EASTHAM — With annual town meeting in the rearview mirror, town elections are ahead on Tuesday, May 16. There are six positions on the ballot but only one contested race: three candidates — Monica Montoya-Quintero, Devon O’Rourke, and Debra Raymond — are vying for the two open seats on the Eastham Elementary School Committee.
Outgoing member Erin Ellis and committee chair Judy Lindahl will both stay busy next door. Lindahl, who also serves as chair of the Nauset Joint Regional School Committee, was recently made executive director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce. Ellis is the assistant town clerk in Orleans; she was elected to fill a special one-year school committee term in May 2022 after Benton Niggel resigned.
First on the ballot is Montoya-Quintero, a part-time early learning specialist with the Cape Cod Children’s Place who currently has a kindergartner and a third grader at Eastham Elementary. She and her family have lived in Eastham since 2013, and she is an active member of the parents’ group at the school. But as she has sought answers to questions about how the school makes decisions and sets policy, “I felt like being part of the parents’ group was not enough,” she said. “I want to be part of the school’s decisions, too, if I can.”
Montoya-Quintero, 44, grew up in Medellín, Colombia and came to the U.S. when she was 17. She worked as a surgical assistant in Boston for 14 years until her first child was born and began working at the Children’s Place in 2020 when the organization had an urgent need for bilingual early child care. She said her election to the school committee would provide needed perspective and representation for Latino parents at the school.
“Knowing that somebody who’s not from here originally is participating can help them feel like they can do it, too, and make them less intimidated,” she said.
This year, 186 students are enrolled at Eastham Elementary — and 4.3 percent of the students identify as Hispanic, according to state Dept. of Education data.
Devon O’Rourke is also an Eastham Elementary parent. His family lives four houses from the school, so he gets to walk his second-grade daughter to school and experience the “joy of seeing these kids every day, albeit for a minute when I give my kid a hug and then she runs away from me to play with her friends,” he said. His daughter, he added, is “the driving force behind wanting to be part of this school committee.”
Currently the chief operating officer at a research software startup, O’Rourke, 40, worked as a high school science teacher at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, with a gap year to obtain an M.A.T. from Boston University before getting his Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of New Hampshire in 2019 — the same year he and his wife, Jackie, who is from Orleans, moved to the Eastham home they began building around 2010.
Jackie, who had also been a teacher at the Berkshire School, now runs her own consulting service for parents of children attending boarding schools. She serves on the T-Time Development Committee, while Devon served on the climate committee last year. He has tried to contribute to the school community in various ways, he said, such as sorting bottles and cans at the Eastham transfer station (the five-cent deposits go back to the school). The school committee, he said, “can extend or amplify the mic for community participation.
“I’m pretty attuned to the potential costs and benefits of technology-side decisions,” he said, like the value of Smartboards. O’Rourke also wants to facilitate communication between teachers, residents, and the school committee. After a contentious town meeting on May 6, he said that, if elected, he hoped “to provide clarity and make information public for why the things being requested are being requested, and who’s requesting them, so it’s not a shock to the system once a year.”
Unlike Montoya-Quintero and O’Rourke, Debra Raymond, 57, does not have a child enrolled at Eastham Elementary. But the longtime Eastham resident has worked as an elementary school teacher at the Truro Central School since 1994. “I’m ready to more formally give back to the community,” she said.
Raymond, who previously ran for the one-year school committee seat that Erin Ellis won in 2022, said her “greatest asset” might be her years of wearing “so many hats” on the Outer Cape, including teacher, parent, taxpayer, and volunteer. They lend her “a good understanding of the distinct roles that all these stakeholders have,” she said.
“As a school committee member, I would really prioritize student achievement, supporting teachers, and increasing attention to the social and emotional health of children,” which are all central to the school’s mission, she said.
Raymond’s children, now adults, went to Truro Central on school choice before attending Nauset Regional High School. The difficulty of finding after-school care, she said, made it easier for the family to all be in one place.
Nauset district elementary schools do not offer school choice. “I think the schools are really starting to address some of the reasons why having school choice worked for my family,” by creating before- and after-school programs, she said. “That’s where I would start before thinking, let’s make it a free-for-all.”
On the Eastham school committee, Raymond said, “you can tell kids come first. It seems, as an outsider looking in at the moment, a really positive force for the children of Eastham. It would just be an honor to be able to contribute to that in some small way.”
In addition to the school committee election, there are also three overrides on the ballot, with all corresponding articles having passed at the May 6 town meeting.
Question 1 asks for a Proposition 2½ override for all costs of the Rock Harbor dredging project, done every 10 years in partnership with Orleans.
Question 2 corresponds to the wastewater design and engineering planning passed in Article 3D. Because the town plans to pay the debt service of this override, the select board has emphasized that this override will not increase the residential property tax rate.
Question 3 asks for an additional $710,000 property tax assessment to cover the cost of collective bargaining agreements for the town and an increase in the district’s fiscal 2024 school budget. According to a memo submitted by the select board ahead of town meeting, these overrides will result in a $461 tax increase for the median Eastham property owner.
In the uneventful world of incumbents seeking reelection, town moderator Scott Kerry is running for another three-year term, as are select board members Aimee Eckman and Arthur Autorino. Ignatius Alfano and Mary Shaw are both keeping their seats on the library board of trustees.
No one is running for the open seat on the Eastham Housing Authority vacated by Sarah Burrill.
Longtime town clerk Cindy Nicholson is not running for another three-year term. Linda Sassi, currently the assistant town clerk, is on the ballot to take over the job. Eastham is one of the 234 out of 351 towns in Massachusetts that still elect their town clerks rather than having the select board make the appointment.
In February, Nicholson told the Independent that Sassi “is willing and able to do a great job, is now certified as a municipal clerk, and has my full support.”
Voting will be open at town hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.