EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2013

Newcomers Beshara, Sweet, Deeb win seats

Fawcett, Kumm, Vogler re-elected

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — The School Committee will have another new majority in January as three newcomers won election while all three incumbents were retained.

Richard Beshara, a former principal, Bryan Sweet, an administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dennis “D.J.” Deeb, a teacher, won half of the six seats on the committee. The three incumbents, Mary Jean Fawcett, Lynne Hajjar Kumm and Robert Vogler, will return for another term.

“I’m very happy voters saw the value of parents’ perspectives,” said Kumm, who won a second term. “I’m very happy to be rewarded with a new term.”

Sweet said he wanted to revive the consolidation committee, which is made of School Committee members and City Councilors and is reviewing places to consolidate city and school functions to save money. That committee’s work stalled this spring when former School Committee member Mark Graziano, a school business manager, resigned from the School Committee because he moved to Salem, N.H.

“There are areas where we can make sensible consolidations in the budget,” Sweet said, and the saved money saved can be used for enrichment programs.

Deeb, a former Dracut School Committee member who moved to Methuen two years ago, said he wanted the School Department to create a capital improvement plan. “We don’t have that yet. And if something happens, we have to go back and ask taxpayers for money,” he said.

Beshara, who retired in June as principal of Marsh Grammar School, said the committee will need to keep working to improve MCAS scores throughout the district and boost literacy especially among the youngest students. “Why aren’t our students achieving benchmark (in reading) and what is causing that? We need to do a lot of analyzing,” he said.

Vogler, a longtime committee member who was appointed in May to finish Graziano’s term, said the school district is moving forward and seeing substantial gains in MCAS scores.

“The biggest issue we face is money. The state doesn’t fund us and the town gives us the minimum,” he said. “But we do a very good job with what we get.”

Many of the members praised the direction of the high school project, which is on schedule to be finished next summer and on budget. They said the main thing the School Committee can do is keep it on track.

Denise Giammasi, who voted at Tenney Grammar School, said she chose three candidates – Fawcett, Beshara and Thomas Grondine – who had teaching or administrative experience. “I picked the people who were in schools and would know what the schools need,” she said.

Grondine and Jana DiNatale, an assistant district attorney, were not elected to the committee.

Former member Deborah Quinn also resigned from the committee when she moved out of town recently. Members Evan Chaisson and Barbara Grondine were prohibited from seeking another term.

In 2011, four new members – Kumm, Fawcett, Graziano and Quinn – swept onto the committee, and Vogler was ousted.

The new committee will take office in January.

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