Six Pioneer School Committee positions up for election in November

  • Municipal Assistant Michele Giarusso works at her desk at the Leyden Town Offices in the former Pearl Rhodes Elementary School building. Giarusso, who is also a member of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee, is one of two sitting members who has committed to running for another term come November’s election. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jim Bell, who represents Bernardston on the Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee, is one of two sitting members who has committed to running for another term come November’s election. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/28/2020 1:44:07 PM

NORTHFIELD — Six seats on the Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee will be up for election in November, and only two sitting members have committed to running for another term.

The deadline to turn in nomination papers to run for School Committee passed in July, but candidates can still be elected through write-in campaigns.

Patricia Shearer

Patricia Shearer of Northfield, who is currently the interim chair after Kristen Gonzalez stepped down from the role earlier this month, said she is willing to remain chair through November, at which time she will not seek re-election. Gonzalez will remain on as a School Committee member through the end of her term in 2022.

“After 44 years (23 as chair), I have decided that it is time to step down,” Shearer explained. “Things in education have changed tremendously over the years. I have worked elbow-to-elbow with five superintendents and have thoroughly enjoyed the days of serving the taxpayers, parents and children in our district. It’s been fun, it’s been challenging and I’d do it all over again.”

Seth Kratz

Northfield member Seth Kratz is also not seeking re-election in November. He was appointed just over a year ago to fill a seat that was vacated by another member mid-term.

“The main reason is the time involved in being on the committee,” Kratz said regarding why he isn’t seeking re-election. “With two kids, and a pretty demanding full-time job, the School Committee is something I have decided not to continue.”

Jessica Marshall

School Committee member Jessica Marshall, who represents Warwick, is not running for re-election. She said she is hopeful there will be a write-in applicant for her position.

“It has been my honor to serve this term of civic duty,” Marshall said. “I find myself now as the primary worker in my family with three children navigating new learning systems, and am stretched too far to fulfill this seat with the diligence and integrity that I believe it demands.”

Michele Giarusso

Michele Giarusso will be running for a School Committee position representing Leyden. She has taken out nomination papers and will appear on the ballot. Giarusso is currently sitting on the committee after being appointed in August, when previous member Sharon Fontaine stepped down for personal reasons.

“I have not served on the School Committee before, but I was on the Selectboard for 14 years and the Finance Committee for 15 years, and now as municipal assistant for the town,” Giarusso said. “So I have attended a lot of School Committee meetings.”

She also served as chair of the HEART (Honest Education and Retaining Trust) Committee, an advisory board with members from all four Pioneer school district member towns that aims to create a more financially sustainable school system.

Giarusso believes her business knowledge, municipal knowledge and education knowledge from personal experiences, as well as from being a parent and now a grandparent, would benefit her on the School Committee.

“I have always wanted what was best for the children while balancing the municipal viewpoint,” she said. “I am multi-tasked, believe in honest communication across all disciplines and want to be an effective member of the School Committee.”

Jim Bell

School Committee member Jim Bell of Bernardston is seeking re-election. He was appointed to the School Committee six years ago to fill a seat that was vacated mid-term, and has now served two full terms. Bell has been involved with Pioneer Valley Regional School since 1994, when he became track coach.

“In that time I’ve really fallen in love with the kids that I coach and the school,” Bell said. “I really believe in education, and the kids.”

Bell said his position on the School Committee allows him to be an advocate for students and teachers. He believes he has gained skills that are necessary for the position, as he and his fellow members have worked through difficult times with tight budgets and learned to be fiscally responsible.

David Young

David Young, who also serves as the Warwick town coordinator, has been elected to the School Committee twice, serving for six years. He said he did not take out papers for this year’s election and is undecided if he will run. Should he run, it would be as a write-in candidate.

“I believe I have brought some common sense, better than average understanding of budgets, innovative thinking and vision,” Young said. “Not that it’s amounted to much.”

Young said that if he runs again, he would be representing an interest of the district to find ways to minimize damage to the school district by Warwick’s withdrawal. Residents voted at Annual Town Meeting in July to withdraw from the Pioneer school district. Young said Warwick will remain in the district for the 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022 school years.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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