Wareham School Committee race has 3 candidates seeking 2 seats

Feb 14, 2018

There are two seats available on the Wareham School Committee in the April 3 town election with three candidates seeking spots on the board.

The candidates are: Michael Flaherty, Rebekah Pratt and current Vice Chair Geoffrey Swett. Those candidates submitted the signatures of 50 registered voters before a Feb. 13 deadline, qualifying them to seek office. The top two vote getters will win seats on the board.

Two other people, current Chair Judy Caporiccio and Rebecca Kennen, had initially notified the Town Clerk’s office they intended to run, but did not return signatures before the deadline. Wareham Week has reached out to both seeking comment.

Flaherty has lived in Wareham since 2004. He is the creator of Wareham Matters, a Facebook group with more than 6,000 members. Flaherty was on the school committee three years ago and also used to be on the Library Board of Trustees.

The issues he hopes to address as a school committee member are bullying (“I’m not convinced enough is being done"), lagging state scores and working toward a better relationship with Upper Cape.

“I’m all about putting the students first, and not just the students, but putting learning first,” Flaherty said. “I’ve always put academics over athletics or extracurricular activities.”

A big change Flaherty wants to see on the school committee is more transparency and accountability. He said he’ll be the one to raise questions.

“Too often what I see is...they’re just up there nodding their heads as a rubber stamp for whatever the superintendent wants to do,” he said. “It’s like pulling teeth trying to get information out of the administration.”

Swett has lived in Wareham since 1999 and has been on the committee since 2005. He was a member of the finance committee, currently coaches the girls tennis team, is a chairman of the YMCA of Southcoast board and on the board of directors for the New Bedford Symphony. His passion for education drove him to his spot on the school committee, he said.

“I do believe that any community’s future is fundamentally tied to the success of its educational system,” he said.

Though he’s never been an educator, he has “enjoyed tremendously” working with educators, finding them to be “really interesting, passionate, idealistic people.”

The issues Swett finds most important are declining enrollment, which raises the cost of education per student, improving accountability and, as a member of the Minot Forest School Building Committee, replacing and consolidating the elementary schools in a cost effective way.

Pratt said she decided to run because the district isn’t supporting students as well as it could.

“As a parent…I am extremely frustrated with the current state of our schools,” said Pratt, who has lived in town for the past five years. Pratt’s daughter currently attends the high school.

Pratt believes teachers, administrators and students leaving the district, as well as an overall negative perception of Wareham schools are some of the major issues facing the committee. To address those issues, Pratt said fostering a work environment focused on honest feedback is important.

“We must change the culture and this must come from the top,” said Pratt.

For Pratt, addressing how the community views Wareham schools is one of the committee’s “largest hurdles.”

“I will do all that I can to promote more town pride and active participation in our schools and programs,” she said.

Pratt has 20 years of experience in business management and currently works as the director of Urgent Care for Compass Medical, a medical practice in East Bridgewater.