With Healey Blessing, Whittier Tech Explores New Building, Shared Campus with Northern Essex

If tentative steps toward a “shared campus” with Northern Essex Community College continue, a new building may be on the horizon of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. The high school and college will “explore ways to create a new, modern facility for Whittier Tech, … increase enrollment capacity at both institutions and make them more affordable. It will also open up new avenues for potential additional funding sources beyond cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley,” according to a press release issued Thursday by Gov. Maura T. Healey’s office. Northern Essex President Lane A. Glenn said the plan would increase collaboration already happening between the two schools, with Whittier Tech Superintendent Maureen Lynch praising the endeavor. To find a path forward, a representative of the governor’s office told WHAV, “we intend to convene legislators and municipal officials” from the 11 communities that send students to Whittier Tech.

With State Budget Underway, MeVa Urges Legislative Committee Not to Cut Regional Transit Money

As state lawmakers work on next year’s budget, Merrimack Valley Transit Authority leaders requested regional transit authorities receive the same amount of money as last year—with a slight boost for inflation—and the Department of Transportation continue administering a $15 million grant program. Administrator and CEO Noah S. Berger, speaking at a meeting of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Ways and Means last week, highlighted how the authority—or MeVa—made its services fare-free for all riders two years ago, an initiative he said they paid for with “Covid relief funds.”

“That has been unabashedly a success,” he said. “Since going fare-free, we have tripled our ridership, and even more importantly, and I think this is a better metric, complaints are down by a third.”

The authority transports 60% more riders than it did before the pandemic, Berger added, “which is unheard of in this industry.”

Chief Communications Officer Niorka Mendez said, “I’m always in the community. I’m talking to our riders. I’m at the senior centers, at schools, and it’s unbelievable the positive impact that our free service has had in our region.”

With the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority usually dominating discussion, he argued the state’s 15 regional transit authorities—of which Merrimack Valley’s is one—are also essential.

Some Councilors Say Ordinance Update May Limit Ability to Consult City Solicitor; Two Disagree

With some expressing worries it would reduce the body’s powers, Haverhill city councilors voted to send a proposed ordinance update on the council’s relationship with the city solicitor to subcommittee last night. Councilors Melissa J. Lewandowski and Shaun P. Toohey voted no on the motion. Lewandowski told WHAV after the meeting most of the subsections to the amendment refer to the authority of the mayor or city council, not exclusively the mayor. “As I read it, it doesn’t abrogate any of our ability to ask for opinions, to get both a verbal opinion or a written opinion, to call upon them on any matter indirectly or directly affecting the city council, to even ask them to appear before different legislative bodies on our behalf,” she said. “It doesn’t give any of that away.”

While Haverhill used to have a local city solicitor, it now employs Assistant City Solicitor Thomas C. Fallon and an outside law firm, Mead, Talerman & Costa, headed by former Newburyport Mayor Lisa L. Mead.

ESPs Decry Working Conditions and Low Pay; School Com’s Rosa Calls Recent Bargaining Productive

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During a panel put on by the Haverhill Education Association last night, Education Support Professionals—or ESPs—said they do not earn enough money to get by, despite working what they called exhausting and chaotic jobs to support the district’s neediest children. After the panelists finished, ESPs in the audience shared stories. “With upwards of 15 kids in a classroom—three and four years old, not potty trained—could you imagine 15 children needing to go to the bathroom 15 different times and you have two people in the room? Your bathroom is in the basement and you are on the third floor,” said Jennifer Ashley, an ESP at Moody Preschool Extension. Parents, educators and a few elected officials filled the AmVets Post 147.

‘You Feel Like, Now You’re Representing a Whole Group:’ Haverhill School Board’s Collins

Recently elected Haverhill School Committee Member Yonnie Collins, the first Black person to join the group, said she has felt welcomed by her colleagues. Member Gail M. Sullivan brought cookies once, and she talked through the expectations of the role with members Richard J. Rosa and Paul A. Magliocchetti while still campaigning. After being sworn in three months ago, she said her particular position can be a lot of pressure. “I’m not just the first Black woman, but I’m the first Black person ever to serve on the Haverhill School Committee. At times, that can be intimidating, and I think, a lot of minorities, when they’re in a space of power, you feel like you’re not just representing yourself, you’re not just representing your family, but now you’re representing a whole group of people,” she said.

Updated: Haverhill School Committee Narrows Whittier Tech Pick, But Finalist Withdraws Over Change

Haverhill School Committee members moved last night to narrow its choices to fill one of two seats on Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, but one of the candidates this morning chose to withdraw, citing in part the abrupt and unannounced change in the selection process. School Committee members decided Jeff LeBlanc and incumbent Richard P. Early Jr. would go before the Haverhill School Committee at its next meeting even though the Committee originally described an “anticipated selection date” of March 28. In an email to Mayor Melinda E. Barrett, Vice Chair Paul A. Magliocchetti and member Richard J. Rosa, LeBlanc said “I assure you if I had known of the multi week process beforehand I would not have submitted my materials.”

“Regrettably, I was unaware that this was a multi-week process. While I completely understand the necessity of this form of candidate vetting, I unfortunately must make a hard decision regarding my future time. I must alert my chair of my decision on whether to teach an exciting new course this fall, which will meet during evening hours.

Federal Judge Probes Wood’s Employment Status at Time of Alleged Wrongful Haverhill Firing

As Former Patrolman and School Committee Member Scott W. Wood Jr. seeks damages from Haverhill, a federal court judge pressed for answers on his employment status at the time he ceased being an officer for the city. Wood filed suit against Haverhill and Wenham last October, alleging breach of contract, wrongful termination, business interference and defamation on the part of current and former police chiefs in both communities. After seeing them trade briefs for around six months, Massachusetts District Court Judge Julia E. Kobick had the opportunity to clarify the legal issues at stake yesterday. Kobick questioned the status of Wood’s employment in June 2021, when former interim Police Chief Anthony L. Haugh told Wood he would not be transferred from the reserve list to an active work schedule. Wood’s lawyer, Sean R. Cronin, argued the police department broke the law when it failed to send Wood an official, written communication detailing why he was fired.

Magliocchetti, Grannemann Tell Beacon Hill State Left Haverhill Estimated $19.2 Million Behind

Arguing a faulty state funding formula has left Haverhill Public Schools with a potential $11.1 million deficit for next year’s budget, School Committee Vice Chairman Paul A. Magliocchetti and member Thomas Grannemann met with Beacon Hill lawmakers to explain their proposed fix Tuesday. Magliocchetti told WHAV he was spurred into action after people mocked his declaration he would march on Beacon Hill if the district did not receive additional money, which he made at a recent School Committee meeting, as WHAV reported. “It inspired me to do this, because, you know, I’m that passionate about this,” he said. The two committee members were well received, meeting first with state Rep. Andy X. Vargas Tuesday morning, according to Magliocchetti. He said he is confident more discussions will follow.