School Committee Pulls Second Whittier Tech Seat Off Agenda; City Lawyer Said to Have Found Errors

Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. (Jay Saulnier photograph for WHAV News)

Click image above for Haverhill School Committee agenda.

The Haverhill School Committee is revisiting plans to fill, what were first described as, two available seats on the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School Committee.

While the existing appointment of Richard P. Early Jr. expires at the end of the month, a new policy that declared a vacancy in the seat now held by Scott W. Wood Jr. is now being reconsidered. Behind the concern, officials said, is a ruling by City Solicitor Lisa L. Mead that the Whittier Tech policy and eight others should have been heard and voted upon separately under the state’s Open Meeting Law.

In light of the decision, the full School Committee will interview six candidates at its regular meeting Thursday night only for the seat held by Early. The agenda now lists candidates as Paul A. Bergman, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, Early, Debbie Gangi, Jeff LeBlanc and Warren Seitz. Members cited Early’s March 31 appointment expiration date as reason for moving ahead without waiting for resolution of the updated policy. However, according to the 1967 Whittier Tech agreement, “All members shall serve until their successors are appointed and qualified,” taking away the urgency and meaning Early can continue serving in the interim.

Meanwhile, the Haverhill School Committee’s Policy Committee, which first recommended the recent change Feb. 29, placed the matter on its agenda for tonight.

“I’m going to let the entire Policy subcommittee know that the city solicitor is going to look at it,” subcommittee Chair Richard J. Rosa told WHAV Tuesday.

The revised policy declares, “If a Haverhill School Committee member is appointed to the Whittier Tech School Committee and chooses not to run for reelection or is not reelected before the end of their three-year term the position shall be considered vacated, and the appointee must reapply to the Haverhill School Committee if they want to finish their term on the Whittier Tech School Committee.”

Talking with WHAV, Mayor Melinda E. Barrett’s Chief of Staff Christine Lindberg emphasized the availability of only one seat, at first not acknowledging a city-issued flyer headlined, “Announcement of Vacancy Haverhill Representatives to the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School School Committee,” whose first paragraph reads, “The Haverhill School Committee is seeking applicants for the city’s two (2) representatives to the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School – School Committee.”

Lindberg went on to confirm Mead ruled each School Committee policy must be listed separately on the board’s agenda. “Anything they posted previously or any votes they took on policies, etc. previously would be null and void because it wasn’t posted appropriately,” Lindberg said. She declined to allow WHAV to talk directly with Mead, citing “lawyer-client privilege.”

WHAV expressed its objection to being prevented from communicating with Mead, citing public policy and use of taxpayer money as being outside the bounds of “lawyer-client privilege.” WHAV separately emailed Mead.

Some committee members also noted Wood emailed the Committee saying he believes his existing appointment expires in two years.

Early, who has held the seat for 24 years, is expected to ask School Committee members Thursday to reappoint him. He was first appointed by former Haverhill Mayor James A. Rurak Oct. 26, 2000, following the death of member Joseph Cox., and reappointed since.

Wood served until the end of last year as a Haverhill School Committee member.

The founding agreement among the Whittier Tech communities does not define what constitutes a vacancy, saying only, “If a vacancy occurs among the members of the Committee at any time, the local school committee of the member municipality concerned shall appoint a member to serve for the balance of the unexpired term.”

As for any question about whether a sitting community School Committee member may serve on the Whittier Tech board, the 1967 agreement notes, “The member or members of the Committee from each city and town shall be appointed by the local school committee of each respective city or town, and such members may be but need not be members of such local school committee.”

Comments are closed.