Sasso-Flanagan, Edwards Possible Contenders for School Committee

Former Northern Essex Community College Trustee Chairman Joseph C. Edwards and former Haverhill High Classical Academy Dean Deborah Sasso-Flanagan.

Haverhill School Commiteeman and Councilor-Elect Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

Haverhill School Commiteeman and Councilor-Elect Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

Haverhill’s municipal elections may have taken place last week, but another contest is taking shape with possibly two more contenders for the school committee seat currently held by Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

Separate efforts seek to draft former Haverhill High Classical Academy Dean Deborah Sasso-Flanagan and former Northern Essex Community College Trustee Chairman Joseph C. Edwards. School Committee members Shaun P. Toohey, who recently lost his bid for re-election, and Susan D. Danehy, who chose not to run again, have also expressed interest in taking the seat if Bevilacqua resigns in January. Bevilacqua, who won election to the city council, is not required to give up the school position, but state law requires he be paid only one of the roughly equal salaries.

Sasso-Flanagan told WHAV Thursday she was approached by several people and is “pretty honored and very flattered” about the interest.

“I’ve been in the school system for 33 years. I recently retired so I have some time to devote to something of this nature. And I’m very interested in continuing to serve the students of Haverhill and the community,” she said.

Sasso-Flanagan, who started her career in Haverhill at the Tilton Elementary School, said the top issues facing the school district include increasing test scores and overhauling special education spending.

“We have a huge special ed population. I think it needs an overhaul. I know we have a new interim special ed director, I look forward to working with him or whoever becomes the special ed person to really overhaul that budget and that whole program,” she said.

She also believes more effort is needed in educating students against opioid and other substance abuse.

“I think it needs to start young and that the whole community needs to be educated and I think the school committee, along with city council and other entities, can work together to make the public more aware,” Sasso-Flanagan said. I think it’s a huge problem and it has not been addressed.”

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

Edwards also has garnered the attention of at least one school committee member who will play a role in filling any vacancies. Edwards was the first alumni-elected trustee of Northern Essex Community College to be elected by his peers to serve as chairman. He was a college trustee between 2003 and 2013, becoming chairman in 2008. Edwards also served as chairman of the board of Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute for 14 years until its merger last year with North Shore Technical High School. He is also chairman of the Haverhill License Commission, where he has served 15 years—seven as chairman.

“I would be honored to serve the city,” Edwards said when reached at home Wednesday night. “I have a wealth of experience and believe that I am an advocate of teachers and the administration with a goal of enhancing the level of learning of our students.”

Last week, Danehy said she would be interested in a two-year appointment to the school committee to see the completion of the Hunking School project “to the end.” She is the current committee representative and voting member on the Hunking School Building Committee.

Haverhill School Committeewoman Susan D. Danehy.

Haverhill School Committeewoman Susan D. Danehy.

“In terms of fairness, for this particular cycle, it was just a matter of looking at it for four years down the road and I just didn’t feel like I could devote the kind of time I wanted to, four years, but certainly two years was doable,” Danehy said.

Bevilacqua originally said he would step down from the committee if he won a city council seat. Last week, however, he said, “People have asked me and called me to reconsider that decision. I pretty much know what I am going to do in January, but at this point in time it’s just something that, for some reason, is generating an awful lot of interest in. But I have in my mind my decision made and I’ll voice that in January,” Bevilacqua said.

The city council and school committee are jointly responsible for filling vacancies on the committee. City councilors have most often selected the next highest vote getter in the race. If tradition continues, Toohey is next in line.

2 thoughts on “Sasso-Flanagan, Edwards Possible Contenders for School Committee

  1. I bet Mayor Jimmy and Brian “The Thief” Dempsey would LOVE to see Edwards grab this seat. After all, according to OCPF, he’s a full fledged pay-to-play player in the local political circuit. Brian and Jimmy are almost split on the $2,800 out of nearly $10K Edwards has donated.