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January 24, 2014

Speliotis picked for statewide school safety task force

DANVERS — House Speaker Robert DeLeo has tapped state Rep. Ted Speliotis to serve on Gov. Deval Patrick’s newly created Task Force on School Safety and Security, citing the Danvers lawmaker’s work in the days after the death of a Danvers High teacher in October.

Patrick has tasked the school safety task force with coming up with model safety and security plans that districts across the state can use to make schools safer. It will be co-chaired by Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, the former Swampscott and Brockton superintendent; Secretary of Public Safety and Security Andrea Cabral; and Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz.

“I assume he chose me because I am part of his leadership team,” said Speliotis, a Democrat who represents Danvers, West Peabody and a portion of Middleton.

But he said another factor is the perspective on school violence that he can bring following the slaying of math teacher Colleen Ritzer on Oct. 22, allegedly at the hands of a 14-year-old student.

In the days following the murder, Speliotis was at the high school and worked closely with town and school officials. He saw firsthand “how an event like that has an impact on a community,” said School Committee Chairman Eric Crane, who called Speliotis “the right person for the job.”

“What’s occurred with Colleen Ritzer has hit everyone across the state,” Speliotis said.

While a lot of school safety planning has focused on student-to-student incidents, Speliotis said an important aspect will be heading off violence directed at teachers and staff.

Speliotis taught in Danvers at the start of his career in the late 1970s and worked in government affairs at Northeastern University. When he was teaching, he never thought he had anything to fear from his students, he said.

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