EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 8, 2013

School Committee member Graziano resigns

He's moving to Salem, NH; board will appoint acting member

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — First-term School Committee member Mark Graziano resigned his seat yesterday as he and his family prepare to move to a new house in Salem, N.H.

Graziano, a native of Methuen and the third-highest vote getter out of eight candidates in the 2011 municipal election, brought school administration and finance experience to the committee from, most recently, his job as director of finance and operations at The Pike School in Andover.

School and city officials are reviewing the city charter to determine how an acting member will be appointed to serve out the remainder of Graziano’s term.

“After the (teachers contract) vote (Monday) night, and after the next week or so when we will be officially moved in and moving all the paperwork, it was the right time,” Graziano said.

His fellow members said the committee will miss his experience. “Mark brought a lot to the table. He has a great background in finance and education,” said committee Vice Chairman Evan Chaisson.

Superintendent Judith Scannell credited him with helping the School Department and the city negotiate a written list of charges for services, which had been a bone of contention during the last few budget seasons.

“I am sorry to see School Committee member Mark Graziano leave,” she said. “His experience working with the city of Methuen was instrumental as we negotiated a formal charge back agreement relative to city expenses incurred on behalf of the School Department. His knowledge of school operations will be hard to replace. He was all about the students and staff of Methuen Public Schools.”

Graziano also was “a major resource” on a subcommittee reviewing ways to consolidate some school and city operations, such as purchasing and legal counsel, said committee member Lynne Hajjar Kumm.

Kumm said she will suspend meetings of the group until after the election in November, and restart next year with new members.

During his term, Graziano started the Graziano Family & Friends Scholarship to help students from the Arlington neighborhood of Methuen, where he grew up. He started it using his School Committee stipend, and plans to raise money in the future to continue the scholarship, which is given to a student from the neighborhood or the central district going to college to offset some directly-related expenses.

“Having grown up in Arlington, I thought it was important to do,” he said.

He said he is proud of having helped manage the budget while keeping programs in the classroom and of the new four-year teachers contract ratified Monday night.

“Hopefully holding the line where we did, we were able to set the tone going forward to keep costs as low as possible so we can keep the tax rate as low as possible,” he said.

Graziano said he did not think the real estate market would move as fast as it did when he and his wife listed their property. During the sale and closing of the Methuen home and the purchase of the new home in Salem, Graziano talked with Scannell to determine what was required of him as he prepared to move.

He considered staying in an apartment with his father, but decided against it and submitted his resignation. “I might be there three or four days a week helping him out, but at the end of the day, it didn’t seem ethical to me. It didn’t seem right. When I do something, I want to do it 100 percent. At the end of the day, you have your reputation and your ethics, and I wanted to keep them in tact.”

According to the city charter, the School Committee has 21 days to appoint an acting committee member to finish Graziano’s term. The charter requires the committee to appoint the next highest vote getter of the defeated candidates in the previous election “who received at least 20 percent of the total votes cast for the office....”

City Clerk Christina Touma-Conway did not respond to a voice message seeking comment.

If no one meets that qualification, the committee can appoint from among the voters, according to the charter.

Scannell, Touma-Conway and Mayor Stephen Zanni are reviewing the charter to determine how that appointment is to happen, committee members said.

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