School Committee Elects President, Defeats Plan to End VP

Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello was elected president of the Haverhill School Committee Thursday night.

Tension was evident Thursday night as a new Haverhill School Committee president was elected and a plan to abolish the office of vice president was defeated.

In the committee’s second attempt in two meetings, Committeewoman Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello was elected committee president Thursday night by one vote over fellow nominee and first-term Committeewoman Gail M. Sullivan. Mayor and committee Chairman James J. Fiorentini cast the tie-breaking vote. Ryan-Ciardiello acknowledged the divide of support on the committee and told her colleagues she hoped to “do the job well enough” to please those who didn’t vote for her.

“I’m looking to working well as a committee, not teams, not being separated or divided. I’m hoping that we can become one. We are the Haverhill School Committee. We will have our differences. We will agree to disagree. There are lot of issues coming up this year and I just hope we can put politics aside and put the children and our schools first,” Ryan-Ciardiello said.

Excluding Fiorentini, who was absent from the previous meeting, votes by the other six committee members during a suspension of the rules were unchanged. Ryan-Ciardello voted for herself and received backing from Committeemen Shaun P. Toohey and Scott W. Wood Jr., outgoing president. Sullivan also voted for herself and was supported by Committeemen Paul A. Magliocchetti and Sven A. Amirian.

However, Sullivan was elected vice-president in a 5 to 0 vote after becoming the lone nominee on a motion by Fiorentini and second by Magliocchetti. That matter was tabled two weeks ago when a president could not be elected by majority. Outgoing President Wood and Committeeman Toohey abstained after an earlier motion by Wood to eliminate the vice presidency failed by a 4 to 3 vote. Wood said that position was created several years ago “as a bone” after he lost an earlier bid for committee president. He contended the office of committee vice president was “symbolic” and with the posts of chairman and president there was “no real role for a vice president.”

“We have a chair, so we operate a little differently than many committees. So the mayor is a chair and we also have a president and a vice president. The vice president really, under our policy, is a symbolic figure and it doesn’t really have that much of a role,” Wood said. “The president is basically the vice president in our old operations.”

But Fiorentini voiced support for keeping the vice presidency in the event a future mayor is less involved with the committee. He said there was a history of past mayors who infrequently presided as chairman.

“Two previous mayors under our strong mayor form of government…basically never attended meetings at all. One took the position it was improper, never came to a single meeting, not one. And the other, to my knowledge, didn’t attend any, or maybe one or two. Under those circumstances you actually need a vice president because the president isn’t going to be here 100 percent of the time either,” Fiorentini said.

Prior to her nomination for vice president, Sullivan called Wood’s motion “wildly inappropriate on the evening of a vote.”