Lynn School Committee hires Mary Jules as secretary

Mary Jules. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — In a vote that split the board before officially becoming unanimous, City Election Coordinator Mary Jules was selected by the School Committee Thursday night as its next secretary.

Jules was selected over two other finalists, Lynn Public Schools storekeeper Joseph Martin, and Frances Martinez, president and founder of the North Shore Latino Business Association.

Although the vote will go down in the records as being unanimous for Jules, three committee members opted to change their votes to Jules after initially casting votes for the two other candidates.

A simple majority vote from the seven-member board was needed to elect their next secretary.

Before the motion to switch to a unanimous selection, Donna Coppola, vice-chair of the committee, voted for Martin, while committee members Brian Castellanos and Jared Nicholson chose Martinez.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee, chairman of the School Committee, and members John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Michael Satterwhite were the initial votes for Jules.

Jules said she was overwhelmed by being selected, and couldn’t be happier that she got the position. She congratulated the other two finalists, whom she called great candidates.

“I care about the children and respect all the School Committee (members),” Jules said. “I just want to be part of that to make the schools better for the children.”

Committee members praised all three finalists as being strong applicants, with some voicing how the election was a difficult decision.

Nicholson said he voted for Martinez partly because of her experience as a parent liaison for the Lynn Public Schools Special Education Department, a role she’s held since 2011. He cited references who called her an excellent communicator and praised her ability to bring people together among diverse groups.

The liaison role is a crucial part of the secretary position, Nicholson said, as far as being a facilitator for the board between the parents, community and school department, and if elected, he expected her to excel in the first two while having a steeper learning curve for the school department communication.

Before the vote, Satterwhite gave a synopsis of what he perceived as the strengths of the three candidates. He reported having a hard time deciding between Jules and Martinez.

He said Jules had a data-driven background and was knowledgeable of the city. For Martinez, he cited her strong community and leadership ties and said through her work with the North Shore Latino Business Association and La Vida Scholars, she heard a voice in the city that was drowned out. He noted Martin’s veteran status as a strength and long-time service to the school department.

“The city has changed drastically over the past five years and these three candidates all grasp the knowledge of this in different ways,” Satterwhite said.

The road to selecting a new secretary was not smooth sailing. The School Committee was scheduled to vote on the position last month, but delayed the decision because of shared affiliations, or potential conflicts of interest, between members and applicants.

Ahead of Thursday night’s vote, six School Committee members filed either a request for ethics opinion regarding an affiliation with the city solicitor’s office, or a “disclosure of appearance of conflict of interest” form with the city clerk’s office.

The two conflicts in play were with Jules and Martinez. Both finalists also filed a disclosure with the city clerk’s office.

Jules, along with three committee members — McGee, Gately and Ford — is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH).

Nicholson and Satterwhite are on the board of directors for the North Shore Latino Business Association and also members, while Castellanos and McGee are general members, sharing an affiliation with Martinez.

A final salary has to be negotiated with Jules, but the School Committee has already voted to set a range of $75,000 to $80,000.

She will replace Thomas Iarrobino, who retired last month after 21 years on the job. Iarrobino brought private sector management experience to the secretary’s job when he served as a liaison between members and school administration.

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