Donais Declines Walnut Square Role to Devote Full Energy to School Committee Run

Haverhill School Committee member Toni Sapienza-Donais filing in 2019. (Courtesy photograph.)

Two weeks after being named the principal at Walnut Square School as part of Haverhill Public Schools’ new “rightsizing” plan, city educator Toni Donais has decided to give up that new role in order to devote her energy full-time to a run for a School Committee seat, she tells WHAV exclusively.

“After 40 years in education, I just feel like I’ve walked the walk and I’m very excited to be on the other side and get into the policies and hopefully make a difference on the School Committee,” she said.

Donais realizes she’d have to sit out votes for teacher salary-related talks and other issues given the fact that her daughter, Jennifer Donais, is a math coach at Silver Hill School, but tells WHAV such ideas are still key components to her campaign platform.

“I see in the school district that we need to make improvements: Everything from the class sizes to professional development to infrastructure,” Donais told WHAV. “We have some beautiful buildings and we have to have a solid plan for how we’re maintaining them.”

Donais, who pulled papers to run late last month, joins fellow newcomers Patricia McDonald and Melissa Lewandowski along with incumbents Scott W. Wood Jr., Gail M. Sullivan and Sven A. Amirian, along with fellow newcomer economist Thomas Grannemann, in the ballot bid.

All candidates who take out papers with the Haverhill City Clerk’s office have until July 23 to return 50 certified signatures in order to appear on the ballot. A preliminary election will take place in September to narrow the field before November’s election.

Leadership of several Haverhill Schools, including Walnut Square, is shifting in the fall, as Superintendent Margaret Marotta implements a plan to ease classroom overcrowding. Among the biggest changes, Pentucket Lake School Principal Dianne Connolly left the school for a new central office job as director of multi-tiered systems of support. She will be succeeded by current Walnut Square Principal Maureen Gray.

Greeleaf, a school whose kindergarten was previously supervised by Donais, will be repurposed as the Haverhill Alternative School, among other changes.

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