After nearly two hours of joint interviews conducted by the Marblehead School Committee and the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night, William Ackerman was appointed to fill the vacancy on the school board.
Ackerman, 46, is replacing former chairwoman EuRim Chun, who submitted her resignation, effective June 30, after ongoing tensions among committee members.
The father of three said his first priority would be to mobilize the board after several months of controversy.
“They’ve got to just calm down the craziness,” Ackerman said. “The School Committee is a lightning rod, so they can work on their issues. But they’re inconsistently respected and that’s not good. I don’t know exactly how to fix it, but hopefully I can do my part.”
Strife among board members ignited after former Superintendent Greg Maass announced his resignation at a March 21 School Committee meeting. Shortly afterward, Chun said she would resign and she asked fellow committee members to do the same.
Ackerman said as an outsider, he can bring a fresh attitude to the table.
“I think most people who are on committees lose a lot of perspective,” he said. “A committee is a committee. It supports things around it. It’s not about the members on the committee . . . In theory we hired a good superintendent, so we should be good.”
MaryAnn Perry, the town’s assistant school superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, was appointed as Maass’s replacement in June.
At Wednesday night’s joint meeting, selectmen and board members asked each candidate a total of 18 questions. Rossana Ferrante Francis, Elizabeth L. Moore, V. Scott H. Solberg, and Alexa E. Squitieri were the other candidates.
After the interviews, each official voted for the candidate of their choice. The winner needed five out of nine votes, and it took two rounds of voting to appoint a new member.
Jackie Belf-Becker, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, was the deciding vote in appointing Ackerman. She said that after evaluating all of the candidates’ responses, she decided Ackerman’s attributes would be the most compatible with the town’s needs.
“I look at the candidate pool and the needs of the town and the School Committee at this point in time, and assessed all of the candidates’ answers, and I think Mr. Ackerman made the most sense looking at those parameters,” Belf-Becker said. “I think we made a good choice. If his time on the board reflects his answers last night, I think things will be good.”
School Committee chairwoman Kathleen Leonardson said she’s looking forward to a fresh start and is happy to have Ackerman on board.
“He brings a lot of experience in the business world, budgetary, and certainly has done a lot of volunteering working with children in this town,” Leonardson said. “It sounds like he’s very committed to the district and improving the situation in the school department and for years to come.”
‘ I don’t know exactly how to fix it, but hopefully I can do my part.’
Ackerman currently works for Fidelity Investments. He earned his master’s degree in communications from Stanford University and his bachelor’s in economics and English from Amherst College. His three children attend Marblehead schools.
Ackerman said when he first moved to Marblehead as a child, his mother told him it was for the schools.
“I have a big sense of Marblehead pride,” he said. “I’m a big advocate for the schools.”Terri Ogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.