In a substantially more placid atmosphere than has characterized meetings in recent months, members of the Marblehead School Committee elected a new slate of officers Thursday night at their annual reorganization.
Kathy Leonardson, who was reelected last Monday, is the committee’s new chairwoman. Newcomer Meredith Tedford, who won an open seat in the election, will serve as vice chairwoman. Tom Connolly is the new secretary.
The reorganization comes after EuRim Chun left her post as chair May 2 after getting fed up with the bedlam that persisted during a committee meeting. Three members of the committee left the floor when Superintendent Greg Maass questioned if one of them, Richard Nohelty, was following through on an announcement that he would resign his post.
“I wasn’t going to protest because it was ridiculous and embarrassing for everybody,” Chun said. “It was clear the antics were getting out of hand.”
That meeting started off on a high note, as members were applauding each other for accomplishing goals they had made earlier in the year.
Things took a shocking turn after Maass asked Nohelty, who has a year left on his term, if he would resign as he had announced was his intention April 4.
“This is inappropriate to attack elected officials that supervise you in this kind of forum and I’d like this conversation to end,” former School Committee vice chair Jonathan Lederman told Maass that night.
In her attempt to control the meeting, Chun took full advantage of the gavel, trying to hold the floor for Maass to speak, but her efforts were unsuccessful.
Nohelty, who also serves on the Glover School Building Committee, called a motion to recess, which was seconded by Lederman. The two men walked out of the room, accompanied by Connolly.
A member of the audience called out the word “shameful,” as all three men departed.
Maass once again took the floor, reading an e-mail that Nohelty had sent to him and the Glover School Building Committee, in which Nohelty wrote he planned to resign on June 30.
When Connolly, Lederman, and Nohelty returned, more arguing erupted. Chun gave up the gavel, asking her fellow committee members to “Remove me as the chair, please.”
Nohelty made the motion to remove Chun from her position, seconded by Connolly and Lederman, who took her place.
“This is an embarrassment, frankly,” said Marblehead resident Steve Maxwell, who approached the table to speak. “How in the world can you let this happen to something that is as important to this town as the school system that educates our kids? The behavior that you guys show here as a group is like a bunch of kindergarteners that can’t get along . . . This is shameful.”
Several other residents spoke up regarding the behavior of the School Committee, including two Marblehead High School seniors who were watching the meeting on TV, and decided to show up and address the committee.
“It’s ridiculous you’re sitting up there bickering,” said high school senior Harry Bond. “You should be getting stuff done.”
The controversial meeting on May 2 is one of many that have entailed arguing and disagreements, most of which were sparked by the resignation of Maass March 21, which is to take effect June 30.
The superintendent, who has served for two years, announced his departure at a School Committee meeting, stating that tension among committee members and personal reasons fueled his decision. He had one year left in his contract.
Lederman chose not to run for reelection this year. Connelly’s and Nohelty’s terms run until 2014. Leonardson and Tedford are starting new terms. Chun will serve as a committee member until her resignation becomes effective June 30.
“I think with new members, there’s always a new complexion on the board,” said Leonardson. “I’m optimistic.”
Tedford, 41, said she is looking forward to closing the book on the past and starting new.
“I want to be as positive as I can and hopefully create some stability there,” she said.
“We live in a great community and to have someone that is going to be a fresh perspective and the desire to do what’s best for our kids and be a team player is very exciting,” Chun said. “It’s a great new day and I would love for the board to continue to get cleaned up so the community has a fresh, clean start.”