Birks, Feliciano-Sims win Holyoke School Committee seats

  • Irene Feliciano-Sims SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Rebecca Birks. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2019 10:22:47 PM

HOLYOKE — Rebecca Birks and Irene Feliciano-Sims won seats in two wards on the School Committee Tuesday night, with Birks narrowly edging challenger Marc Hickey by a margin of 80 votes.

Birks has run the school district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council, and she will succeed her husband, Dennis Birks, who held the Ward 3 School Committee seat for the past decade.

“I am honestly at a loss for words,” Birks said about her 701-621 victory over Hickey when reached by phone. “I’m excited to move forward and to help get the schools back in good standing and out of receivership.”

Birks was a supporter of the Proposition 2½ override for two new middle schools that failed overwhelmingly Tuesday. 

“I’m wondering what the next steps are to giving our students what they actually need,” she said.

  The race was Hickey’s first attempt at running for elected office and he said that even though he lost, he was glad to have knocked on doors and met people around Ward 3.

“It’s tough, but that’s how Holyoke politics works,” said Hickey, who had previously served as PTO vice president for his daughter’s school. “You go in the first time and no matter how good you are, and what you campaign on, no one wants to vote for you. You gotta prove yourself — and I think I proved myself tonight.”

In light of losing the race for School Committee, Hickey provided an alternate perspective on the result of the middle schools ballot question than Birks.

“If I helped “No” win tonight then I had a great and successful campaign,” Hickey said.

In Ward 4, right outside the room where voters made their voices heard all day at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, incumbent School Committee member Feliciano-Sims and her challenger, Faizul J. Sibdhanny Jr. waited for results with supporters.

“It’s always nice to know that through your hard work and dedication, that the voters believe in you,” Feliciano-Sims, 39, said after learning of her 391-142 victory. “I’m just going to continue on doing what I’m doing, fighting for … our students and public education and taking those steps to be removed from receivership.”

Sibdhanny, 21, said that even though he was unhappy he lost, he was proud of the number of votes he received. Sibdhanny said he will run for School Committee again in 2021 and hopes to meet more voters in the future.

“I’m not going to let this discourage me,” he said. 

Michael Connors can be reached at 
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