Cloutman says running for better accountability

ETHAN FORMAN/Staff photoSchool Committee candidate Barbara "B.J." Cloutman.

Three candidates are vying for an open two-year term on the Danvers School Committee in the May 3 Annual Town Election due to the recent resignation of committee member Connie Pawlak. Polls are open Tuesday at Danvers High, 60 Cabot Road, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Incumbent School Committee member Arthur Skarmeas will also appear on the ballot, unopposed for another three-year term on the board.

DANVERS — Barbara ‘B.J.’ Cloutman is a registered nurse and an experienced clinician with an expertise in health care insurance who has run for the Danvers School Committee in the past, albeit unsuccessfully.

In 2001, Cloutman ran against present committee chairman Eric Crane, who was running for his first time after being appointed to the school board to fill out a vacancy. It was a three-way race that also involved Dana Michael Hagan, a police officer in town, Cloutman said. Crane prevailed and has been re-elected to the board ever since.

Cloutman also pulled nomination papers for the school board in 2007, but failed to return them. And this year, she again finds herself in a three-way race for a seat on the committee. 

“One of the major reasons I decided to run is accountability,” she said.

Cloutman has lived in town for more than 20 years, and has been living on the North Shore since attending Salem State College. Her husband, John Cloutman Sr., is a graduate of Danvers High.

Barbara Cloutman earned two bachelor’s degrees at Salem State, she said, one in nursing and another in history. She was a school nurse at Bishop Fenwick in Peabody for about a year.

“I’m running because I’m very concerned about what is happening with our children nowadays,” she said. “We are becoming a generation where everything must be the same. It’s a big sense of sameness, almost like robots.”

Curriculum and testing are part of the problem. She agrees with upping the standards, as the United States has fallen behind other countries, she said. “The Common Core curriculum can be a good thing,” she said, “however, it can also be a bad thing.”

From what she has read, schools are introducing Common Core math at younger and younger ages, and her concern is that students will only have one format to learn. Parents are telling her their children are getting marked wrong because they’re not following the process, even when they get the right answer. That can hamper those students with special needs, she said, or even students in regular education classes, who may process things differently.

“I’m running to create a balance for all students,” said Cloutman, who is the parent of a special needs student.

She also feels the School Committee needs to be accountable to taxpayers and businesses, first, not just to students and parents, when it comes to crafting a budget.

“Without these people,” Cloutman said, of taxpayers and businesses, “these students are not going to get the education they need. So, a School Committee person has a responsibility to balance between the needs of the taxpayers, the businesses, the senior citizens.”

Barbara ‘B.J.’ Cloutman

Age: 59.

Family: Husband, John; three children and a stepson; one granddaughter.

Education: Salem State College, bachelor of science in nursing, with a minor in biology, 1978; bachelor of arts in history, with a minor in English and antiquities, 1980.

Occupation: Registered nurse for more than 35 years. She is presently on sabbatical from her job with Centene Corp., a health plan provider, due to a car accident. Prior to this, she was a prior authorization clinician with Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan.

Civic involvement: Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Operation Troop Support.