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Miller Elected To Fill Vacancy On School Committee; SC Members Irked With Process

May 20, 2015 02:19PM ● By Bill Gilman

Newly elected School Committee member Jayne Miller is congratulated by candidate Bob Demers.

It's the best word to describe the series of votes to select a new member of the Tewksbury School Committee and the winner of the vote agreed it will be an accurate word to describe the atmosphere of the next School Committee meeting on June 10.
"Yeah, I think it might be a little awkward," said Jayne Wellman Miller, who was elected on the third ballot but without the support of any of her new colleagues on the School Committee.
"I know that they were fully committed to Arthy (Bennett)."
Votes were cast at a joint meeting of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen, Tuesday night at the Temporary Town Hall. On the third ballot of the night, Miller received all five votes from the Board of Selectmen, while Bennett received all four votes from School Committee members.
Krissy Polimeno, chairman of the School Committee, expressed disappointment with the vote and the process. She indicated the selectmen should have deferred to the recommendation of the committee members, as the vacancy was on the school board.
"I hope in the future there will be better collaboration between the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee," she said. "We were never asked about the (wording of the) application. We would have liked to be more involved in the process. I think we have a pretty good pulse on who would be the best fit on the school committee."
Polimeno also said the committee would have preferred an open round-table discussion between the two boards to discuss the pros and cons of the candidates before votes were cast.
Miller, who served on the committee from 2009-2012, was one of seven residents who had submitted applications to fill out the remaining 10 months of the term of Lisa Puccia, who resigned in late March. The applications included several questions regarding background and experience, priorities and future plans. The completed applications were distributed to members of both panels last week.
One one the applicants, Biana Kolb, withdrew from the process Monday night, leaving six candidates appearing before a Tuesday's joint meeting of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen who, according to town bylaws, are charged with electing a new member.
According to the procedure, each candidate was afforded five minutes to state their case to the nine voters. Todd Johnson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, then accepted nominations and seconds. Miller, Bennett, Keith Sullivan and former School Committee member Scott Consaul were nominated. Candidates Hanson Bechat and Bob Demers did not receive a nomination and were eliminated from the process.
To be elected, a candidate needed five votes, a majority from the joint meeting voters.
On the first ballot, Bennett was the choice of all four School committee members. Miller was the choice of Selectmen Jim Wentworth, David Gay and Johnson. Sullivan had the support of new Selectman Mark Kratman and Consaul was the choice of Selectman Bruce Panalaitis.
At Johnson's suggestion, the joint meeting unanimously agreed to eliminate the lowest vote-getter on the second ballot.
That turned out to be Consaul, as Panalaitis swung his support to Miller (giving her a fourth vote) and Kratman remained committed to Sullivan. Meanwhile, the four School Committee members (Polimeno, Vice Chair Dennis Francis, Brian Dick and Jamie Cutelis) remained solid in their support of Bennett.
On the third ballot, Kratman provided Miller with the fifth vote she needed to win election.
One of the questions on the application filled out by the candidates asked if they planned to seek election to a full term in 2016. Miller said she has yet to make up her mind.
"Right now, staying on (the committee) is very doable," said Miller, who works as editor of the Town Crier newspaper. "I'm not ruling out running (in April). I hope we get a lot of people running."
Bennett, who was visibly disappointed but gave Miller a congratulatory hug, was not immediately available for comment on her plans for the next election.

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