EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 14, 2013

Sister of committee member hired over more experienced candidates

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The School Committee vice chairman’s younger sister was hired last year as a high school teacher in August over other candidates with a higher level of education and more experience, according to School Department records.

Stephanie Chaisson, 23, a 2012 graduate of St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and a 2008 Methuen High honors AP graduate, was hired as a high school social studies teacher months after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history.

One other candidate for the job has master’s degree in education from the UMass-Lowell and three years combined of full-time experience teaching high school social studies at Methuen and Nashua, N.H.. Another candidate had a master’s degree, also from UMass-Lowell, and six months of full-time high school teaching experience.

Chaisson’s brother, Evan, is vice chairman of the School Committee. He is a former employee of The Eagle-Tribune, where he worked in the circulation department.

Evan Chaisson did not return a voice message seeking comment.

“Stephanie Chaisson was hired as a teacher because, based upon the unanimous viewpoint of all who were involved, she was the best candidate,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. “Yes, she is the sister of School Committee member Evan Chaisson, but this had absolutely nothing to do with this decision. Mr. Chaisson played no role whatsoever in the process, and his School Committee position did not impact this decision in any way. Moreover, Ms. Chaisson’s performance since being hired has been exemplary.”

High School Principal James Giuca did not respond to two emails seeking comment and asking what qualities led him to recommend Stephanie Chaisson over the other candidates. Stephanie Chaisson did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Chaisson was first hired as a day-to-day substitute teacher in December 2011 while completing her degree at St. Anselm, according to School Department records. Last summer she applied for two social studies positions at Methuen High School. She filled the first one in August, starting at $40,507 per year.

Meghann Jackson, 38, was hired in September for the other open social studies teaching position at a master’s degree salary of $47,676.

Two of the three candidates who were not hired possessed master’s degrees. Peter Udstuen, a 2003 graduate of Bellingham High School, earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UMass-Lowell in 2008 with a 3.7 grade point average, according to his resume.

He worked as a student teacher in the Methuen High School social studies department from January 2008 to May 2008, then full time as a social studies teacher at Methuen High from September 2008 to June 2010, when he was laid off for budget reasons, according to his application packet.

When he left Methuen High, he had not reached the three-year threshold for professional status, which would have given him so-called “recall rights” for rehire, Scannell said.

Udstuen also taught social studies full time at Nashua North High School in a one-year position that lasted until June 2012.

His references included the Nashua North High School principal and a Methuen High assistant principal and social studies department head.

Glen Gallagher, a 2005 Lowell High School graduate who also was passed over, completed a master’s degree in education from UMass-Lowell in 2012 with a 3.5 GPA and taught history as a full-time substitute in two six-month stints at Lowell High School in 2010 and 2012, according to his application packet. He also taught at Reading High School as a student teacher for six months.

A fourth candidate for the position, Lindsay Pappas, graduated from UMass-Lowell with a bachelors in history with honors and a 3.51 GPA in 2011, and from Methuen High School in 2007. She was hired as a K-8 program assistant at Timony Grammar School in September for $15,901.

Udstuen, Gallagher and Pappas did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Chaisson graduated from St. Anselm with a bachelors in history in 2012, though she did not include her GPA in her applications. She worked as a substitute teacher in Methuen schools from December 2011 until the fall of 2012, and as a student teacher at West High School in Manchester, N.H., in fall 2011 and spring 2012.

As references, she listed the Methuen High School athletic director, two teachers from Manchester West High School and education and athletic officials at St. Anselm.

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