SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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May 1, 2014

Three vie for two school board seats

MARBLEHEAD — When School Superintendent Greg Maas abruptly resigned more than a year ago, his departure rocked the town and led to some school board members resigning and others declining to seek re-election. The popular Maas withdrew while decrying efforts of some School Committee members to interfere with his work. In the aftermath, some were blamed for driving him away.

Now, with three seats on the board open for the May 13 election, candidates are not doing a lot of looking back. First, controversial former committeeman Jonathan Lederman withdrew from the race leaving appointed member William Ackerman home free as the only candidate for a one-year term.

Then, on Monday, only a small crowd turned out for the League of Women Voters debate where three candidates made their pitches for two three-year terms on the board. And as if to make clear that discord was a thing of the past, there was scarcely a major issue where they found disagreement.

Incumbents Michael Murphy and Thomas Connolly are being challenged by newcomer Susanna Pierce Pratt. Connolly is a survivor of the Maas departure and he defended his part in it. “There was never any crossing of any lines,” he said. “There was a lot of smoke. But nothing substantial.”

He drew a contrast with current Superintendent Maryann Perry. “I can’t stress enough the difference from this year and three years ago. ... When we ask a question we get an answer.” If the answer isn’t readily available, he said, the board is told, “I’ll get back to you on that.” All three candidates praised the superintendent.

“She cares about the students of Marblehead,” said Murphy.

“She did a good job with the budget,” said Pratt.

Each was asked by moderator and former Selectman Jeff Shribman how to avoid turmoil. “We need to treat each other with respect,” said Pratt, “with courtesy.”

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