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Vacant seat prompts increased interest

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM The sudden loss of longtime educator and School Committee member John Burns has left the committee with a legacy to safeguard and a void to fill.

"He leaves a hole on the School Committee that will be really tough to fill," Mayor Susan Dawson, also chair of the School Committee, said. "He was just an amazing part of the community and I have yet to find anyone who didn't think he was the best thing since sliced bread."

According to Section 4-6 of the town's charter, filling a vacancy within the School Committee requires a joint session of the committee and the Town Council. The session has been scheduled for April 28 at 7 p.m. at the middle school.

Town Clerk Richard Theroux explained that those interested in filling the vacancy must be nominated by a member of the council or School Committee.

Council Clerk Barbara Bard said she has received two letters of interest from John Cesan, the first runner up in the November election, and former School Committee member Teresa Kozloski, who served from 1990 - 2003. Bard noted that submitting a letter of interest is not a requirement to fill the vacancy, nor is there a deadline for a letter. According to Theroux, another candidate from the previous election, John Cameron Jr., has also shown interest in the vacancy. Cesan came in seventh of the eight candidates in the November election with 2,859 votes and Cameron received 2,576 votes.

The candidate who receives a majority vote of the 17 eligible voters within the School Committee and Town Council at the joint meeting next week will fill the vacancy. The committee must have a replacement by their next meeting on May 13.

Theroux noted that if the committee practiced the same procedure as the council, the first runner up from the previous election Cesan would fill the vacancy. The council amended their charter in 2001 to implement this procedure.

School Committee member Linda Galarneau said she believes the vacancy should go to the first runner up. "I personally think that's how it should go because they spent the money and put the time in to run," she explained. "[This process] makes it [filling the vacancy] too political."

In an interview with Reminder Publications, Cesan said he ran in the election because of "a real desire to serve" the community, adding that he is considering seeking a nomination before the joint committee.

"I've lived in Agawam almost all my life. I truly care about the community," Cesan said. "I want to address the issues [as a member of the committee] as they come about and go about them with a common sense mentality."

Cameron and Kozloski were unavailable for comment by press time.

Town Councilor Paul Cavallo, also former School Committee member, said he will be looking to nominate "a person who is dedicated to the job."

He explained that like Burns, he wants the newcomer to "have a genuine interest in our children's welfare and education." Cavallo said having known Burns for 40 years, he called him "a real gentleman and a down to earth individual."

Town Council President Gina Letellier said, "He was someone that cared about all kids and wanted to make sure that all kids had the same opportunities to succeed."

Dawson agreed, adding that Burns encouraged her son Andy to join his after school robotics club, "Rosie Robotics," in order to allow him an avenue to become a part of "school culture."

"He [Burns] was warm and articulate. He had a huge understanding of what people need," Dawson said. "I will look to what would have been his empty seat and think of him."