School Committee begins a new term with one new member, Vincent Serino, who becomes the new vice-chair
The transition will be much smoother and easier for the Saugus Public Schools Administration following this year’s biennial Town Election. Superintendent Erin McMahon, who has been on the job since July 1, already knows four of the five School Committee members who were reelected on Nov. 2. Her predecessor – former Superintendent David DeRuosi, Jr. – had to work with four new members plus a former member he had worked with previously after the entire five-member board was replaced two years ago.
That former member was Arthur Grabowski, who was involved in DeRuosi’s hiring, but was out for one term before being swept in during the 2019 election. But Grabowski was the lone incumbent who didn’t get reelected this year, finishing seventh in a field of seven candidates and more than 500 votes behind School Committee Member Joseph “Dennis” Gould, who grabbed the fifth and final seat. The committee that Superintendent McMahon has been working with for the past four months remains mostly intact, with former School Committee Member Vincent A. Serino joining Gould, School Committee Chair Thomas R. Whittredge and veteran members Ryan P. Fisher and John S. Hatch.
Whittredge will serve another term as committee chair after finishing as the top vote getter for the second-straight town election, with 2,095 votes. Serino won the honor of serving as vice-chair after finishing second in the election with 2,030 votes. Hatch finished third with 1,852 votes. Fisher, the vice-chair during his previous two years, finished fourth with 1,816 votes. Gould had 1,666 votes, beating out Leigh Michelle Gerow for the fifth seat.
With a small audience on hand and four of the committee members wearing face masks, Town Clerk Ellen Schena presided over a swearing-in ceremony in the School Committee Room at the Belmonte School Administrative Offices early last Thursday night. Gould was absent from the meeting after being forced to follow COVID-19 protocol, according to Whittredge, who noted that Gould was greatly disappointed in not being able to attend the ceremony.
Over the past year, Grabowski had come under heavy criticism from his committee colleagues, who had called for him to resign after he made comments they called racist. Grabowski refused to step down, but the committee voted to censure him and strip him of his committee assignments. During the election campaign, Whittredge had accused Grabowski of threatening a school employee and ordered the meetings to be conducted remotely by Zoom videoconferencing to protect the staff member and others who didn’t feel safe.
But during a brief meeting following last Thursday’s (Nov. 4) swearing-in ceremony, Whittredge publicly thanked Grabowski for his service to the town. “I do want to wish Mr. Grabowski the best,” Whittredge said.
“He served a long time on the School Committee. Thank you for your service, Mr. Grabowski, and best of luck in the future,” Whittredge said.
Whittredge told his colleagues that it was “an honor” to serve as School Committee chair again. “Everybody who got reelected deserved to be reelected,” Whittredge said.
Then he praised his new vice-chair, Serino, noting “his experience is going to be invaluable.”
“I’m really looking forward to some good things happening in the future,” Whittredge said.
Serino said he welcomes the next “great couple of years” and “moving the district forward.”
Hatch expressed similar sentiments. “This board really understands what our mission is. It really knows what the role of a School Committee is, and I’m really excited to work and move the district forward and let the educators do what the educators need to do,” he said.
Fisher, who made the motion to name Serino as the vice-chair, said he is excited about the future of the school district after a challenging two years. “I want to thank the students, the teachers and everyone who hung in there over the last two years,” Fisher said.
“It probably was the most difficult two years the school system ever had,” he said.
Then he thanked his friend, candidate Gerow, whom he said “did an amazing job on her campaign … and the first thing she did was to come here tonight to wish us well.”