After more than 30 years in elected office, School Committee Chair Frank Parker shocked the Everett political circles on Monday by announcing he was withdrawing from the race for re-election to the Ward 3 School Committee seat.
Parker told the Independent on Monday afternoon that it was a personal decision to withdraw and spend more time with family – something that has come into focus for him this year after losing his mother to COVID-19 in January and having recovered from cancer himself just two years ago.
“I withdrew and I will not seek re-election,” said Parker. “I had told my family that this was going to be my last term. When I pulled my Nomination Papers recently for another term, they reminded me of that promise. After much deliberation with my family and the fact that I just lost my mother this year to COVID-19, I decided that after 30 years of service, it was time to focus on family.
“Also, last August, my best friend since fifth grade, Kenny Upton, passed away,” he continued. “Kenny was always my unofficial campaign manager and I couldn’t imagine knocking on doors and campaigning without him.”
Parker, 61, has served on the School Committee for most of his years in elected office, but also served a 10-year stint on the old Common Council as well. On the Common Council, he was key in helping others like John Burley to push the enhanced recycling efforts – getting curbside recycling to Everett instead of having to drop off recycling at the DPW yard. However, it is his stint on the School Committee over the last two years – serving as vice chair and now chair – that he said have distinguished him. Parker was one of the long-time members that stayed on after the former Supt. Fred Foresteire resigned and left the district in disarray and without a clear leader. “I did stick around to rebuild and bring in a new way of thinking about public education in Everett,” he said. “In a time of chaos in 2018, I’d like to think I stepped up to bring order and change for the better and brought on a new administration so Everett can move forward and be better.
I can’t lie, the last three years have been difficult. I am also not good at leaving politics at my front porch. So, it’s time to move on and time for someone new to step up with fresh ideas. I’m 61 and my idea of technology in the classroom was a 21-inch black and white TV in the front of the room.
This gives an opportunity for someone from the general public to run and try to chisel and hammer out the policies that will last us another 20 years…We need more good candidates for the School Committee.” One of his signature pieces, he said, was instituting the Robotics program into the curriculum in 2018, a move that launched what is now an entire award-winning STEM program focusing on all kinds of science and engineering. A big motivator besides losing his mother was actually surviving cancer two years ago when he was running for re-election in a heated battle with Robert Santacroce.
Not many people know he overcame the disease, and he said he kept it quiet, but he also said it helped him understand the short time given in life. “Two years ago in July when I was running for re-election, I was diagnosed with cancer,” he said. “Not a lot of people knew that. Not only did I beat back a tough political opponent, but also I beat back cancer. I’m about to have my two-year check-up and I’m hoping it is clean again. So, really, the decision is about my health and my family.” With Parker’s withdrawal, the race now focuses on the two declared candidates, Santacroce and Veterans Agent Jeanne Cristiano. •COUNCILOR MCLAUGHLIN PULLS PAPERS FOR SCHOOL COMMITTEE Almost a month ago, Ward 6 Councilor Michael McLaughlin surprised a few folks when he announced he wouldn’t run again for his City Council seat, and this week he turned a few heads when he announced his plans to run for the Ward 6 School Committee seat – now occupied by former School Committee Chair Tom Abruzzese.
McLaughlin said he was compelled to run for School Committee to give back to the district that helped he and his family get a great education after moving to Everett from Boston decades ago. That desire to give back, he said, is particularly true after the pandemic as the schools try to pick up the pieces after a year of remote learning. “It has been my deep desire to give back to a school system that taught and buoyed my siblings and me,” he said. “As a student growing up with an IEP, I understand the worry and frustration of parents who want the best services for their children and smaller class sizes. “I am calling on the District to make mental health for the students of Everett a priority,” he continued. “These children have suffered greatly through the pandemic, and we must not forget that just because they will back in the classroom.
Kids need to be integrated with a plan, and their emotional wellness will be my top priority.” However, McLaughlin said one of his greatest strengths will be showing up and listening on all occasions, something he said he has done for years as a councilor and something he questioned whether his opponent does well. “As an eight-year member of the City Council, I have had a strong record of showing up, listening, and working every day to serve the residents of Everett,” he said. “I will do no less on behalf of the over 7,000 children of the Everett Public School System. I will be a bridge-builder between City Hall and the school’s central administration, which will lead to positive outcomes for all voices of our community.” McLaughlin will likely be facing only incumbent Abruzzese, as it has been rumored that former member Bernie D’Onofrio will focus on the at-large School Committee race and not the Ward 6 race. D’Onofrio has pulled papers for both seats. Also, in this race, it will be the first time that the candidates will be seeking only voters in Ward 6, as the citywide vote for ward seats has been done away with.