Resolution for 9-member school committee dropped, but discussion continues

Posted 4/14/22


For years there has been discussion of expanding the School Committee to nine members to reflect the City Council.

 Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi was prepared to …

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Resolution for 9-member school committee dropped, but discussion continues



For years there has been discussion of expanding the School Committee to nine members to reflect the City Council.

 Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi was prepared to introduce a resolution on Monday requesting General Assembly approval of a ballot question to do just that.

But on Tuesday afternoon Sinapi told the Beacon he was withdrawing it all together. 

“I started receiving calls from residents as word spread of the proposal,” said Sinapi. “ They raised a litany of concerns with the proposal as currently drafted, and such warrants further consideration before proceeding forward given that this ultimately requires changing the City Charter.  If we are going to alter the composition of the School Committee, I want to make sure it’s done right and in a manner that offers the greatest likelihood of success. Thankfully, the introduction of this proposal has started the conversation.” 

Currently the School Committee has two at large positions and three district positions which represent three wards each. 

“Based on watching School Committee meetings all these years and speaking with residents, members of the School Committee, teachers, and others, it was clear additional members would be helpful,” Sinapi previously told the Beacon. 

Sinapi said that if the ballot initiative is approved it would mean that during the 2024 election the two at large positions along with an additional at-large seat and three additional district seats will be voted on. Those terms would be for two-year terms beginning in 2025 and ending in 2027.

During the 2026 election voters will be picking nine people representing the nine wards in the city. 

School Committee Chair Judy Cobden said on Tuesday that she thinks it’s a good idea. 

“For a city this size we have a small School Committee,” said Cobden. “Most (municipalities) are smaller and have more.” 

Councilman Jeremy Rix who would have co-sponsored the resolution said, “expanding the School Committee to nine members, all elected by the voters divided by Ward lines, is ideal for a City of over 80,000 people.”

“The School Committee and the School Dept. will benefit from the diverse perspectives and expertise of more members, and, the members become closer to their constituents when each is representing 1/9th of the City instead of the status quo of three members being elected by one-third  of the City and two  being elected by the entirety of the City.”

Mayor Frank Picozzi who served as School Committee Chairman in the early 2000s favors further discussion, but doesn’t believe a 9-member committee would be good . Piocozzi said he doesn’t see there’s enough time to vet proposals to get it on this year’s ballot.

In an email Jane Austin who served as School Committee Chair 1991-1994 said she was in favor of a hybrid system. 

“I think that expanding the School Committee could have some benefits if done properly.  

Presently there are both city wide seats and seats that represent three wards,” said Austin. “I think that this basic model should remain, with three city wide seats and six seats with each member representing three wards.  If school committee members represent a single ward, their perspective and knowledge of the school district is likely to be too narrow.  One benefit of a larger school committee is the potential for broader representation and perspectives on the School Committee as a whole.  A second benefit is the opportunity to create subcommittees which can develop deeper knowledge and awareness of key aspects of the District (e.g.: Curriculum, Finance, Facilities).” 

Former School Committee Chair Bob Cushman who served from 2003 to 2006 said that he wants to see more transparency if a change is made. 

“If they are going to do this so there is more transparency and the public can have more of an opportunity to interact with the school department, with the school committee and with the superintendent then I’m all for it,” said Cushman. 

Another point that Cushman would like to see is a requirement that all collective bargaining agreements are ratified by the City Council, saying that there needs to be more checks and balances. 

Cushman said that he thinks that like the Council there should be changes made so there are different committees where different proposals are vetted by the committee during a public hearing. Cushman said that unlike the Council however, the committee hearings should be held on different nights. 

“It’s got to be designed so public participation is maximized,” said Cushman. 

Asked why he thinks that the number should be nine members for the School Committee, Sinapi said “given the size of the budget the School Committee is responsible for, each ward in the City deserves equal representation.” 

On Tuesday afternoon Council President Steve McAllister said “I will review the proposal and would like to hear from residents to get their thoughts.  I will make some calls this week.” 

resolution, school committee


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