By Harry Kane
A special “open process” selection will unfold over the next month to decide the incoming Ward 1 School Committee member.
This began when Ward 1 Alderman William M. Roche resigned from his post and became the Mayor’s personal assistant.
A new Alderman was sworn in – Her name: Maureen Cuff Bastardi, formerly the Ward 1 School Committee member.
And, that’s how a vacancy in the School Committee opened up, but there’s been a question ever since as to how to select the new School Committee member for Ward 1.
Ward 1 comprises of three schools: Michael E. Capuano Early Childhood Center, East Somerville Community School, currently closed, and the Next Wave Full Circle Alternative School.
In this state of affairs, no public election will be held, say School Committee members.
Instead, the eight remaining School Committee members will decide amongst themselves who will become the next Ward 1 representative.
Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi says he hasn’t seen this circumstance before. According to School Committee members, the Somerville Charter states that if there’s less than a year between the resignation and the next election, the School Committee votes in the successor.
Superintendent Pierantozzi made clear that he has no involvement in choosing the next School Committee representative. “It’s my obligation and responsibility to facilitate the decisions made by the school committee,” says Pierantozzi.
The School Committee has chosen to make the process public. Individuals who are interested in applying for the position should do so by Jan.10, 2013, according to Pierantozzi.
“They will be discussing the process, according to what I am aware of at this time, in public,” says Pierantozzi. “Therefore anyone who either wishes to attend, or…it may even be that one of the meetings is telecast, I’m not sure, because the process has not been finalized at this time, to my knowledge.”
In this scenario, Superintendent Pierantozzi functions as the Secretary to the School Committee – he will be receiving the applications.
Upon receiving the applications from prospective candidates, Pierantozzi will transfer the documents to the current School Committee members for an assessment of the applicants. “I would be shocked if I was asked by any member of the School Committee regarding the individual or individuals who express interest,” says Pierantozzi.
To add to this unusual scenario, The Somerville Charter has limited guidelines for nominating a candidate for school Committee. “There’s no official guidelines as to what constitutes who you should vote for,” says Ward 5 Committee member Mark Niedergang. “We have to develop criteria.”
The only qualifications: the applicants must be a registered voter and live in Ward 1, according to city officials.
Meanwhile, The Somerville School Committee has laid out a process for application, inviting prospective Ward 1 residents to apply by Jan. 10, 2013, until 5 p.m.
“We haven’t determined exactly how we will go forward in terms of interviewing people,” says Niedergang, “but we will be interviewing people in public. And then we will make a decision.”
Niedergang is interested in seeing somebody “who is qualified. Ideally a parent affiliated with one of the schools.” He notes that a predominantly immigrant community in Ward 1 may play a role in the decision-making process for the candidate.
“I think the different people who are now on the School Committee would probably tell you eight different things about what they are looking for,” says Niedergang.
There could be a lively debate and Niedergang looks forward to the “open process.”
Maureen Cuff Bastardi made her recommendation but apparently she has no say in the process.
“I did submit a name for School Committee,” says Bastardi. The person Bastardi recommended is named Steve Roix.
“He is an active member of the Ward 1 community,” says Bastardi. Roix serves as a member on the Capuano School Council.
Bastardi feels that, “Steve will do the job with an open mind, a clear head and with no political agenda.”
But the School Committee did not take Bastardi’s recommendation.
“I was aware that they were going to start this process. I told them that I respected their right to have this process, but I didn’t necessarily agree with it.”
Years ago, while her children were enrolled in Somerville schools, Bastardi started out as a liaison between Somerville’s city-wide council of PTA’s and the School Committee. And after 9 years she was elected as Ward 1 School Committee member in 2004.
Now, as Ward 1 Alderman, Bastardi has an opinion about what kind of person should replace her as Ward 1 School Committee member. “I want someone who is involved in the community. I want someone who is hardworking and open-minded and intelligent and kind-hearted…I wouldn’t want someone going in there with a political agenda,” she says.
Bastardi wants the School Committee members to remember that time is of the essence. “I did tell the School Committee that they would be doing a grave injustice by not filling my seat as soon as possible, because the residents of Ward One really do deserve somebody on the School Committee, right now. They deserved it three weeks ago when this happened,” she says.
But the “open process” has just started and it may take until Feb. 4 to find out who will be the new Ward 1 School Committee member.
Maureen Cuff Bastardi and Mary Jo Rossetti have been School Committee colleagues for the last seven years. Rossetti will be assuming the role as chair of the Somerville School Committee and therefore has to guide the discussion in electing the new School Committee member.
While Rossetti says she is grateful for Bastardi’s recommendation, and respects her judgment, Rossetti went on to say that she had “never met this gentleman before,” referring to Steve Roix.
Yet, Rossetti says, “I am the one that asked the School Committee to honor Bastardi’s wishes, and for the School Committee to make this decision in a timely fashion.”
Rossetti will be serving as Chair of the School Committee for 2013 and will be overseeing the decision.
“As Chair of the School Committee I’m going to make sure that we stay on task and on target,” says Rossetti.