BREWSTER -- Emotions ran the gamut at an end-of-the-year reorganization of the Nauset Regional School Committee May 10 in Brewster Town Hall.
As Sarah Blackwell stepped down after a decade representing Eastham on the committee, she said she was grateful for the opportunity to have worked with several former school committee members and she cherished most of her time on the committee.
But, Blackwell said, she did not regret the timing of her departure as much, in light of "the dysfunction that's been going on for the past year."
An Eastham resident who graduated Nauset in 1978 and served on the committee since 2009, Blackwell was credited with several key changes at the high school in recent years, especially in the realm of healthy living.
Committee Chairman Chris Easley fairly described her as a wellness pioneer who, among other things, spearheaded the high school's move to a later start time and brought renewed focus on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.
Recent sources of tension that divided the committee included a tussle over the wisdom of asking taxpayers to spend $320,000 for an air conditioning system in the middle school auditorium, the use of middle school athletic fields for a groundwater protection experiment and an Opening Meeting Law complaint filed by member Deborah Beal, who is also coming to the end of her tenure on the committee. She was recognized for her contributions in absentia.
Easley credited Beal with bringing solar panels to the high school, helping to launch the Green Club, shining a light on the opioid crisis and working overtime on the region's budget and finances.
"We cannot thank her enough," he said.
Also in the departure lane was Sally Probolus, who was thanked "for her presence on the committee" and who received one of the four potted geraniums handed out by Easley as the committee alternated between teary-eyed farewells and business-like deliberations.
May 10 marked the final meeting as well for student representative Michael Sanborn, who plans to attend University of Pennsylvania in the fall; he served three years on the committee, by far the longest tenure for a student.
"We are proud of your success," Easley said to a standing ovation from all for the reliably presentable Sanborn -- tie always tied tight, button-down shirt always tucked in, paperwork always in order.
He leaves "with a bittersweet heart" in full knowledge "that I can never be replaced," he said to a roomful of laughter; the fact is, the committee came to rely on Sanborn for his maturity and implacability, as well as his regular reports on the doings at Nauset high.
Meanwhile, there will soon be some new faces on the board. At Tuesday’s election Amy L. Handel was voted in as Eastham’s representative and Emily Hilliar received 11 write-in votes to represent Orleans. A Brewster representative will be elected next week.
In other business, auditor Robert Lynch told the committee that Nauset "has a good financial management team in place and they do a good job," but he also warned the committee that beginning next year the school's annual budget will begin taking into account the "full liability" in debt due to pensions that haven't been funded.
Vice Chairman Jim O'Leary said the committee plans to conduct a round of meetings with town managers and town administrators as the first step in asking taxpayers in the four Nauset towns (Brewster, Orleans, Wellfleet and Eastham) to help with the funding.
And he didn't get a geranium, but O'Leary did announce his intention to step down from committee leadership and resume his role as a regular member.
Lastly, Assistant Superintendent Keith Gauley said the region had attracted several worthy candidates for consideration as replacement for the outgoing high school Principal Ed MacDonald, including three who made the final cut, and two who removed themselves from consideration during the process because of job offers elsewhere.
Kevin Dean emerged as a "very strong" contender after a series of meetings last week, and Jordan Kraus was being introduced around at the high school this week.
A third candidate was identified as Christopher Ellsasser.