NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — They've served through three superintendents, two mayors and with more than a dozen other School Committee members.
It's been a long 16 years for Mark Moulton and John Hockridge but they will always have that time engraved in their minds and, now, on presentation clocks given to mark their departures from the committee.
The School Department said farewell to the second longest-serving members of the board on Tuesday night. Hockridge and Moulton were both elected in 2002, coming second only to Heather Boulger, who took office in 1998.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Moulton said at the committee's final meeting of the year. "I thought about it last night and it came to mind that a third of my life I've been on this committee ... it's going to be different."
They were joined in farewells by a third member: Mayor Richard Alcombright. Though only serving half the time at eight years, the mayor by city charter, is the chairman of the committee.
Alcombright determined earlier this year not to run for a fifth term. His sucessor, Mayor-elect Thomas Bernard, was on hand to thank the departing School Committee members for their efforts.
"You never would have seen 'most likely to be mayor' under my high school picture in my yearbook, or 'mostly likely to be school committee chair,'" Alcombright said. "These eight years have been difficult, but difficult in good ways. I've grown as a person because of it."
Hockridge is leaving after leading the Berkshire County Education Task Force, which researched options to enhance countywide academics and reduce budget pressures. He also sits on the board of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and is chairman of its Division VI (Berkshire County) region.
He thanked the many people responsible for making the school district as great as it is.
"The teachers who never get public recognition do a wonderful job, the principals also do not the recognition they deserve," he said, adding the administrative team also earns kudos. "[Superintendent Barbara Malkas] you have been a wonderful fit at the right time for this district and I especailly want to thank [Assistant to the Superintendent] Ellen Sutherland because she is the rock who holds this place together ..
"Thank you so much for all your years of helping and supporting me."
Moulton said he plans to remain involved in the school system, working with students in different areas and doing outreach.
"It's been a good run, a lot of good things," he said. "I just hope everybody knows what we did was with the kids in mind, with staff, parents and North Adams."
The mayor joked that Hockridge will probably remain involved with the task force. "I know you're going to continue with that because they ain't going to let you go," he laughed.
Both of his colleagues brought a passion to the School Committee, he said, that any new member needs to bring as well. He repeated, as he often does, that the school system is the only real investment in the future the city makes.
"I'm just very thankful to this community to have this opportunity and this privilege to be mayor and certainly being the chairman of the School Committee," the mayor said. "It's been a blast."
Moulton offered some advice to the two incoming School Committee members — James Holmes and Ian Bergeron.
"As a committee member, do your homework, be the best at one part of this table, and just listen to the people of North Adams, listen to the kids talk to the kids and the staff," he said.
Each clock was engraved with the member's name and term of office. The presentation occurred after the regular meeting and included refreshments baked by Sutherland.
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