Belchertown voters reject recall effort for 2 School Committee members

  • Belchertown High School GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2022 10:09:38 AM

BELCHERTOWN — Both School Committee incumbents retained their seats Monday as voters resoundingly rejected an effort to recall them at a special election.

More than three-quarters of Belchertown residents who participated in the election voted to have Diane Brown keep the seat she was elected to in 2019, while nearly as many supported having Michael Knapp continue to serve in the position he has held for nine years.

The recall was triggered by residents angry that Knapp and Brown supported a policy that would have required students 16 and over participating in extracurricular activities, including sports, to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, once fully FDA-approved for their age groups. That policy was not enacted and the policy was amended earlier this month to allow for regular COVID-19 testing instead.

Only Knapp had challengers on the ballot, with Stephan Corbin and Kristen Lech competing to replace him should the recall have been successful.

Brown, a retired teacher who taught sixth graders at Chestnut Hill Community School for 23 years, thanked voters, and expressed pride that more than 2,500 residents turned out to vote.

“Mike and I, along with the rest of our School Committee and every other board in Belchertown, work hard for the citizens of our town,” Brown said. “The voters recognized that a dangerous precedent would be set if elected officials, most of whom are volunteers, are threatened by a recall for single issues.”

In the remainder of her term, which runs into May, Brown said she hopes to address the educational and emotional challenges students have faced because of the pandemic, understanding that several months of remote learning didn’t meet the needs of all children.

Knapp said he appreciated that voters rejected the recall, and that he will continue to work on behalf of families and children.

“I thank them for confirming their trust in us, and for showing that they value basic public health measures to keep our kids safe and in school,” Knapp said.

Knapp added that some members of the community should be ashamed for the level of personal attacks during the campaign.

“The voters saw these personal attacks for what they were, and rejected them,” Knapp said. “I suggest that candidates for local office spend their time campaigning on what they can offer the town, rather than relying on personal attacks to tear down their opponents.”

According to unofficial results provided by Town Clerk Theresa Camerlin, 1,925 residents voted against Brown’s recall, while 591 residents supported it. Knapp’s recall was supported by 661 voters, but 1,845 voted against it.

The 2,525 voters who came to the polls represented a 21.7% turnout of the town’s 11,623 registered voters.

Camerlin said since neither recall passed, the votes for candidates on the ballot, and any write-in contestants, were not counted.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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