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Marblehead School Committee to hold annual reorganizational meeting amidst controversy

Posted by Terri Ogan  May 16, 2013 10:30 AM

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Members of the Marblehead School Committee are electing a new slate of officers tonight at their annual reorganizational meeting.

At tonight's meeting, the five members of the board are scheduled to elect a new chairperson, vice chairperson, and secretary.

According to policy, the reorganizational meeting always follows the district's annual town election, which occurred this past Monday.

Results from the town election have brought a new face to the controversial committee, which has been experiencing turmoil and strife over the past several months.

Meredith Tedford, 41, will attend her first meeting as a member of the board, and is looking forward to closing the book on the past and starting new.

"I'm going into the meeting as hopeful as possible and will focus on what's important, which is our kids and the school district," Tedford said. "I want to be as positive as I can and hopefully create some stability there."

According to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, nominations for all three positions will be made from the floor. The chairperson will be elected by a majority roll-call vote of the members present and voting. The newly elected chairperson will then call for the election of a vice chairperson and secretary.

The reorganization comes at an opportune time, as former School Committee chair EuRim Chun left her post as chair at the May 2 meeting after getting fed up with the bedlam that had ensued.

"I wasn't going to protest because it was ridiculous and embarrassing for everybody," Chun said. "It was clear the antics were getting out of hand."

The meeting started off on a high note, as members were applauding each other for accomplishing goals they had made earlier in the year.

Things took a shocking turn for the worse after Superintendent Greg Maass asked School Committee secretary Richard Nohelty, who has a year left on his term, if he would resign as he had announced was his intention April 4.

"This is inappropriate to attack elected officials that supervise you in this kind of forum and I'd like this conversation to end," said former School Committee vice chair Jonathan Lederman at the May 2 meeting.

In her attempt to control the meeting, Chun took full advantage of the gavel, trying to hold the floor for Maass to speak, but was unsuccessful in doing so.

Nohelty, who also serves on the Glover School Building Committee, called a motion to recess, which was seconded by Lederman. The two men walked out of the room, accompanied by committee member Tom Connolly.

A member of the audience called out the word "shameful," as all three men departed.

Maass once again took the floor, reading an e-mail that Nohelty sent to him, along with the Glover School Building Committee, in which Nohelty wrote he planned to resign on June 30.

When Connolly, Lederman and Nohelty returned, more arguing erupted. Chun gave up the gavel asking her fellow committee members to “remove me as the chair, please.”

Nohelty made the motion to remove Chun from her position, seconded by Connolly and Lederman, who took her place.

"This is an embarrassment, frankly," said Marblehead resident Steve Maxwell, who approached the table to speak. "How in the world can you let this happen to something that is as important to this town as the school system that educates our kids? The behavior that you guys show here as a group is like a bunch of kindergarteners that can't get along … This is shameful."

Several more residents spoke up regarding the behavior of the School Committee, including two Marblehead High School seniors who were watching the meeting on TV, and decided to show up and address the committee.

"It's ridiculous you're sitting up there bickering," said high school senior Harry Bond. "You should be getting stuff done."

The controversial meeting on May 2 is one of many that have entailed arguing and disagreements, most of which were sparked by the resignation of Maass March 21.

The superintendent, who has served for two years, announced his departure at a School Committee meeting, stating that tension among committee members and personal reasons fueled his resignation. He had one year left in his contract.

The question of Maass's replacement is now on the table, along with the future of current School Committee members.

But despite recent strife, some members believe that a fresh face on the board is a positive first step for the committee and the district.

"You can't really do any work when you're involved with all sorts of emotional … I don't even know what you could call it," said School Committee Member Kathy Leonardson. "I don't want to operate like that anymore. It's always exciting and refreshing to have someone with new ideas. It changes the dynamic."

Although Chun has just over a month to serve as a member of the committee, she's looking forward to starting over for the short time she has left.

"We live in a great community and to have someone that is going to be a fresh perspective and the desire to do what's best for our kids and be a team player is very exciting," Chun said. "It's a great new day and I would love for the board to continue to get cleaned up so the community has a fresh clean start."

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