EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

Methuen board bound for makeover

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The School Committee will be in for another makeover this fall as two current members are barred from running again, one other has decided not to run and another is unsure.

Committee member Deborah Quinn, a former city councilor serving her first term on the School Committee, said she has decided not to run for a second term, citing a need for new faces and ideas. Members Evan Chaisson and Barbara Grondine cannot run again because of term limits.

”Now I think it’s time for new faces and ideas,” Quinn said. “When people stick around for too long, things get stagnant and people get set in their ways.”

Quinn ran for School Committee, she said, to continue work on the $98 million high school renovation and expansion project, to which she contributed as a city councilor. The project is on schedule to be completed by the summer of 2014.

”People are going to want to come to this town because we have a good police department, a good fire department, good roads and good schools. That’s what people want,” she said.

Committee member Mark Graziano has not decided whether to run for a second term, citing personal commitments. He is pursuing a second master’s degree while working as director of finance and operations of The Pike School in Andover. He is married with 2-year-old twins.

”I want to be able to give the people of Methuen 100 percent in this job,” he said. “But I also need to give 100 percent to my family and school work.”

Lynne Hajjar Kuum, who is in her first term, said she is definitely running for a second term. She said she wanted to make sure the school system maintained programs that reached the broadest possible range of students.

”I’m absolutely running for re-election. It’s important to have a parent’s perspective on the School Committee,” she said.

Mary Jean Fawcett, also in her first term, is “99 percent sure” she will run for reelection. “One of the things we’ve worked really hard on is coming to an agreement with the city side of government on charge backs,” she said. “There’s been a lot of positive progress made.”

At least two people are strongly considering a run at the School Committee and another is rumored to be thinking about another run.

Robert Vogler, a former teacher in Beverly who served on the School Committee for 35 years, is “about 90 percent certain” he will make another run for the committee, nearly two years after he lost his seat. Fawcett, Graziano, Quinn and Hajjar Kumm all swept onto the committee in the 2011 election, which left Vogler and parent Jeri-an Batal out. Chaisson and Grondine won reelection.

Vogler, a member of the Building Committee overseeing the high school project, said he wants to be part of the completion of the high school and the implementation of a new technology-based curriculum.

“You’ve got to have a purpose for running, and the final piece for Methuen for 30, 40 years will be the high school and the curriculum,” he said, adding that he participated in the K-8 school projects.

Bryan Sweet, chairman of the Methuen Democratic City Committee, said he is “strongly considering” a run as well. Sweet, who manages grants and contracts for Massachusetts General Hospital and also serves locally on the Building Committee, said he can contribute his financial experience to the city.

“The bottom line is I have an interest in public service and politics,” he said. “I want to serve the community and provide input for budget issues and economic issues. Methuen as a whole has built a strong academic foundation over last several years. The School Committee has done a great job, and I think the superintendent has done a great job.”

Batal, who ran unsuccessfully in 2009 and 2011, also is rumored to be considering another run. She did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Three vacancies — Chaisson, Grondine and Quinn — would mean three new candidates could win unopposed along with the three incumbents. A decision by Graziano not to run would make room for a fourth and another sweeping change in the committee.

It is still early in the day, too. Nomination papers will not be available until May 29, according to the City Clerk’s office. Papers and signatures are due July 30 at 5 p.m.

The top six vote getters in the election will be seated on the School Committee, while the mayor sits as chairman of the committee.

Follow Douglas Moser on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.