By Marjorie Nesin
---- — The words “fresh blood” are ringing as a key phrase among candidates challenging in the race for Gloucester’s School Committee as they seek to stake out places in what is now a 10-person scramble for the six elected seats.
While Roger Garberg, formerly censured in June, has yet to take out papers and three-term member Valerie Gilman announced she would step out of the race last weekend, feeling the district is on a good course, the remaining four incumbents face six new challengers, with many incumbents and challengers still collecting the 150 signatures required by Aug. 13.
Joel Favazza was one of at least three candidates who had collected all of his signatures and had them certified by Tuesday, about a week prior to the deadline. Favazza, who graduated from Gloucester High School in 2003 and became an attorney before returning to Gloucester, said he is committed to the school system.
“I’m a product of the school system, I’m dedicated to the city of Gloucester, and I’m hoping that some fresh blood will bring some fresh ideas,” Favazza said Tuesday,
Favazza is not a father yet, but if he does have children one day, he hopes they will attend a healthy Gloucester public school system — the same schools he attended years ago. He supports a return to using the former Fuller school building rather than funding a new West Parish school and was outspoken on the topic at a public hearing in July and in an interview Tuesday.
“I’m certainly concerned about the future of all the elementary schools and how we’re going to make sure that all of the elementary students are given the opportunity no matter which school they go to,” Favazza said. “The plan to replace one of five elementary schools inherently advantages the lucky 350 students who go to that school and disadvantages the rest.”
Hannah Scialdone Kimberley, a college professor who relocated to Gloucester from Virginia years ago, touts her teaching experience at levels ranging from elementary school to high school to college — experience she said would contribute to potential work as a school committee member.
Based on her research and teaching experience, she said “reasonably sized” elementary schools would bolster learning, though she did not elaborate on the meaning of “reasonably sized.”
“The conversations I have had with parents, teachers and school committee members since I moved to Gloucester have inspired me to join the race,” Kimberley said. “I am committed to reasonably sized elementary schools.”
Another candidate with teaching experience, Lauren A. Riley, called herself a “blank slate,” willing and prepared to listen to parents and already familiar with students’ needs.
“We have to get people to buy into the notion that we’re a city, a community that’s moving forward and we need all hands on deck,” Riley said.
Riley has worked in the school system’s alternative high school, Compass, as a tutor for the past six years. She teaches and works with students who reached graduation age without completing the graduation requirements. She is also the high school’s field hockey coach and teaches yoga, provides personal training, and performs massages in her own business called Positive Progressive People.
Riley said she has yet to zero in on the issue of most importance to her as she begins “doing her homework” and further familiarizing herself with school committee issues by talking with people in the community.
“I don’t have something that I’m really pushing because it is what I want personally,” said Riley, who has no children of her own. “It’s kind of like I’m a blank slate going in trying to learn, trying to look at all avenues and what is best.”
Michelle M. Sweet, a former school committee member, took out papers to run in June and had collected 139 signatures by Tuesday morning. She was not available for comment Tuesday.
John “J.D.” MacEachern, Jr. took out papers to run in July; he was also not available for comment Tuesday.
Incumbents seeking to retain their seats are Melissa Teixeira, Kathleen Clancy, Tony Gross and Jonathan Pope.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.