School Committee Members Rizzo, Ferrante Differ on New Election Proposal

Long-time School Committee members Stacey Rizzo and Michael Ferrante have agreed on many issues during their years on the seven-member board. Both have advocated vigorously for the construction of new schools and voted often to ensure that Revere students have had the most state-of-the-art resources needed to excel.

They have been front and center supporting student-athletes in all sports, and they have taken great pride in Revere being a national model for urban education in America.

Ferrante, 65, has served on the School Committee for 17 years. Rizzo, 64, has served for 12 years and currently holds the position of vice-chair. She is also the president-elect of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

But Rizzo and Ferrante are on opposite sides of the City Council’s decision to approve Mayor Brian Arrigo’s proposal to change the election process for candidates seeking seats on the School Committee. Arrigo asked that six members be elected by the voters in their respective wards (Wards 1-6), while there also be a city-wide election for two at-large seats. The mayor would be the ex-officio chair of the School Committee, meaning future boards would have nine members as opposed to the current seven-member structure.

Both City Solicitor Paul Capizzi and Council President Gerry Visconti pointed out there would be a very good chance that Revere would face a lawsuit (as had happened in Worcester) if they maintained the current election process for the School Committee.

School Committee member John Kingston, who had obviously done his homework on the issue, correctly noted that while most communities have seven-member School Committees, the City of Malden does in fact, have nine members [eight ward seats and Mayor Gary Christenson as chair].

The Council voted 7-2 to approve Mayor Arrigo’s election proposal, with Councillors Ira Novoselsky and George Rotondo casting votes against the motion. Councillors Anthony Cogliandro, Patrick Keefe, Joanne McKenna, Steven Morabito, Richard Serino, Marc Silvestri, and Gerry Visconti voted in favor of Arrigo’s proposal.

Rizzo a Strong Supporter

Stacey Rizzo left no doubt on which side of the issue she stands, stating vigorously, “I am 110 percent for it. I just believe every ward does need its representation. I think it gives other candidates an opportunity to get into an election and not have it be based on name recognition. As far as having two at-large seats, I agree with the proposal because it just allows another set of eyes to look at the whole district.”

Noting some of the questions being raised about having two at-large seats, Rizzo added, “There are five councillors-at-large, I don’t know why there is such an opposition with the School Committee having two [at-large seats].

“I want people to run in those wards,” continued Rizzo. “The families are going to know the candidates because they see them living every day in their wards.”

Interestingly, Rizzo will see direct political ramifications from the new ward-election proposal as she has relocated to Ward 5 where School Committee member Aisha Milbury Ellis, a rising star in Revere politics, resides.

“I just moved to Ward 5 and Aisha lives in Ward 5, and more than likely she would win a Ward 5 election over me, because she has lived here and I just moved here,” added Rizzo, while noting that School Committee members Carol Tye and John Kingston reside in Ward 1 and could potentially be opponents in a 2023 Ward 1 School Committee election.

“But the election shouldn’t be about the incumbents,” said Rizzo. “It needs to be about the schools and the students.”

Rizzo has not announced whether she will be a candidate in the 2023 election.

“I have five grandchildren that I watch a lot, and if I can’t do my job 100 percent, I don’t know if it’s fair – I’m going to keep that in the back of my mind right up until probably April of next year,” said Rizzo. “I love my job, and every time we have a graduation and I see all these students that I’ve known since kindergarten – it breaks my heart that I would give it up.”

Ferrante Likes the Current SC Election Process

Michael Ferrante wants School Committee elections to remain the way they are. For one, he feels that nine members may make the School Committee less cohesive and less effective.

“You’re going to have nine people up there trying to make decisions – that’s not easy, you know that, and I know that,” Ferrante said candidly. “I just think the more people you have, the harder it is to make decisions. I like it the way it is, but it’s unfortunately, it’s probably not going to stay that way. Right now, if you have the ward fights, we’re going to lose two of our current members, although they could run for at-large seats and win a seat. So, are we trying to eliminate people there, or are we just trying to open it up for more people? I’m really not sure. If the system’s not broken, don’t fix it. Everybody has the same opportunity to run and win.”

Ferrante offered an excellent question that has yet to be addressed by officials, which is: how many candidates on the ballot in School Committee races will advance to the final election?

“If this new proposal gets enacted, how many candidates will you need to have an at-large primary?” he asked rhetorically. “Does it revert to the rules where you need double the candidates, plus one, to hold a primary? We have to know the answer to that before we proceed to the next step.”

With the Council’s approval of Mayor Arrigo’s election proposal, the decision now rests with the state legislature.

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