James McKenna announces resignation from School Committee

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James McKenna, who served on the School Committee since 1999, has announced his immediate resignation. He cited personal reasons that would prevent him from attending meetings for months. File photo

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Citing personal reasons that will prevent him from being present at School Committee meetings, James McKenna has announced his immediate resignation.

The resignation was sent on Sept. 8 to members of the committee and Superintendent John Antonucci. McKenna stated in the letter that he was recently presented with “events at home” that would impact his ability to attend committee meetings for months.

“My absence from school activities and committee meetings would not be consistent with my own expectations, and the community deserves fully engaged Committee members,” wrote McKenna in his letter.

McKenna has been on the committee since 1999, and served as a Town Meeting Representative and on the Charter Commission and North Attleborough Democratic Town Committee. Reached on Friday, McKenna said that he needed to step away from the committee for a few months to address the personal matter, and had this happened in June his resignation would not be needed. But with the fall comes the busier time for the committee.

“This all happened in the last week,” he said of the decision.

McKenna said he doesn’t plan to run for office in April, but added that there are many ways to be involved in public service. When he first ran, it was unopposed, and as a parent with two children in the town’s schools, he had a vested interest. Over the years he’s been part of some significant issues, from hiring new superintendents to the more recent override that got the schools $1 million and helped purchase new Google Chromebooks for the students. He said he’s only missed meetings because of sickness, a death in the family, and when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

“I’m going to miss it, miss the people, people are appreciative,” he said. “Life is fluid and things change day to day, week to week.”

According to Article 3 of the Town Charter, if a vacancy occurs in any elected office, “the vacancy shall be filled, in descending order of votes received, by the candidate for the office at the preceding Town election who received the largest number of votes without being elected, provided such person remains eligible and willing to serve.”

With McKenna resigning prior to the end of his term in 2023, his seat will be filled by John Costello, a former committee member. Costello was sworn in on Friday. He served one term on the School Committee, ran for re-election in April, but was not among the top vote-getters, coming in third in a race for two seats.

“I resign knowing that John Costello, a very able former school committee member, is eligible to assume the remainder of this term under the new charter provisions,” said McKenna. “There will be no learning curve for John Costello.”

Ethan Hamilton, the committee chairperson, described McKenna as irreplaceable, that his over 20 years on the committee gave him historical knowledge, awareness of best practices, and a strong affinity with Open Meeting Law, having worked with the Attorney General’s office on the subject. He said when McKenna served as chairperson, he gave everyone equal time, facilitating but not trying to control the meetings.

“Jim and I are completely opposite, so we get along great,” said Hamilton. “He truly loves North Attleborough and truly loves the North Attleborough school district.”

Hamilton said that the committee will continue to function and that McKenna would be available to provide guidance and advice.

“I am also confident that the school district is in capable hands with the remaining school committee members, a terrific administrative team, and of course the best educational staff – district wide – the rest of the world can envy,” said McKenna.