Published in the January 18, 2018 edition


NORTH READING — Incumbent School Committee Vice Chairman Jerry Venezia has made it official: He will not seek re-election to the school board seat he has held for 18 years.

In a phone interview with the Transcript Tuesday afternoon, which was the first day that candidates for elective office in the annual Town Election on May 8 could pull their nomination papers, Venezia said his decision not to seek re-election is simply for no other reason than “it is time to get someone with new energy, new enthusiasm and new ideas” to take his place on the board.

First appointed to the School Committee in Dec. 1999 following a joint vote by the school board and the Board of Selectmen to fill an unexpired term previously held by John Norton, Venezia won election to his seat in April of 2000, he said.

In addition to overseeing multiple successful school construction projects, Venezia said he believes the most important accomplishment achieved by the School Committee during his tenure has been “primarily having a good administrative team in place.” He cited the leadership provided by retired Superintendents Dr. David Troughton and Kathy Willis and current Superintendent Jon Bernard, along with Bernard’s current administrative team, as being paramount to a successful school system.

“In order to have a good school system you have to have a good administrative team,” Venezia said.

During his last term in office Venezia said he wanted to see through the completion of the combined Middle School/High School construction project. Since both projects have been essentially wrapped up, he feels comfortable stepping down from his seat now. He pointed out that the youngest of his three children graduated from NRHS nearly seven years ago in 2011. Prior to serving 18 years on the School Committee, Venezia said he had served one term on the Board of Selectmen, from 1991 to 1994.

“We had a good run. We got a lot accomplished,” he said of the school board.

Venezia was also happy to hear the news that a candidate for School Committee had already stepped forward by pulling nomination papers on Tuesday morning.

That candidate is Richard F. McGowan of 46 Chestnut St.

There are two seats up for re-election to the School Committee in May. In addition to Venezia’s seat, the seat held by Julie Koepke, who is completing her first three-year term, is also up for re-election.

First candidate

Town Clerk Barbara Stats told the Transcript that McGowan stopped by her office early Tuesday morning to pull his nomination papers.

Contacted by the Transcript Tuesday evening, McGowan said he and his wife Wendy have lived in town since 1998. Their son is a senior at NRHS.

McGowan, who works in Boston on the “operations side” of an investment company, has never held elective office; however, he has served on the School Councils at each of the three schools his son attended, the Batchelder School, Middle School and High School.

Created under state education reform in the 1990s, School Councils consist of the principal, members of the faculty and parent volunteers as well as an at-large member of the community. They serve in an advisory role primarily on school improvement plans, he said. If there is an opening and more than one volunteer steps forward, he said they “have an election of some sort,” usually held on back to school night.

“I found myself very much interested in how the work of the schools is done and ultimately wanting to volunteer my time and do what I could do to help going forward,” he said.

McGowan said he has been considering a run for School Committee for awhile and now seemed like the right time, especially since his son is older.

“A big issue for me is the issue of equity – making sure that every student in town has an equal opportunity to participate in all school life. I think that is a big issue in every town and North Reading has a lot of great opportunities. I want to make sure that no matter what people’s circumstance are they can take part in those,” he said.

“I am a big fan of the school system in general, the town, and the way things work. I hope to be part of taking further steps in making it better,” McGowan added.

Elective offices for 2018

The deadline for candidates to return their nomination papers to the Town Clerk’s office with a minimum of 50 certifiable voters registered to vote in North Reading is Tuesday, March 20 at 5 p.m.

Seven seats on the following four boards plus the town moderator’s seat are up for election this year. The names of incumbents are listed in parentheses.

• Two seats for three-year terms on the Board Selectmen (Stephen O’Leary, Kathryn Manupelli);

• One seat for a one-year term for Town Moderator (John Murphy);

• Two seats for three-year terms on the School Community (Gerald Venezia and Julie Koepke);

• Two seats for three-year terms on the Community Planning Commission (William Bellavance and Joseph Veno);

• One seat for a five-year term on the Housing Authority (Joseph Veno).

Candidates for any municipal office are required to file campaign finance reports on specific dates per the provisions of Mass. General Law Chapter 55. Those with questions about this process may contact the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance for assistance by phone: 617-727-8352, email: or visit the website at

For additional assistance the public may also call the Town Clerk’s office at 978-357-5218.