Published in the December 21, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — It’s epic, and yes, it’s ugly, but it’s for a good cause.

We knew the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest between the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee was going to get ugly on Monday night, but these results were beyond our wildest imagination.

THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE’S TEAM in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest featured School Committee member Julie Koepke, Finance Director Michael Connelly, Superintendent Jon Bernard and School Committee members Jerry Venezia, Scott Buckley, Chairman Mel Webster and Janene Imbriano. (Michael Geoffrion Scannell Photo)

Just how ugly? Picture a room full of preschoolers given free reign at Santa’s workshop to dress up 16 adults any way they wanted. And best of all, the Transcript’s readers get to pick the winning team with the ugliest sweaters in our exclusive poll at, which opens today and runs through New Year’s Eve.

THE SELECTMEN’S TEAM in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest is comprised of (from left) Human Resource Director Bob Collins, the board’s recording secretary Jane Brooks, Selectmen Andrew Schultz, Kathryn Manupelli, Chairman Mike Prisco, Steve O’Leary and Bob Mauceri, Town Administrator Mike Gilleberto and Finance Director Liz Rourke. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

The losing team will donate $100 to the Transcript’s 28th annual Neighbor Helping Neighbor fund. All of the funds raised by the newspaper are donated to Christian Community Service (CCS), an all-volunteer nonprofit in town that runs the town’s Food Pantry and provides emergency aid year-round to residents in need. The winning team will retain unlimited bragging rights.

At the opening of Monday night’s Selectmen’s meeting, Chairman Mike Prisco asked the board members to remain standing after they had recited the Pledge of Allegiance. “As you can see, we have our beautiful ugly sweaters this evening and I assume our counterparts at the School Committee do as well. The reason we are wearing these is we are trying to advocate for the North Reading Transcript’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund and our goal tonight is to make some awareness for it.” He asked for the community’s support in voting for his board.

SANTA PRISCO (a.k.a. Selectmen Chairman Mike Prisco) spearheaded the Ugly Sweater Challenge between his board and the School Committee. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

“We look forward to the challenge and the voting and I want to thank my board especially for wearing these ridiculous ugly sweaters at my request. You look amazing,” Prisco added.

While the voting does not official begin until today (Dec. 21), in this world of instant communication, the banter was piling up on the North Reading Community Connection Facebook page during and after the respective meetings of both boards Monday night, and it’s pretty funny.

There’s Scott “the Elf” Buckley, the rookie School Committee member who paired a kelly green and red screen print sweater featuring a snow pig and matching Bermuda shorts worn with Gnome Santa knee socks and dress shoes.

And while they’ll never say if it was planned, somehow School Committee member Janene Imbriano and School Finance Director Michael Connelly managed to wear the same ugly sweater, a tribute to their apparent fondness for country music, cowboy boots and Santa hats.

Speaking of Santa, Prisco did his best imitation of the Big Guy himself, wearing a kelly green sweater emblazoned with Santa’s smiling face and a yarn beard topped off by a Santa hat for his sweater and one for his noggin. And don’t let the mild mannered ways of Selectman Bob Mauceri fool you; his caricature of Santa enjoying a BBQ over a spit may leave him short a few team members when it comes time to fly away into the night delivering presents.

Remember that change order the SSBC made recently to add faux red bricks to the concession stand/restrooms at NRHS? Well, School Committee Chairman Mel Webster may have pilfered a few samples to create the faux brick fireplace image emblazoned on his ugly sweater.

After the School Committee meeting, Webster posted to his Facebook page: “I love the spirit of this town and the way its residents keep things in perspective (almost all the time). I dare say you won’t find many places where the Board of Selectmen and School Committee will show up looking like we did tonight to have a little fun. Thanks to Selectman Mike Prisco for initiating the contest idea, and thanks to North Reading for being a great place to live.”

Not to be outdone, School Committee Vice Chairman Jerry Venezia topped off his electric blue sweater of a lounging snowman with a green garland vest, complete with dangling Christmas tree ornaments.

Superintendent Jon Bernard’s sweater literally glows in red and green with a festive eight-point buck while a village of gingerbread houses and reindeer adorned School Committee member Julie Koepke’s sweater.

A GOOD SPORT. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto took one for the team by participating in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest as part of the Selectmen’s team versus the School Committee Monday night. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

Back in the selectmen’s room, Steve O’Leary donned a tux Christmas sweater while reindeer were the choice of both Selectmen Andrew Schultz and Kathryn Manupelli. Manupelli also created a Christmas tree vest from green faux fur adorned with ornaments that suited recording secretary Jane Brooks well.

T.A. Mike Gilleberto’s candy cane striped and Christmas tree emblazoned sweater would make Will Farrell’s Elf character jealous. A suit coat of tacky Christmas lights showed the spirit of Human Resources Director Bob Collins while Finance Director Liz Rourke’s white and pink puppy sweater was simply cute as a button.

How to vote

There are multiple ways to log your vote. Simply go to to vote in our poll or link to our Facebook page via either of two other local Facebook pages, North Reading Community Connections or North Reading’s News. Online voting will remain open through New Year’s Eve which is Sunday, December 31.

Those who are not online may still participate by one of several methods as long as they do so by the end of the business day at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 29 (to enable us the time to manually tally those votes).

Mail your vote (one vote per person) to: North Reading Transcript, P.O. Box 7, North Reading MA 01864; call our office and leave your name and your vote at 978-664-4761; stop by our home office in the Item Building, 26 Albion St., Wakefield MA 01880; or send us an email at: