, Newburyport, MA

October 3, 2013

Mayoral hopefuls discuss education


---- — Editor’s note: As part of The Daily News election coverage, we asked candidates for mayor of Newburyport to talk about their views on the city’s schools and education issues.

The candidates — Mayor Donna Holaday and City Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. — will face off in the Nov. 5 general election. The newly elected mayor will serve a four-year term and receive an annual salary of $98,000.

In this community, the mayor serves as chairperson of the School Committee.

Donna Holaday

The two-term mayor has been proactive when it comes to school construction projects.

She has championed the funding and creation of a new Bresnahan Elementary School and major updates to the Nock/Molin school complex on Low Street.

“I’m impressed with the improvements at the Nock, and that it was ready for the opening of school,” said Holaday, whose work with education officials resulted in the state funding the cost of almost half for each of these school projects.

“The Bresnahan (construction) is moving forward,” she said. “These projects had to be done.”

Holaday said that she favors expanding the curriculum to include more opportunities to study foreign language. She added that she would like the schools to provide more for students with special needs.

She added that she is studying the possibility of moving administrative offices from the Nock/Molin complex to the Brown School, which will be closed in June. Such a move would free up space for more classrooms and perhaps additional classes.

The mayor said she would consider selling the Kelley School building, and transfer the youth activities centered there to the Brown School.

Dick Sullivan Jr.

Dick Sullivan Jr., who served on the School Committee from 2002 to 2006, said that the two school construction projects were necessary.

But, he said, more money should be going into the school system.

“We have to prioritize the city budget,” said Sullivan, who has a daughter in the high school. “We need to find more money, so that we can offer more.

“We were hit hard by cutbacks when Romney was governor, and we need to have more funding for public education, especially in the area of foreign languages.”

Sullivan added that Holaday was unduly critical — in public — of Marc Kerble, former superintendent of schools.

“I won’t be beating up on the superintendent if I am mayor,” Sullivan said. “It was inappropriate for the mayor to be criticizing Kerble in the newspaper. We need to create a competitive climate where administrators (like Kerble) don’t keep leaving after three years.”

Sullivan says that the Brown School holds potential for numerous uses.

“I’d like to keep the Brown in city hands if we can afford it,” said Sullivan. “It’s possible that some social services and veterans services could go there, which would free up space in City Hall.”