Stall, who serves as pastor of First Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church, was critical of the committee and its handling of the pandemic and social issues, chastised Chairwoman Linda Lyall’s for rejecting his requested agenda items and vowed legal action as he spoke from the podium during the public forum at the beginning of the committee’s meeting Tuesday at Chariho High School.
“Some of you are smart enough to predict this separation precedes legal action that I am starting against you,” Stall said. “For the last 18 months, you have tried to silence me, dismiss my perspective, given me the run around and literally refused to allow my requested agenda items. In a few cases, I believe your actions were illegal, and often they violated reasonable and decent practice for a school committee.”
The Hopkinton Town Council had appointed Stall to the Chariho School Committee in February 2020 after the resignation of Sylvia Stanley a month earlier. Stall, who was one of four Hopkinton representatives on the committee, was selected over fellow candidates Larry Phelps and George Dombi and was expected to serve the remainder of the term, which is set to expire in 2022.
The vacant seat will now need to be filled by members of the Hopkinton Town Council. Vice President Sharon Davis said the council was expected to vote on his resignation at its Monday meeting and would also vote to advertise the position, with interested residents able to submit their applications with the Hopkinton Town Clerk. Interviews will then be conducted before Stall's replacement is appointed, she said.
The resignation comes following a contentious series of meetings in recent months in which Stall was vocally opposed to mask mandates and expressed concerns that aspects of critical race theory were potentially being taught to students in Chariho schools. He had requested three resolutions on CRT that were drafted by the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee, of which Stall is a member, and that the Rhode Island Coalition on Israel be added to the agenda.
The concerns over CRT reached a boiling point 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 Tuesday, came forward with concerns over the discussions during Chariho Anti-Racism Task Force meetings. They questioned 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 he sought to have an open dialogue regarding those concerns but was shut down when Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard expressed disinterest and Lyall refused to add the items to the agenda. He said the refusal to discuss the topic as an agenda item also amounted to an effort by the committee to silence opposing opinions in the community.
He said it became clear over the past two months that the board was not interested in hearing from him and had gone out of their way to keep him from speaking, which played a role in his decision to leave.
“When their opinions were different from yours, you swiftly and strategically pushed people aside thinking you know what is best for everyone’s good. I disagree, and I believe you have forgotten who you work for,” he said.
Members of the committee did not respond to his accusations during Wednesday’s meeting and did not comment publicly on Stall’s resignation. A message left with Lyall was not returned.
Although Stall will no longer be serving the community in a formal capacity, he said he will be continuing to watch the actions of the committee closely and will be present to speak during the two-minute public comment period at each meeting. He said he has an interest in civic conversations and public policy and plans on being an active voice in the community moving forward.
“I’m not leaving the schools or the district, nor am I abandoning my commitment to serve the community. I’m just moving my voice to the other side of the table,” he said.