School Committee Gets 2-Week Reprieve on Selection of New Leader

Richard Rosa

New School Committee member Richard Rosa Thursday night pitched a couple of ideas for selecting a board president or vice chairman that he said would remove divisiveness and politics from the process.

The committee normally reorganizes its leadership during its first meeting of the new year, but postponed the vote until the next meeting because Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the committee’s chairman, did not attend.

Rosa stressed that the dissension that sometimes accompanies the choice is unwarranted.

“There’s a lot to do about nothing when it comes to the position of president or vice president or vice chairman or whatever,” Rosa said. “The president has no more power than any other member of the committee.”

He gave his colleagues options to consider before they make a decision in two weeks.

One is to follow the example of the City Council, which essentially lets the voters choose by elevating the top vote-getter to the position of council president and the second-highest vote-getter to vice president. The pattern is followed most years, but is not a hard and fast rule.

Unlike the council, all the members of which serve one-year terms, the School Committee’s terms are staggered. That would create a situation in which the committee president would never be running for re-election at the same time.

The other is to select a vice chairman rather than a president and vice president.

Rosa said his research has shown that Haverhill is the only city that selects a president to preside over meetings when the mayor, who is the committee’s chairman, is unavailable.

The mayor is the only member of the School Committee who can make decisions or delegate limited authority to another member, usually the president.

In fact, both the city charter and state law call for the School Committee to select a vice chairman under the supervision of the mayor.

For the last several years, committee members have selected a president and vice president, elevating the previous year’s vice president and choosing a new vice president, who was expected to be next in line.

Rosa called the practice removing politics from who becomes president and shifting it to who becomes vice president. If the vote went according to this pattern, current committee Vice President Scott W. Wood Jr. would be selected president and members would nominate a candidate or candidates for vice president.

Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti, the top vote-getter in November’s election, said he believes every member should be given the opportunity to serve in a leadership position, and said he would support Sven Amirian (pictured) as the committee’s next president.

Amirian, who lost the vote to become vice president last year to Wood, said he agrees that everyone should be able to serve, and suggested a rotation that allows each member to serve as president before any member would repeat in the position.