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Griffin 1st New Leominster School Committee Chair in 24 Years

January 4, 2018 GMT

LEOMINSTER -- Ward 5 School Committee member Eileen Griffin was elected as the committee’s chairwoman during its reorganization meeting Tuesday after Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who has led the committee through most of his 24 years in office, chose not to seek re-election to the chairmanship.

“I think that once Dean announced that he was not going to be seeking the chair position, this just seemed like the logical next step,” said Griffin, who has served as vice chair for the last year.

Referring to interim Superintendent of Schools Paula Deacon, Griffin added, “I’m excited to work with Paula as interim superintendent and really want to be able to get us back on track so we’re working efficiently and putting the needs of the students first.”

In the final months of 2017, Mazzarella repeatedly made public statements explaining that he no longer wished to serve the committee as chairman, though he intends to remain on the committee.

“I have the highest confidence in Eileen,” Mazzarella said of Griffin’s appointment. “She will do a great job.”

Griffin, who has served on the School Committee for more than 15 years, will now be responsible for facilitating meetings, organizing agendas and working more as a partner with the superintendent.

“The chair is really the one responsible for getting the ball rolling on a lot of things and making sure that everyone on the committee is on the same page,” she said.

Griffin said she is excited to have Deacon serving as interim superintendent and is hoping to have the School Committee work more closely with the City Council, especially on budget issues.

Looking ahead to the new year and her time as chair, Griffin also said she’s hoping the committee will work more collaboratively, maintain stronger fiscal responsibility, and put the needs of Leominster’s students first.

“Primarily, our focus has to be on the budget and making sound decisions,” she said. “We need to know how what their impact will be on the students. We’ve had a difficult past year that was tumultuous at best, but we’re already having a better handle on the budget.”

During the past year, Griffin already has acted as the committee’s chairwoman when Mazzarella was absent for meetings. Though she acknowledged that’s not quite the same as serving as the committee’s permanent chair, Griffin said she thinks it helped prepare her for her new role.

“I think we’ll all find out together what it’s going to end up being like,” she said. “It will be a learning process for everyone that’s hopefully seamless.”

Ward 4 School Committee member Nona Ojala will serve as the committee’s vice chairwoman.

“I felt it was time try something new on the committee,” Ojala said, adding that she thinks Griffin will do a good job as chair. “I hope to complement Eileen in what she does and, hopefully, we’ll get things back on track.”

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.