Committee Chooses Toohey for School Committee By Single Vote

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey Tuesday night took the oath of office, as administered by City Clerk Linda L. Koutoulas.

By the thinnest of possible margins—one vote—Shaun P. Toohey was appointed to a seat on the Haverhill School Committee Tuesday night.

After an 8 to 7 vote of a special committee of the mayor, city council and remaining members of the school committee, Toohey took the oath of office, as administered by City Clerk Linda L. Koutoulas.

“I really want to say thank you to everyone, even the individuals that didn’t support me. I’ll do my very best to earn your trust and support over the next couple of years and I still appreciate your consideration and thank you to all my supporters for showing up here this evening. Thank you so much,” said Toohey.

As behind-the-scenes maneuvers suggested, only Toohey and former School Committeeman Raymond J. Sierpina received nominations. Toohey was nominated by Councilor William J. Macek and seconded by Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, while Sierpina was nominated by Councilor Melinda E. Barrett and seconded by School Committeewoman Gail M. Sullivan.

Unlike last week’s meeting to set the rules for filling the vacancy, both sides honored Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s stern warning before debate began.

“I am not going to allow any personal attacks of any type. They’ll be ruled out of order immediately,” the mayor said, adding he would also not allow any motions to disqualify anyone from voting. He explained he has no authority to disqualify anyone. Acknowledging side debates taking place on social media, as WHAV reported this week, Fiorentini asked “everyone here cool it just a bit.”

Former School Committeman Raymond J. Sierpina addresses the special committee.

Former School Committeman Raymond J. Sierpina addresses the special committee.

In nominating Sierpina, Barrett cited the former principal’s experience and a state report showing weaknesses at Haverhill High School.

“The need for a man with his experience is clear. The high school is in the ninth percentile of performance in the state. I find that both alarming and unacceptable,” She said, adding the high school’s dropout rate is comparable to Lawrence.

Macek, in nominating Toohey, said he chose a path that is “non-political and historically appropriate.”

“My nomination of Shaun Toohey is based on a long-time tradition, process and procedure in filling vacancies on both the city council and school committee in Haverhill,” said Macek. He added Toohey is the “most qualified” with 12 years on the school committee and five years on the board of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

In accepting his nomination, Sierpina said he served on the school committee for four years and as a teacher and principal for 37 years.

“I’m here not to campaign for myself, but to offer you my knowledge, work ethic and fairness of temperament toward making the school committee a governmental body focused on the school system, students, personnel and taxpayers,” he said.

Besides his 12 years on the school committee and five at Whittier, Toohey noted, he served as president of the school committee twice, in 2010 and 2014 and resolved an “eroding relationship” with the vocational high school.

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey explains his qualifications.

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey explains his qualifications.

“I feel I have the ability to put politics aside and bring people together regardless of political ideology,” he said. “Are we going to tell the 3,500 people that voted for me that their vote doesn’t count? I certainly hope not,” Toohey concluded.

Supporting Toohey, in order of vote, were Fiorentini, City Councilors Michael S. McGonagle, Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, Sullivan, Macek and school committee members Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello and Scott W. Wood Jr.

Voting for Sierpina were Councilors Barrett, Andy Vargas, Colin F. LePage, council President John A. Michitson and school committee members Sven A. Amirian, Gail M. Sullivan and Paul A. Magliocchetti.

Following the vote, Michitson explained his apparent change of mind in supporting Sierpina by saying,“Tilton and Haverhill High are in crisis mode,” adding “Tilton students are worse than 99 percent of other elementary schools in Massachusetts” and Haverhill High as any school in “the bottom 20 percent are considered the lowest-performing, least improving in the state.”

LePage called the vote “the hardest decision that I have had to make as an elected official to date.” He said the school committee’s recent decision to fund only one middle school health teacher, budget overruns “requiring city bailouts” in two of the last three years and the high school’s low level performance influenced his support of Sierpina.

Neither Michitson nor LePage explained why they believe Toohey is responsible for problems facing the mayor and all other members of the school committee.

One audience member who declined to give his name said there is widespread belief among Toohey supporters the civic group Team Haverhill leaned on elected officials to support Sierpina. Reached at home Tuesday night Team Haverhill President Alice B. Mann responded, “Absolutely not.”

“Team Haverhill is one of the most transparent organizations in Haverhill. When we do something we put on our name on it,” Mann said. She said individual Team Haverhill members have are “active citizens” with opinions “just like Rotarians and everyone else.”

11 thoughts on “Committee Chooses Toohey for School Committee By Single Vote

  1. The process was hijacked by Paul Maggliochetti. I hope every voter know he believes that he knows better than the voter and we as voters shouldn’t have a choice. King Maggliochetti should. What we get for electING a bad attorney to the school committee.

  2. Here’s copy of my letter to the editor of Eagle Tribune: By what authority did Haverhill City Council (CC) and Haverhill School Committee convene a Committee to select a replacement for a vacated seat on SC from candidates who did not run in the SC race last year? By what authority did they feel they had the power to bypass the democratic process? The democratic process requires an election by popular vote. The only candidates from which to select a replacement for the empty seat are from the pool of candidates who got the requisite number of signatures to run a campaign and submitted those to the City Clerk. Only that pool of people who then spent the time and money to run a campaign last year are qualified to be elected, not selected. The person who received the highest number of votes is the only person eligible to fill the seat. That person is Mr. Toohey. The democratic process was hijacked and I am appalled that members of the SC and CC believe they have the authority to bypass the guidelines in the City Charter for electing a SC member. An orderly process is outlined in the City Charter for electing SC members by popular vote. There was such a vote and those votes have been counted. The people have spoken. That is final! Fortunately, Mr Toohey was elected by this oligarchical abuse of power. If he had not, I hope Mr. Toohey would have sought a judgment in a court of law.

  3. Thank God Sierpina didn’t get elected.
    People have been touting his “experience” as a qualification for the seat. What experience is that? People in this city have such short memories. It was Ray Sierpina who in the spring of 2010 fought to defeat a proposal in the city to privatize custodial services throughout city schools. The privatization would have saved the city $650,000.00 PER YEAR without one janitor losing their job. But Ray worked to defeat the proposal because they were UNION janitors. Doesn’t anyone remember this? At the meeting where this came to a vote it got so nasty with the help of Ray that the janitors in attendance followed the members of the private custodial company out into the parking lot threatening them to the point where the police had to be called. And here the city is six years later without the almost $4MILLION in savings that could have been attained had the proposal passed. But it didn’t….because of Ray Sierpina.

    And doesn’t anyone remember 5-6 years ago when the school budgets were so tight that teacher layoffs were up for discussion? It was proposed that either teachers get laid off, or that no teachers get laid off with them working an unpaid day or two. But Ray did everything he could to support this UNION too. When Ray was asked if teachers working an unpaid day or two to avoid layoffs was a good solution he responded…”No, teachers do without already”. What he meant was that teachers had to cover for other teachers who were out sick, teachers working lunch duty, and other duties they were being called on to do without receiving additional compensation. When Ray was on the school committee his objective was to protect the interests of the city union workers instead of what was right for the taxpayers of the city. He was a quid pro quo committee member that we now know has cost taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars. The city is broke enough without having him in office….

  4. Toohey ran for the office. He was the next highest vote getter. The office should go to him. No committee should take the place of the popular election process.

    • That is not correct Dan. Bevilaqua was re-elected LAST year. Not all the seats are up at the same time. So during THAT election, Toohey WAS NOT running. Serpina WAS ! So that is why some councilors chose Serpina as well. Your argument is not valid. I thought the same as you did but found out Toohey was not up for election last year so he had no right to the seat. Serpina does using your argument.

      • Hi Jack. Thanks for your insights. But… Joe vacated the seat this year and Shawn did run this year. He had the next highest number of votes this year. So, seat goes to Shawn, imo.

  5. The reason other councilors supported Serpina is because he was an actual educator, having to fight the battle having no control. Not just an elected or appointed politician. Toohey touts all his experience on the school committee. Ok How are the schools doing again ??