Haverhill School Committee Hears Members’ Complaints About Building Maintenance

Facilities Supervisor Heather Forgione, right, makes a point as Haverhill parent Paige Caswell looks on at a 2019 meeting. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The issue of school maintenance, or the lack thereof, was once again a hot button topic at last Thursday’s School Committee meeting.

School Committee Member Toni Sapienza-Donais expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Haverhill Schools’ Maintenance Department.

“From the very start, I did not get a response from the supervisor of facilities. In fact, she never responded to any of my calls. As a taxpayer and a school committee member, I think it is my moral obligation to let taxpayers know how their money is being spent,” she said.

Donais then cited a number of specifics, including bricks falling off the wall at Silver Hill School, despite being brought to the attention of the Maintenance Department more than a year ago. She also cited painting not being kept up and an outside electrical firm being hired to change light bulbs even though there are one or two electricians on the maintenance staff.

“I think we need better communication and more transparency in a department that has many skilled and licensed professionals and we need a plan to utilize them to their fullest potential rather than using taxpayer’s money to have work done privately,” Donais added.

She also made the accusation that maintenance workers have only been given one homemade mask to wear during this COVID-19 crisis. That allegation was disputed by School Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

“Each of our employees that have a uniform, which includes the custodians, were offered to be provided five masks. All of our employees are to use masks at all times during the school day unless they are able to very safely social distance and not be around other employees. That has been put in writing,” she said.

Committee Member Scott W. Wood Jr. also reiterated his longtime dissatisfaction with the leadership of the maintenance department, whose work is so visible to the public. “This is a department that needs to be run well. Things need to be fine-tuned. That’s how people judge us,” he said.

Others discussed a lack of preventive maintenance being accomplished.

In the end, Marotta told the School Committee members that she heard their concerns and promised to look into many of the issues and get back to members with some planned remedies.

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