WILLIAMSTOWN — The Nov. 3 election for the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee involves the election of four new committee members, but only one of the positions is contested.
The position once held by former School Committee Chairman Dan Caplinger — which has two years left on its term — is being sought by Elisabeth Beck and Carrie Greene. Caplinger resigned in February.
There are two four-year terms open, formerly held by Jamie Art and Ali Carter, who chose not to seek reelection, and there are two candidates seeking those seats: Julia Bowen and Jose Constantine.
Meanwhile in Lanesborough, Michelle Johnson is seeking the only open seat in Lanesborough, for which Al Terranova declined to seek reelection.
Running for the two-year term is newcomer Elisabeth "Lizzy" Beck, a teacher at Buxton School and a published poet, and Carrie Greene, who has served on the school committee and a number of other boards and committees related to education.
A parent of two toddlers, Beck said her candidacy is her response to perilous times.
"With all that's been going on — such as the pandemic and Black Lives Matter — I'm motivated to think about what I can do to make things more equitable and just," Beck said. "To be a responsible citizen at this moment, I should at least take a shot at bringing my energy and effort to benefit the school district."
Beck earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University, and a Master of Fine Arts at Warren Wilson College. She worked at Buxton from 2013 to 2016, returning in 2019. She teaches sophomore English. She served on the Buxton board of trustees from 2016 to 2019.
Buxton recently started in-person classes, she noted, but for the Mount Greylock district, she feels the hybrid approach that has been decided on is best.
"This is a really complicated topic, and the hybrid approach has its challenges," she said. "There needs to be a maximum amount of community input to create a plan that meets the needs, and the time to think them through."
On other topics, Beck said she is a bit ambivalent about the issue of installing artificial turf field.
"As a student athlete, I preferred playing on grass," she said. "And right now, there are things more important to be spending lots of time and money on discussing than an artificial playing surface."
She does have a focus on some more relevant issues though.
"The two biggest things in my mind are inclusion and equity," Beck said. "We can be talking about race, ethnicity, gender, and disabilities. And we want to be sure voices are valued whether they're from Williamstown or Lanesborough."
Beck said she is excited to get involved with working in a district with "good resources, good energy and good people."
After Caplinger resigned, Carrie Greene applied for the post and was appointed by unanimous vote during a joint meeting of the select boards of Williamstown and Lanesborough and the School Committee last May to fill his position until the next scheduled election.
Green was first elected to the School Committee in 2010, and she served as vice chairwoman in 2011 and as chairwoman from 2012 to 2016. Among serving on numerous other committees, in 2018 she also served as Division VI chairwoman of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. She was a member of the Berkshire County Education Task Force from 2015 to 2018.
Greene is a graduate of both Mount Greylock Middle/High School and of Williams College. She works as director of commencement and academic events at Williams College.
The hybrid return to school plan — with remote learning initially and phased-in classroom instruction over time — the district wound up adopting through negotiations with the teachers union is the right choice, Greene said. She was the lone dissenter on the committee when it passed a plan for in-person instruction at the start of the school year, which was altered to accommodate the union.
"As it turns out, it seems like what's in place now makes the most sense," Greene said. "It just took a little while for us to get there. We need to be safe and it needs to make sense."
As for the artificial turf question, Greene said that issue has been on the back burner since the initial proposal was tabled last year and the pandemic took hold.
"We'll have to bring it up again to see when and how we take that up," she said.
Greene said that in these difficult times, experience on the School Committee will matter as a recovery starts and the educational issues evolve through that process.
"We need folks who know how to get things done within the structure of a school committee," she said.
Running unopposed for the School Committee are Julia Bowen, Jose Constantine and Michelle Johnson.
Bowen was the founding executive director at BART, a charter school in Adams, from 2003 to 2017. She has also served on a number of education committees and boards locally and statewide. She currently helps train superintendent-level school leaders in administering charter schools.
Bowen has lived in Williamstown since 2001 with her husband and two sons.
"I have a deep commitment to public education and my community, and COVID has reinforced that commitment," Bowen said. "It's been made very clear that this is a place where I can have an impact."
Jose Constantine, an assistant professor of geosciences and environmental sciences at Williams College, calls himself an "unorthodox candidate."
"We depend on people stepping up for the community," he said. "And in this time of crisis, I couldn't just sit on the sideline."
Constantine is a geologist with expertise in fluvial geomorphology, process sedimentology, and the impacts of climate on the evolution of upland environments.
He said pandemic teaching is a challenge that will take time to work out.
"This is a tough spot and will require some serious focus to see our kids get though this as well as they can," he said.
Constantine said he and his family have had a "fantastic experience" in the district.
"We have amazing, dedicated teachers and administrators who work incredibly hard," he said. "So I can't wait to see what we can do once we get past the pandemic."
Michelle Johnson is running unopposed for a four-year term for a Lanesborough seat on the committee. She is a special education teacher for Lenox Schools, and has been in teaching for seven years. She holds a master's degree in education.
"I believe it is important to be involved in the school when your kids are there," she said, noting that she brings with her the perspective of a parent, a teacher and a student to the committee.
A particular focus for her, she said, is diversity and equality.
"It's always been important to me to have my kids experience life in diverse populations," she said. "So I'm glad that issue has risen to the forefront. It has to be dealt with head-on in my opinion."
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.