Southborough School Committee honors Kim Tolander


Southborough School Committee honors Kim Tolander
Kim Tolander

SOUTHBOROUGH – There was an empty chair at the Southborough School Committee meeting Sept. 14, as the committee met for the first time since the death of their fellow member Kim Tolander in August.

“Her passing was a gigantic blow to her family, friends, the community and the schools,” said Chair Roger Challen.

According to her obituary, Tolander passed away unexpectedly after a brief illness on Aug. 3. She was elected to the School Committee in 2021.

Challen noted that since her passing, there have been a number of tributes about her “incredible contributions to all of us” and called her an “incredibly important contributor” to the Southborough School Committee.

Tolander’s obituary noted that she lived a life of kindness, compassion and connection, calling her a “staunch and influential advocate for those who may not fit the traditional molds, but deserved respect, empathy and community.”

Several weeks ago, Challen recalled attending a welcome back meeting at Algonquin Regional High School that gathered all of the district’s educators and staff members in one location at the start of the school year.

It was the first meeting held since prior to the pandemic.

As part of Superintendent Greg Martineau’s remarks, the names of the members from the three school committees were projected onto the screen. Because they were projected alphabetically, the Southborough School Committee was last.

“I remember the sense of tremendous loss I felt when I saw just four names,” Challen said. “And it is a sense of loss that this committee will continue to feel even after the four names eventually become five again.”

He said that Martineau presented the district’s three themes for the school year – the power of we, building relationships and making connections. Those were three themes when put together describe Tolander, Challen said.

“As we move forward throughout this school year and reflect on the themes, it will be impossible to do so without also thinking of Kim,” Challen said.

Martineau echoed that her passing was a “tremendous loss.”

“I think the best way to honor Kim’s work is to do the work and get involved and make sure we stay student-centered and focused on why we’re here,” Martineau said.

Vacancy process

The School Committee has received an email from someone stating their interest in the vacancy, according to Challen.

He said if the School Committee or Select Board has candidates it would like to put forward for the seat, a joint meeting of both boards would be scheduled.

The candidates may be asked to attend the meeting to answer questions from either board. At that meeting, a vote could be taken to select a candidate.

Challen said if a candidate was selected, the appointment would require a majority vote from the nine total members of the School Committee and Select Board.

The appointment would last until the next town election in Southborough.

Any candidate would run to fill the remainder of Tolander’s term, which would last one year.

The School Committee plans to revisit this topic next month.