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Newest School Committee Member To Be Picked Thursday Night

The members of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee and Wenham Board of Selectmen will choose who will fill the empty seat on the School Committee until next year's election.

One of three Wenham residents will be picked on Thursday night to fill an opening to become the ninth member of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee.

The existing eight members of the School Committee and three members of the Wenham Board of Selectmen will each have a vote to decide which Wenham resident fills the position – Harriet Davis, Tyson Goodridge or Larry Swartz.

Both boards will meet at 7 p.m. at .

The opening came about after 19-year School Committee veteran Don Gallant resigned last month. Since Gallant lives in Wenham, the regional school agreement calls for the open position to be filled by a resident of the same town.

All three made their pitch on Monday night to the several of people who will pick one of them to join the School Committee for the next eight months. Voters will decide who fills the seat at the election next May.

Two candidates expressed their experience with school budgets from the town end of the process and another pitched his involvement in the district with two young sons.

“My personality, unlike a lot of people, tends to have me run toward the fire instead of away from the fire,” said Swartz, a former chairman of the Wenham Board of Selectmen who most recently helped various groups .

For Goodridge, who has never held elected office, he pitched his experience as president of the Parish Day School. His two sons are now students in the Regional school system.

 “I am a living, breathing part of the system right now,” Goodridge said.

Davis said Gallant played a part in her decision to seek the position.

“What do you think? How about you?” was what Gallant said to Davis, she said, when she spoke with him after his resignation.

All three candidates answered the same five questions to start and from there tackled various questions from current members of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen.

Both Davis and Swartz have served on the Wenham Board of Selectmen – Swartz did not seek reelection a year and a half ago and Davis was defeated at the polls last May. Goodridge owns his own marketing and social networking consulting business that he started two years ago.

The interviews, which were open to the public, were conducted in the Superintendent’s office. Each candidate had up to a half hour to answer questions and ask questions themselves.

All three candidates offered various suggestions for what improvements the system needs, in response to a question from School Committee Chairman Alexa McCloughan.

Swartz offerred the example of the Burlington school system, which has issued every student an iPad.

“We need to figure out the best way to bring this school system into that mindset and mode,” Swartz said.

Goodridge said he would like to see smaller class sizes and said “breadth and depth of courses” is important too.

As a retired stockbroker, Davis said the schools need more classes in personal finance.

“People don’t understand finances,” she said.

Bob Gray September 22, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Mr. Goodridge, "smaller class sizes?" If you were up to date on the Operational Audit just recently done you would know that one of the findings is that some of the classes are already too small and that the student to teacher ratio is too low and being analyzed.
Michelle Bailey September 22, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Currently the 4th grade classes exceed the class size policy set by the district, so class size is an issue. The operational audit finding that some classes are too small was made on the basis of the audit firm not understanding how the data was presented. A room with 26 students may contain 2 different classes of 13 students each. While this would make it appear in the data as a small class of 13, it is really in fact a class of 26. The audit is not correct nor wrong on all matters. Each finding needs to be fully evaluated by the administration this year.
_________________________ September 22, 2011 at 05:59 PM
There were 156 students in 4th grade last year and 6 teachers. 40% of H-W 4th graders last year either failed or scored in the Needs Improvement range (i.e. not proficient) in the English or Math MCAS. Co-incidence? Hardly. The operational audit proved that the previous superintendent hid $300K in tuition money from the full day kindergarten program while she cut a teacher from this class of kids. We need sharp people to go beyond slogans and drill down to really see what's happening in the schools. this should have never happened to this group of kids.
Tracy September 23, 2011 at 01:26 AM
The AP English class at the high school has 29 students in it.

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