By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Former School Committee member Gus Martucci was selected at a joint meeting of the Town Council and the School Committee on Tuesday night to fill a seat left vacant by resigning member Laura Callis. In January, the two committees will meet again to fill another vacant seat held by Ron Vecchia.
Town Council President Elect Vecchia is currently an elected member of the School Committee. It is expected he will resign when he is sworn in Jan. 2. In another twist, as council president he will have a seat on the School Committee.
Councilor James Letterie wanted to fill both seats, but Town Manager Terence Delehanty said there had not yet been a resignation.
Martucci, was elected to the committee in 2004 and 2010. He also served on the Town Manager Search Committee when former Town Manager James McKenna was picked. Recently, he’s served as a member of the Town Finance Commission, and was one of the founding members of the Viking Pride Foundation.
“The School Committee needs a budget person,” said School Committee member William Holden, in his support of Martucci.
“Gus Martucci has been a mentor to me,” said School Committee member Brian Perrin.
“He has the ability to bring people together and he’s an expert on the budget,” Vecchia said.
“He’s what’s needed at the moment,” said Councilor Phil Boncore.
During his tenure on the School Committee, a new superintendent was hired and the teachers contract was settled. He served on the policy subcommittee, athletic subcommittee and gained extensive experience as chair of the Budget Subcommittee. He helped to negotiate two successful contracts as part of the teachers bargaining unit and was the liaison to the middle school. Martucci currently has two nieces and two nephews that attend Winthrop Public Schools, and he comes from a long line of WPS graduates.
Public sentiment came on strong for candidate Shauna Hodge-Barnett, an African-American woman with a strong background in special edition. Supporters noted the potential for diversity on the School Committee. She earned the support several voters.
“She has a graduate degree in behavioral science, and I think she would bring some welcome diversity to the School Committee,’ said resident Rob O’Dwyer.
“I’m impressed with her background in special education and her female leadership,” said resident Julia Wallerce.
The mother of two Winthrop students, Hodge-Barnett has submitted her letter of interest for the open seat, and is no stranger to the district, having volunteered at several educational events. She has also played a major role in getting assistance for low-income families for the holiday season and she is an active volunteer at the Winthrop Food Pantry. Hodge-Barnett has a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and over 20 years experience in special education and as a behavioral consultant. She has a broad understanding of the challenges that face both students and teachers as she has worked with both school systems and families in need of support.
“I look at her balance, her professional training. We need a well-rounded group,” said Councilor Heather Engman. “I think the committee should reflect the make up of the students.”
When it came to nominations, Town Council President Russ Sanford nominated Susan Swope, a grandmother with a background in education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio State University and a doctorate in education from Boston University. She spent three years working in public schools before she served on the faculty at Emerson College for 12 years.
As a tenured professor, her areas of research were focused on early childhood language development and autism. She served as the vice president for enrollment and student affairs for 10 of her years at Emerson and was the vice provost for 10 years at George Mason University. Throughout her teaching career she has overseen admissions and financial aid, which have helped link students’ school age experiences with college success. One of her grandchildren currently attends the Fort Banks Elementary School.
School Committee chair Dawn Sullivan nominated Hodge-Barnett, while the rest of the School Committee went with Martucci.
Councilor Nick Delvento said the town working with the schools was important, and he believes Martucci can help with that.
The two committees met two weeks ago and decided to extend the process so all candidates could be spoken to by the members of the committees. Other candidates considered were John Lyons, Ronald Vitale and Gary Schoales.