North Adams School Committee taps Daunis to fill seat vacated by Moulton

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NORTH ADAMS — The North Adams School Committee and City Council unanimously voted Thursday night to appoint Emily Daunis to fill the seat vacated by former School Committee member and City Councilor Robert Moulton Jr.

The two bodies of governance held a virtual joint convention at 6 p.m. to fill Moulton's vacated School Committee seat.

Daunis was the first runner-up in November's School Committee election, which included five candidates running for three seats. Daunis earned 1,010 votes from city residents.

Moulton resigned from the committee and council last month, in the wake of controversial remarks he made about the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic. The City Council on Tuesday night appointed Peter J. Oleskiewicz to fill the council seat, and he participated in Thursday night's convention, taking his first official action as a city councilor. 

The representatives heard from all eight candidates vying for the open School Committee seat before selecting Daunis for the role. The other candidates are David Sookey III, also a runner-up in November's School Committee election; elementary school teacher Richard Kelley; parent Ian Wilson; community activist and former mayoral candidate Rachel Branch; social worker Carrieanne Crews; Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts admissions counselor Alyssa Tomkowicz; and longtime educator and social worker Raya Kirby.

Members of the School Committee and City Council thanked all the candidates for their willingness to step up to fill the seat. School Committee member Tara Jacobs said she particularly was impressed with "the caliber and quality" of the candidates. Councilor Keith Bona encouraged Superintendent Barbara Malkas and Mayor Thomas Bernard to look for ways to keep the candidates engaged in leadership roles within the schools and city. 

Daunis is the director of patron programs and donor engagement at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and has three children in the North Adams Public Schools system. During her remarks Thursday evening, she said she continued to stay engaged with the district's operations after November's election, attending School Committee meetings and providing feedback to the district through a working group on dress code policy. She said she has been following the district's coronavirus pandemic protocols and reopening plans, providing feedback on behalf of local families.

"I will actively work to facilitate strong communication with our families," she said at Thursday's meeting.

Via her letter of intent for the vacancy, Daunis wrote: "I have a huge amount of respect for our public school teachers and all of the work they do, as well as the school staff and administration. I would be honored to represent our families and community by serving on the School Committee board."

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