By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — Local political leader Bryan Sweet announced yesterday he plans to make a run at a School Committee that will see at leas half of its members change after the November election.
Sweet joins parent Jeri-an Batal as the two non-incumbents who have declared their candidacies, while former committee member Robert Vogler has said he is leaning strongly toward running for a two-year term.
“The number one far and way topic is the high school,” Sweet said. “That’s what everybody seems to be concerned with right now, which is fantastic to think so many people are interested.”
Sweet is chairman of the Methuen Democratic City Committee and a member of the Building Committee overseeing the $98 million high school renovation project. He manages grants and contracts for Massachusetts General Hospital.
The high school project is so important because he said the new building could be “life changing” for the kids. “Just putting walls on the classrooms will make a world of difference for the students,” he said.
Sweet pointed to his work chasing grants and managing budgets and contracts for Mass. General and to his work on the Building Committee as top qualifications for dealing with school budget issues.
“We’re going to have to figure out ways to continue to be a successful school district with the amount of funding we have as we move forward with an academic plan and the changes at the high school, moving classes further into the 21st century,” he said. “We have to figure all that out, how to do that with the same amount of funding.”
Batal, who ran unsuccessfully for the committee in 2009 and 2011, said she wanted to ensure the schools and classrooms had enough funding, and that special needs programs are robust.
“My reasons are the same, for the kids,” she said. “We need to go back to basic elementary education, and all the special needs departments need everything they’re not getting. I don’t think any child should be left without services.”
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.
Also a member of the Building Committee, Vogler has said he wants to be part of the completion of the high school project and the implementation of a new technology-based curriculum.
Committee member Deborah Quinn said in March that she did not plan to run for a second term this year, saying the committee could use fresh blood.
Mark Graziano, another freshman committee member, is still undecided about whether to run for reelection. He said in February his personal commitments, including pursuing a second master’s degree while working as director of finance and operations of The Pike School in Andover with 2-year-old twins, as the reason for his hesitation.
Lynne Hajjar Kumm, who is in her first term, said she is definitely running for a second term, and Mary Jean Fawcett, also in her first term, is “99 percent sure” she will run for reelection.
Three vacancies — Quinn and the term-limited Evan Chaisson and Barbara Grondine — 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 a second sweeping change in the committee in as many elections.
Four new candidates took office in January 2012 when 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.
Nomination papers will be available 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. The mayor sits as chairman of the committee.
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