Candidates Note Pressure to Name A Runner-Up, Endorse Sierpina

Haverhill School Committeewoman Susan D. Danehy.

Former Haverhill School Committeewoman Susan D. Danehy.

Three contenders for a vacant seat on the Haverhill School Committee have offered varying levels of endorsement to former School Committeeman Raymond J. Sierpina, who lost re-election in 2013.

Former School Committeewoman Susan D. Danehy, who chose not to seek re-election last fall; Deborah A Sasso-Flanagan, recently retired Haverhill High Classical Academy dean; and Dr. Kimberly A Waligora, Northern Essex Community College science professor, in separate letters and emails to elected officials. All indicated their continuing interest in being named, but acknowledged pressure from unnamed elected officials to appoint a runner-up from a previous election. A decision is expected tonight during a 6 p.m. city hall meeting.

“So, while I am still very interested in being considered for the open seat, I want you to know I support and encourage you to consider Ray Sierpina’s candidacy should you move to appoint the fourth place finisher in the actual election in which Joe participated,” Danehy wrote in an email addressed only to city councilors. “This gentleman is passionate about education, holds everyone accountable for programs implemented and has lived the values and mission the School Committee has set for education in Haverhill.

Former School Committeeman Raymond J. Sierpina.

Former School Committeeman Raymond J. Sierpina.

Likewise, Sasso-Flangan wrote to Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

“I have been contacted by several committee members and I understand that at this time, with the process in place to fill the vacancy, it would be most difficult for a person who had not run a campaign for the position to be considered a viable candidate, so I will no longer pursue this vacancy,” said Sasso-Flanagan. She did not name the committee members who contacted her. In throwing her support to Sierpina, Sasso-Flangan wrote, “I strongly believe that educators bring expertise to the committee and Ray is a longtime educator with School Committee experience and would be the logical candidate to fill the vacant seat. I have known Ray for many years and he has integrity and a proven record of success.”

Waligora wrote to all elected officials and copied Superintendent James F. Scully and also acknowledged a leaning toward naming a runner up.

“If the committee insists on going with the runner-up to fill the seat, rather than choosing the best of the current applicants, I strongly recommend you appoint Ray Sierpina (the runner-up to Joe Bevilacqua). His teaching and administrative experience, as well as his time on the School committee also make him a reasonable candidate,” said Waligora.

Former School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

Former School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

Three prior school committee vacancies, by tradition, have been filled by naming the next finisher in the “most recent” election, City Clerk Linda L. Koutoulas has said. A 1973 vacancy was filled by a special election that the state now says was improper. Haverhill’s charter requires the mayor and members of the city council and school committee to make the appointment. The fourth place finisher last fall was School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

Toohey received the endorsement of Haverhill License Commission Chairman Joseph C. Edwards, who previously expressed interest in being named to the vacant seat.

“Tradition seems to support the candidacy of Shaun Toohey to fill the vacancy. I have known Mr. Toohey for many years and find that he is qualified and a man of his word. He will serve the city extremely well if he is appointed and I strongly urge you to support his candidacy for the vacancy,” said Edwards, who served formerly as chairman of the Northern Essex Community College board of trustees and chairman of the board of Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute for 14 years.

5 thoughts on “Candidates Note Pressure to Name A Runner-Up, Endorse Sierpina

  1. So does this mean that if Rurak had been appointed Pope or something, and resigned as mayor after the deadline for a special election that Red Slavit would be entitled to be mayor? Why do you trust these people with the keys to the city’s finances and not trust them to vote in the right person for the job .

    Handing a job to a loser to a prescription for disaster and now we have a school board that can’t pick a president (although the position is stupid because the mayor is chairman by law). And why can’t they pick a president? Because the new appointee didn’t have to be picked on qualifications and could just buddy up with his old ineffectual pals.

  2. Shaun Toohey has been voted to serve in the vacated school committee seat. It is obvious the no votes came from politicians that have no true interest in serving the will of the citizens of Haverhill. By voting no they clearly stated that my vote at the polls does not matter to them, they would rather serve themselves by endorsing a friend or individual who will be aligned with their personal and political objectives. I would encourage everyone who voted for Shaun in the last election to not vote for any of those individuals in the next election. My vote counts, I have served this community for over 30 years in various non profit and charitable organizations and I feel as though I have been slapped in the face or spat on by the no voters by not honoring my vote and the several thousand others that obviously do not count to them. I will make it a personal objective to remind the Haverhill voters of that in the next election.The NO’s, Melinda Barrett, Colin LePage, Mitchidson, Vargas,maggotlocketti,Amarion and Gail Sullivan.

    • Just keep in mind Toohey was in fact voted out. Were it not for Beveliqua resigning, Toohey would not be on The Committee. IIRC, past precedence has been that in this sort of instance, that The Mayor, followed such. Now that the issue is done, maybe now would be the time to put in writing how future elections should be handled in order to alleviate any and all political partisanship if an issue like this arises in the future.

      • Duncan, I agree he did not receive the votes to be elected but it should not be left to favoritism or discretion of the council and school committee. had the been an addition seat on the school committee he would have been the one to fill it. Without a special election, the next highest vote getter is the only democratic way to proceed.

      • The solution is simple to completely avoid any such scenario in the future. Make it mandatory that someone can NOT hold two elected offices at the same time, and that if a current sitting elected official is running for a different position they MUST resign their current position before doing so.

        This whole mess is on the egotist Bevilacqua.