Protestor crashes School Committee Meeting

Apr 8, 2019

One protestor at the School Committee Meeting on April 8 made her voice heard in a heated exchange over the school budget for 2020.

Ellen Hamilton held up spray-painted cardboard signs and voiced her objection to budget recommendations that fail to replace retiring Dartmouth High School art teacher Susan Brunette.

In response, committee chair John Nunes stated that no public comments on the budget would be taken during the meeting.

But Hamilton launched into an impassioned defense of arts education that at times threatened to derail proceedings. 

“There is no democracy in this town without public comment,” she said.

“We had 18 people speak at the last meeting, so I’m good,” retorted the chair.

The discussion at times turned personal.

“Mr. Nunes, I’ve known you for two decades,” Hamilton said at one point. “And you are not letting a parent speak?”

Committee member Chris Oliver noted that “This year there was over $600,000 that we could not fund.”

“Many of you may or may not understand or agree with decisions that are made,” he said. “But it is my responsibility on this side of the table to listen to everyone and listen to the hired professionals in this district make their recommendations to the committee and to myself.”

Oliver added that the committee was simply there to vote on budget numbers, and that it is the school administrators’ responsibility to decide where the money will go.

“I’m here to tell you that I care,” he ended.

Vice chair Kathleen Amaral agreed, commending the passion of the arts community in Dartmouth and stating her belief that the students would not be affected by the change. 

“Your energy means something to us,” she said.

“Your facts are wrong about the ramifications for the students,” Hamilton argued. “You are harming our children’s education.”

Under her increasingly vehement objections, the committee voted on the total school budget for 2020 ($42,568,770).

The motion passed unanimously.