ELECTION 2019: Get To Know the Methuen School Committee Candidates

Methuen voters now have seven choices for six School Committee seats in the Nov. 5 election. Here are the candidates and why they're running, in their own words.

At first, it seemed that for the second straight election, there would not even be enough candidates to fill the six Methuen School Committee seats up for election on Nov. 5.

After a tumultuous two years dealing with ongoing financial crisis, a scandal leading to the resignation of long-time Superintendent Judith Scannell and the search and hiring of a new Superintendent, the Committee is about to see a heavy amount of turnover.

Vice chairman Nicholas DiZoglio and current member Dennis “D.J.” Deeb are running for City Council; Jana DiNatale decided not to run and has become active in the Neil Perry for Mayor campaign; and long-time School Committee member Robert Vogler has retired.

The only incumbents to officially declare their intentions to run again are first-term members Susan Nicholson and Jana Zanni-Pesce.

While there are only three other candidates that will be listed on your ballot, three additional candidates have emerged and forged aggressive write-in campaigns — Kerrie Abate, former Mayoral candidate Dan Shibilia and mom of three and schools advocate Louann Santos.

You as a voter now have eight choices for six seats, but this option emerged too late for most publications to put out bios of the candidates — since it was assumed the five declared candidates would automatically be elected.

We thank the eight candidates for responding to a very late request from us. We asked each to, in their own words, describe what makes them worthy of your vote — in as few or as many words as they wanted. Here are their responses, listed alphabetically by last name.

RYAN DIZOGLIO

Age: 28
Family: Gary DiZoglio, Dad; Deborah DiZoglio, Mother; Alysha DiZoglio,Sister; Nicholas DiZoglio: Brother
Profession: Teacher’s Aid and Part-Time Associate at Market Basket
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Currently working toward my Masters in Education from Merrimack College.

I am running for School Committee because I want to give back to the city I grew up in. I went through the Methuen Public Schools system from first grade through my senior year of high school.

While attending Methuen Public Schools, I gained confidence through sports, discipline through ROTC, and wisdom from the wonderful teachers there. I want to ensure that future students have the tools necessary to not only succeed, but to flourish as successful adults.

A few issues I want to work on if elected is residency checks; getting the schools a grant writer; and to provide the teachers with resources they need to be successful in the classroom.

I believe it is imperative to continue to strive for transparency, integrity, and accountability to the people of Methuen. I hope to receive your vote on November 5th.

KAREN HALLBAUER

EDUCATION: BA-Spanish Language &Literature (focus:Spain); MA-Hispanic Language, Culture, &Literature (focus: the America’s); CAGS (Certificate Advanced Graduate Studies)- Educational Leadership

It is my belief that it is my educational background and professional experience that are relevant for voters to know as they consider my worthiness to sit on the Methuen School Committee. Therefore, those are the areas that I will provide.

Serving on the Methuen School Committee is a natural extension of my long career in public education. During that career, I have been a classroom teacher at the elementary and secondary levels, a high school department head and an assistant principal — most of it as a member of the Methuen Public Schools, although at points working for the Beverly and North Andover school districts. Most recently, I retired as assistant principal of Methuen High School.

Upon retiring I was hired by the North Andover and Waltham school districts to deliver professional development for staff, which I enjoyed, as it afforded me the opportunity to work directly with teachers and paraprofessionals creating strategies to meet the needs of a diverse population of learners.

For the past five years, I have been a volunteer Literacy Tutor At Nevins Library, which for me was born of a desire to educate and contribute in a positive way to my community. This program is wonderful because it supports our immigrant populations to achieve personal goals, whether earning citizenship, acquiring a driver’s license or simply perfecting communication skills for employment or to help their children succeed in school.

Serving on the MSC is another way to serve the community. While it is a different role for me, I will bring the same focus, seriousness of purpose, energy and diligence to the process.

The Methuen Public Schools are already good. I’ve witnessed the dedication of our school leaders and staff and I’ve interacted closely with students. I look forward to working collaboratively with other SC members to assess and meet the needs of our schools. When the schools function at a high level, turning out educated, good citizens, the community at large is healthier, safer, and more prosperous. To be a part of that legacy is why I’m on the ballot for School Committee.

JESSICA MACLEOD

My name is Jessica MacLeod, and I have lived in Methuen with my family for 14 years.

My husband, Allan, and I are both in education, and we have one child, Rebecca, who is in the eighth grade at Comprehensive Grammar School. I was a SEI kindergarten teacher in Boston for ten years before transitioning into school leadership.

I was an assistant/intern principal in Boston for one year before moving to Malden Public Schools for a principalship at the Early Learning Center. I have now been in Lawrence Public Schools for three years, first serving as Manager and then Director of Early Childhood Education, and now as Principal of an early childhood school in the city.

I have experience applying for and then managing million-dollar grants. I work closely with parent, educators and students to ensure success is both attainable and attained, and I believe in authentic collaboration.

In addition to years of educational experience, I am a mom of a Methuen student. I have worked closely with the schools to ensure her unique needs are met while also always respecting and empathizing with the professionals in her schools who work for her and thousands of other young learners.

I believe my experience will inform SC discussions as we work together to support the schools’ efforts, build budgets that work, and untangle the complex issues our community is facing.

I admittedly don’t have much time for hobbies, but I love hiking and always wish for a little more time outside. Working in a neighboring community has drastically reduced my commute, and I was able to volunteer on the CGS’s School Site Council for the last two years. I am thankful that my schedule now allows me to give more time to my community, and I’m hopeful that I will be elected to share my commitment to public education by serving on the School Committee.

SUSAN NICHOLSON

Education: Doctorate of Education, UMASS Lowell, Leadership in Education
Master of Education, Northeastern University, Secondary School Administration
Bachelor of Science, Salem State University

Professional Leadership Experience: Retired Superintendent, Waltham Public Schools; Assistant Superintendent, Andover Public Schools; Principal, North Andover High School; Assistant Principal, North Andover High School; Methuen High School Teacher; Methuen High School Cheerleading Coach

Family: Three adult children: Kristen Hurley, Methuen High School and University of Maine graduate; Courtney Nicholson Carace, Methuen High School and Holy Cross graduate; and Patrick Nicholson, Methuen High School and Providence College graduate; Two grandsons: Jack and Jameson Carace; Married for almost 29 years to Arthur Nicholson III (Mr. Nick)

My late husband and I have always believed that our educational missions stemmed from our belief that “It’s all about the kids . . .”

I am seeking re-election to the Methuen School Committee because I want to work collaboratively with my colleagues on the Methuen School Committee, the Superintendent of Schools, administrators, teachers, and staff to:

• Increase student achievement
• Implement an International Baccalaureate Program for middle and high school students
• Lower class size especially at the early elementary grades
• Increase diversity in the staff
• Appropriately fund the budget to meet the needs of ALL students (May require both short term and long term goals)
• Effectively collaborate with the Mayor, the City Council, and state representatives and senators
• Identify state and federal grant opportunities to help support the school budget

JANA ZANNI PESCE

EDUCATION: Phillips Academy ’96; BA Suffolk University ’00; Massachusetts School of Law ’07

Profession: Attorney
Married to Vincenzo Pesce
Children: Enzo, 10; Stevie, 8; Aria, 3

VOLUNTEER PROJECTS: I am active in the CGS PTO and I teach CCD at St. Lucy’s Parish

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve on the School Committee for the last two years. As a parent of two children who attend Methuen Public Schools, I feel especially vested in all the decisions I make.

These past two years have been some of the most difficult. From the 4-million-dollar deficit spending to the failure to verify proper certifications at the highest levels. Although these issues were created before my service began, it has been an arduous task to take the hard votes and try to develop methods to ensure mistakes do not repeat.

For the past two years, I have been able to be part of some very important decisions and policy changes that have and will affect our schools in a positive way.

I am proud to have been on the Residency Subcommittee, as I feel it’s imperative that Methuen funds are spent on Methuen children; as our current residency system is allowing a significant number of students to improperly attend Methuen Schools.

I have insisted on transparency, especially as to how the budget is prepared and reviewed- so that we maintain a detailed understanding of how our money is being spent and avoid any future deficits.

I have insisted on “no user fees” for participation for all sports and after school activities, so that every student has an opportunity to participate.

I am proud to have been one of the only two votes to terminate the former superintendent’s employment. Though it was a difficult decision, the failure to achieve proper certification was a clear violation of her contract terms. Had the board voted for termination it would have allowed the city to gain answers as to how this may have occurred.

I have and will continue to support the arts and insist that programs support children with all interests. I pledge never to vote for a budget that does not allow adequate funding for the arts.

I thank the residents for having allowed me to serve for the past two years and welcome the opportunity to continue my work on the School Committee.

I kindly ask for your vote on Nov. 5th, fifth on the ballot.

WRITE-IN CANDIDATES (these candidates will not appear on your ballot; you will need to write their name in on the ballot)

KERRIE ABATE

Abate was actually the first of the write-in candidates to officially declare her candidacy on September 10.

FAMILY: Parents Alfred and Vivian; brothers Anthony and Jeff, sister-in-law Joanna

EDUCATION: Bachelor degree in business administration, masters degree in educational leadership; graduate certification in STEM education

PROFESSIONAL: Technology Coordinator at Saint Michaels School in North Andover; Adjunct Professor at NECC; previously have taught for UMASS (Lowell and Boston), taught in Lawrence for several years

Director of Summer Programs at Saint Michaels, Coached Gymnastics, Dance and Cheer, Director of Robotics at Saint Michaels, Coordinator of Student Assessment at Saint Michaels

WHY I’M RUNNING: I want to serve and support Methuen Public Schools. I want to help to develop and support STREAM and STEM programs, ensure that schools are given adequate funding and increase student learning goals.

LOUANN SANTOS

Hello, my name is Louann Santos. I reside at 4 Washington Street and I am running as a “write-in” candidate for the Methuen School Committee.

I am blessed to have a beautiful family. My husband Greg and I have been married almost 12 years, and we have three beautiful children all of which attend Methuen Public Schools. My 9-year-old son Jake and my 7-year-old twins Alana and Zachary bring incredible joy to my life.

They also make me tremendously proud to be their mom. Jake started in the school system first. I volunteered for school field trips as well as volunteered in the classroom. I immediately wanted to become involved. As a mother, all I ask of my children is to show kindness, respect and to stand up for what they believe in.

For Jake, this became almost an immediate quality. In Kindergarten he raised just over $1,000 for the American Heart Association through the “Jump rope for heart” fundraiser at their school. It was shortly after that when he started raising funds and awareness for former New England Patriots Linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s charity, “Tedy’s Team.”

The organization raises funds for stroke awareness and provides support for victims and survivors of stroke. Alana and Zachary eagerly became involved and over the last three years have raised almost $11,000.

I am eager to volunteer whenever there are activities at the school. I love the hugs that I get from the familiar faces when I walk through those doors.

Not too long ago after receiving some concerning news regarding the teacher layoffs, I experienced a strong series of mixed emotions. I started a Facebook group displaying the Methuen Public Schools emblem with the hashtag “Do The Right Thing.”

I certainly wasn’t expecting the outpouring of gratitude that I received from teachers, parents and students for simply starting a Facebook page in support of our schools. That page turned into a citywide movement that gathered Methuen citizens during City Council meetings in support of OUR schools. Large numbers of supporters were gathered both inside and outside of City Hall. The meeting area itself was full. Hallways were full right to the bottom of the stairs, and chants of “Do The Right Thing” as well as honking horns that were coming from outside could be heard from viewers who were watching the Council meetings from their homes.

I was simply looking for answers. I walked in with an open mind and sat quietly to listened to the questions that were being asked of the Council and Committee. I was looking for reasons as to why this was happening again. In the end, the majority of our teachers were reinstated. However, there is more to be done.

I want to be more involved. I intend to listen to parents, teachers and students and I am not afraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. I fully intend to go into this role with an open mind, and will fully participate in open discussions regarding our schools.

I am a mother of three young children that are just starting in the Methuen Public School System. I have no “political experience,” but I am a fresh pair of eyes and ears that I feel would make me a great fit for your Methuen School Committee.

There are things that I have seen from the “outside,” both good and not-so-good that make me want to run for an open seat. I hope you consider me as a “Write-in” Candidate and look forward to a new chapter that our great City deserves again.

DAN SHIBILIA

BIO: 34, two kids, wife Kelsey, son Joey (age 3) and daughter Riley (16 months)

PROFESSION: I am an attorney and the Procurement and Contracts Manager for the Department of Children and Families.

For too long there has been a divide between City and School that has left our schools in need. As a parent, I am concerned about the education my children will receive in a few short years when they enter Methuen Public Schools.

As a member of the School Committee, I will work collaboratively with the administration of both the School and City to ensure we are maximizing the reach of every dollar we spend to best educate our children.

Our teachers do an amazing job with the reduced resources provided. With additional support, they could do even more to prepare our children for the future that awaits them.