By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Keeping a close eye on the budget and negotiating new contracts with the school district’s roughly 800 teachers, paraprofessionals, clerks and secretaries are the top priorities for the coming year, according to new School Committee President Shaun Toohey.
The current teachers’ contract, inked in the summer of 2011 after five years of contentious negotiations, expires June 30. Most of the district’s other worker contracts also expire this summer, school officials said.
Toohey, who was elected president by his colleagues last night, said he will assign committee members to several subcommittees next week to begin talks with various unions. He replaces Paul Magliocchetti as president.
The main duties and powers of the School Committee president include setting the meeting agenda, appointing members to subcommittees and running meetings when the mayor, who is chairman, is not in attendance. The president also communicates between the committee and the superintendent. Informally, the president’s role is to build consensus on issues.
“I appreciate the confidence of the members to elect me president,” Toohey, who is in his 10th year on the committee, said last night.
Toohey said the committee will be taking a more active role in monitoring spending and the budget after the district ended the prior fiscal year last summer with a shortfall of more than $1 million.
“Keeping class sizes down and watching how we spend our money will always be my priorities,” said Toohey, a self-employed mortgage banker who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2012.
Toohey said the city’s effort to build a new school in Bradford to replace the deteriorated Hunking Middle School will also be a critical school issue in the coming year. But he stressed that project is a citywide endeavor that equally involves the mayor, City Council and the building committee overseeing the project.
The main roles of the School Committee, under the leadership of its president, include hiring and evaluating the superintendent, overseeing the school budget, making education policy and negotiating and approving teacher contracts.
School Committee member Scott Wood, who like Toohey is halfway through his third, four-year term, was elected vice president of the committee last night. Wood replaces former School Committee member Raymond Sierpina in the role.
Sierpina lost his seat in the November election to new committee member Maura Ryan-Ciardiello, who attended her first meeting last night. Ryan-Ciardiello is Toohey’s sister-in-law.
“It was a privilege to work with Mr. Sierpina as my vice president,” Magliocchetti said after handing the presidency over to Toohey. “I called Ray prior to the meeting and told him it was going to be odd not having him sitting next to me.”