The math was pretty simple going into Tuesday’s Gloucester School Committee election. There were six seats available and seven candidates. So only one was going home unhappy.
The unfortunate soul was first-time candidate Ida Shaker, who finished out of the money while voters returned all four incumbents and added newcomers Laura B. Wiessen and Samantha Verga Watson to the School Committee, according to unofficial results of the 2019 election.
Verga Watson, in her first campaign, ran strongly and received the most votes, with 3,142, or 15.91 percent of the 19,754 votes cast. She was followed by incumbent Joel Favazza (3,109, or 15.74 percent), incumbent Jonathan Pope (3,020, or 15.29 percent), incumbent Melissa Joy Teixeira Prince (2,998, or 15.18 percent) Wiessen (2,926, or 14.81 percent) and incumbent Kathleen A. Clancy (2,921, or 14.79 percent).
Shaker finished last with 1,590 votes, or 8.05 percent of the total of votes cast.
“You never really know what goes through people’s heads when they walk into the voting booth,” Favazza said after the results were tabulated. “The areas I did well in were because I speak the unfiltered truth. The areas where I didn’t do well in were because I speak the unfiltered truth.”
The vote — with four candidates each finishing with better than 15 percent of the vote and none with as much as 16 percent — reflected the relative unanimity of positions and policies shared by many of the candidates throughout debates and campaigning.
They include widespread support for constructing a new elementary school to house the combined enrollments of East Gloucester and Veterans Memorial elementary schools, developing a better working relationship with the Rockport school system and debunking the perception that Gloucester schools remain substandard.
On many levels, the 2019 election was defined by a simple divide between the old guard and a new wave of candidates.
Incumbents Pope, Clancy, Favazza and Teixeira Prince sought re-election largely based on their experience and service on the board.
Pope, the longest serving member at almost two decades, said this would be his last two-year term if elected and he would like to use it to help newcomers rise quickly to the meet the complex issues facing the committee.
Teixeira Prince’s campaign stressed the need to focus on “student achievement” at both Gloucester High and O’Maley Innovation Middle schools. Favazza talked about examining the possibility of shifting school start times and lengthening the school day and Clancy reiterated her support for STEM programs and more sophisticated vocational training.
Meanwhile, Shaker, Wiessen and Verga Watson attempted to separate themselves from the pack by focusing on issues they believed to be under-represented by previous boards.
Shaker pledged to improve the system’s response to special-needs students. Verga Watson trumpeted her professional experience as a licensed social worker and Wiessen pointed to the need for the Gloucester school system to do a better job of publicizing its strengths and academic accomplishments.
The six successful candidates will be joined on the School Committee by Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, who is an ex-officio committee member by nature of her position as mayor. Romeo Theken ran unopposed in the city’s mayoral contest.
Incumbents Tony Gross and Michelle Sweet opted not to seek re-election.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.