By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Mark Mezzina, a candidate for a School Committee seat in the March 26 election, said he has a “passion for public service.”
That’s what drives him in his campaign for the position, he said. He estimated he has knocked on 1,500 doors and expects to approach many more between now and election day.
Mezzina is 19 and will turn 20 on May 18. What does he say to people who suggest he’s too young and inexperienced? His opponent, Zora Warren, 38, has several years of middle school teaching experience and is the mother of two children who attend the North Andover schools.
Mezzina, who completed his freshman year at the University of South Carolina and plans to resume his college studies at UMass-Lowell in the fall, has a ready answer. A month ago, he said, he spoke to Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson.
The superintendent, he said, told him that the job of a School Committee member is “not to be a PhD in education,” but to be a “representative of the public” in making policy. Mezzina said his fairly recent transition from high school senior to college freshman will be an asset to the school board.
“It’s important to have as many perspectives on the School Committee as possible,” he said. During his campaign, Mezzina said he has heard the concerns residents have about the School Committee and local public education.
There’s a perception, he said, that the committee “doesn’t make enough of an active effort to include the public in decision making.” As an example, he mentioned the immense protest from parents several weeks ago when the board was considering adopting standards-based grading, which would have replaced the traditional A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s with numbers.
If there had been more public involvement in that process, he said, the plan probably would have been dropped long before large numbers of parents voiced their objections to the School Committee.
While Mezzina does not have children in the local schools, he has three sisters who are being educated in the system he hopes to help lead. One attends North Andover High School, while two are at North Andover Middle School.
Mezzina is a 2011 graduate of Austin Preparatory School. He attended Covenant Christian Academy in Peabody during his middle school years. Before that, he was home-schooled.
“I think it was a good thing for me in my younger years,” he said of his early education, which was provided largely by his mother, Alexandra Mezzina. He strongly supports the right of a parent to educate his or her children at home rather than sending them to school, he said.
“Each parent knows what’s best for their kids,” he added.
Despite his youth, Mezzina is no stranger to campaigning for office. Last summer, he worked on former School Committee member Karin Rhoton’s effort to win a seat in the state House of Representatives. Rhoton, a Republican, lost in the general election to Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen.
Public service is not the only thing for which Mezzina has a passion. He also loves baseball, both as a player and as a fan. He played youth baseball in North Andover for many years and was a pitcher for Austin Prep.
He could throw as fast as 85 mph, he said.
Mezzina began working in customer service at Olympia Sports in Methuen a couple of months ago. He has also worked in the dairy department at Market Basket in North Andover and at Richardson’s Ice Cream in Middleton.
With signs for both Mezzina and Warren appearing throughout the town, Mezzina described the campaign as “competitive but not nasty.”