EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 9, 2013

Eleven enter race for School Committee

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The list of potential School Committee candidates has expanded to nearly a dozen, with a former principal, the husband of a current member and two men in their 20s jumping into the mix.

Eleven candidates have pulled nomination papers for the six School Committee seats up for election Nov. 5. Three are incumbents, though one was just appointed to fill out the remainder of a former member’s term.

A few familiar names decided to run. Dennis “D.J.” Deeb, 36, who ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for the Greater Lawrence Technical School board, is gathering signatures. Deeb, who moved to Methuen in 2011 and had served on the Dracut School Committee and the Greater Lowell Technical School board, said he wants the school district to improve its graduation rate and implement a capital improvement plan.

“We’re trying to keep the tax rate low. We can’t keep going to the taxpayers asking for increases when we have capital improvement needs,” he said. “We need to develop a long term plan.”

He suggested creating and expanding summer programs to boost graduation and applauded the high school’s Advanced Placement course offering.

Richard Beshara, 59, just stepped down as supervising principal of Marsh Grammar School and had no intention of fading into retirement. He said in an interview in April and in another yesterday that he wanted to stay involved in Methuen Public Schools.

“I’ll have more time, now that I’m at retired and not working full time, to put into the position,” he said. “I’ve proven myself as a leader of Marsh Grammar School.”

Beshara, a Methuen native who graduated from Tenney High School in 1971, said he is “not running against anybody” and wanted to focus on the budget and make sure the schools follow through on new initiatives like student deans and literacy tutors.

“I’m excited about initiatives like that and want them to keep going,” he said. “I think we can be better than we are and I want to make sure we’re going in the right direction. We can get done things we need to get done without cutting other things too.”

Thomas Grondine, 73, a current Greater Lawrence Tech board member and husband of School Committee member Barbara Grondine, and contractor Richard Philbrick, 45, took out nomination papers.

Several recent graduates also are considering a run. Kevin LeBourdais, 22, graduated from Methuen High in 2009 and the University of Massachusetts Lowell in May. Jonathan Trunfio, 23, graduated from Methuen in 2008 and from Suffolk University in 2012.

Grondine, Philbrick and Trunfio did not return messages seeking comment. LeBourdais could not be reached.

A number of people who pulled papers had already announced their intention to run, including Building Committee and Democratic City Committee chairman Bryan Sweet, parent Jeri-an Batal and incumbents Mary Jean Fawcett, Lynne Hajjar Kumm and Robert Vogler.

Two members, Grondine and Evan Chaisson, are barred from running again because they each are serving their third consecutive term. Deborah Quinn decided not to run for another term, though she is eligible.

Vogler, a longtime School Committee member, is eligible because he did not serve a full term, being appointed only in May after Mark Graziano resigned.

Nomination papers have been available since May 29 at the city clerk’s office at City Hall. The last day to pull papers is July 26, and they are due July 30.

The general election is Nov. 5.

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