After nine years on the school committee, Tina Belanger was nearly overwhelmed by a groundswell of goodwill and gratitude during a surprise send-off Tuesday night.
Feted by a series of present and former colleagues and other well-wishers, most of whom dialed in remotely to offer congratulations, the three-term member marked her final board meeting by saying she was humbled by the kind sentiments.
“I didn’t expect this,” Belanger said to conclude the virtual testimonial. “I’m so honored and impressed. It’s been a pleasure to serve with everybody. It’s been a wonderful experience, beginning to end.”
The event had been hosted by Superintendent Amy Berdos, who introduced Belanger as a consistent champion for Foxboro’s families.
“We are just so fortunate that you have served,” Berdos said. “What you have done, the countless hours that you have volunteered, are appreciated by many more people than are just in this room.”
Berdos hinted that lingering pandemic protocols curtailed even more elaborate plans for an in-person affair, but revealed a lengthy lineup of admirers who contributed to the occasion with heartfelt tributes.
These included committee Chairman Richard Pearson, who characterized Belanger as a tireless advocate for both the school community and community at large.
“Your reason and your voice [have been] just astounding,” Pearson said. “You’ve done a great job of articulating that with honesty and fidelity.”
Former Superintendent Debra Spinelli said she most appreciated Belanger’s work ethic, intellect and attention to detail which, combined with a strong ethical and moral compass, characterized her decision making.
“Anything you were involved in, I always felt assured that it would come to fruition in a way that was right, complete and valuable,” Spinelli said.
Crediting others for delivering eloquent testimonials on Belanger’s behalf, former school board Chairman Bruce Gardner described her nine-year tenure as a “bridge” to the next generation of school committee members.
Gardner, who cast the deciding vote when Belanger was initially appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board, said he had been influenced by numerous parents who reached out to support her candidacy.
“You’ve been so true to that initial feeling from the community that you belong there,” he observed. “You were the conscience for the committee in representing the town. I’m so very thankful you did run.”
“Well, I definitely don’t think I would have put my name into the hat without some arm twisting on your part,” Belanger quipped in return.
Longtime educator and school board member Beverley Lord recognized Belanger for always doing her homework, saying her meticulous preparation was unmatched, as well as for prior service on the town advisory committee.
“I also would be remiss if I personally did not thank you for three years of your constant care, supervision and insight that you put into the advisory committee,” Lord said. “That, coupled with the nine years on the school committee, is true, true commitment.”
Lord concluded her remarks by saluting the departing board member with a virtual champagne toast.
“You rock, Tina,” Lord exclaimed, raising her glass while others chimed in with laughter and applause.
“That was a long three years,” Belanger said of her term on the advisory board. “I learned a lot about our town and how our finances work.”
Former student and neighbor Joseph Gerraughty thanked Belanger for giving him rides to and from school board meetings, as well as sporting events and other school activities.
“I just want to thank you for all the service you’ve given to the students in Foxboro over the years,” Gerraughty said. “I’m glad that we were neighbors.”
Belanger’s husband, Bill, also weighed in, thanking those participating in the Zoom farewell on his wife’s behalf.
“I could not have asked for a better school system or a better community than the one we found ourselves in,” he said.
Belanger’s two sons, Jack and Sam, also contributed messages, with the elder Belanger suggesting he was especially inspired by his mother’s civic involvement.
“I’m just very, very proud of you,” Jack Belanger said.
“No matter how great she was as a public servant, she was an even better mom,” his brother Sam added. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.”