EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 31, 2013

Greater Lawrence board uncontested seat now has two contenders

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — One of the two Methuen seats on the Greater Lawrence Technical School board will not have names contesting it next week, sparking a last-minute write-in campaign in a low-profile race.

Methuen native Jessica Finocchiaro, 26, yesterday formally launched a sticker campaign for the second seat. Dennis “D.J.” Deeb, 36, a candidate for School Committee, said some of his supporters have asked him to campaign for the spot, but maintained he was focused on his School Committee race.

“I’m not doing any sort of organized effort for (the Greater Lawrence Tech seat),” he said.

Finocchiaro said she was concerned that a second candidate did not run, and decided to run herself. “I personally am a little bit upset that nobody has stepped up to run for that second position,” she said.

She recently completed two master’s degrees from Suffolk University, one in public administration and one in political science. She graduated from Presentation of Mary Academy.

She cited a “skills gap,” where some employers cannot find qualified candidates for skilled positions, and the school’s MCAS scores as issues she wanted to address.

“My biggest thing would be working with everyone on the board to figure out what we can do to increase our funding,” she said. “There could be more money for different programs. They’re doing a fabulous job with what they have. But there are so many opportunities for federal funding, some they’re taking, but there are many more to enhance these opportunities to enhance education for students from Methuen and the entire area.”

Deeb, a former Dracut resident who served on the School Committee there as well as the Greater Lowell Technical School board, drew papers for both seats, but returned signatures only for the Methuen School Committee.

He said that he is not actively advocating or campaigning for himself in a write-in candidacy for Greater Lawrence Tech. “I simply told some of my supporters if they wanted to write me in they were free to do so,” he said.

But if he were to win election to the School Committee and Greater Lawrence Tech’s board on a write-in vote, he said he would accept the seat and hold both positions at once.

“I would be able to serve on both. They meet on different nights,” he said.

Yesterday, Deeb said he was relieved a second candidate had decided to run. “I certainly would not want to see 300-plus Methuen students who go to Greater Lawrence Tech without representation,” he said.

Barbara Grondine, a School Committee member prohibited from running again by term limits, is the only name on the ballot for the two seats. She said she was surprised no one else returned papers, adding she could not recall an election for Greater Lawrence Tech that did not have at least two candidates.

“It’s a great school and a gem for the Merrimack Valley,” she said. “We service a great number of Methuen kids who go on to great things.”

The two current members are running for other offices. Kenneth Hendrick is running for a seat on the Methuen Housing Authority board, and Thomas Grondine, husband of Barbara Grondine, is running for Methuen School Committee.

Last year, Greater Lawrence Tech had 1,308 students enrolled, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The school’s board has seven members total with representation from all four communities the school serves. Lawrence has three seats, Methuen has two and Andover and North Andover each have one.

The election is Nov. 5.

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