PITTSFIELD — There is a new face on the Pittsfield School Committee, after two other would-be candidates pulled their names from consideration.
A joint session of the School Committee and City Council tapped Nyanna Slaughter to serve out the remainder of Dennis Powell’s term, making quick work Wednesday of their city charter-mandated job to fill the vacancy.
Powell, president of the NAACP Berkshire County branch, resigned last month, after a narrow majority of the School Committee voted to appoint as superintendent the internal candidate, former Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis, who had been serving as interim superintendent.
The field of would-be candidates initially reached six. But, Kate Lauzon and Kathleen Amuso pulled their names from consideration before the meeting, Council President Peter Marchetti said, without elaborating. Lauzon, who is running for School Committee in the fall, wrote in an email notifying officials about her choice that “a more diverse committee is needed at this time.”
Avi Dresner previously withdrew, according to City Clerk Michele Benjamin.
That left the joint session with their pick of three: Slaughter, who works for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Karen Reis Kaveney-Murray, a Portuguese and Spanish interpreter for the city school system and a customer service representative; and Randy Farmer, a sales executive with Merchant Lynx and father of three. Farmer’s candidacy was announced for the first time Wednesday.
Farmer sent his interest letter by the Monday deadline to Rosemarie Blake of Pittsfield Public Schools, but Blake told elected leaders in an email that the document did not immediately come through because of a technology glitch.
School Committee Chairperson Katherine Yon asked for nominations, then she and Marchetti recognized Mayor Linda Tyer, who nominated Slaughter. Slaughter is Central Massachusetts regional director for Warren, a Taconic High School business academy graduate and MBA candidate who comes from a prominent family in the city’s West Side neighborhood.
The 16 local elected officials present for the meeting voted unanimously to appoint Slaughter, who Yon noted had described herself in her letter as “a Black educated woman who is confident, passionate, determined, an organized leader and a team player.”
Councilor Chris Connell nominated Farmer, an Army veteran, according to his resume, but Connell’s nomination failed to receive a second.
Some expressed concern before the session that filling the vacancy with someone planning to campaign for a full School Committee term in the fall would give them an edge come election time. No one attending the meeting offered an answer when Councilor Kevin Morandi asked whether Slaughter was interested in running.
School Committee member Bill Cameron, At-Large City Councilor Pete White and Councilor Patrick Kavey said they wished the applicants had joined the meeting to speak with officials.
“Given that this is the first time this has come up, I think that it’s difficult to choose between the candidates in front of us, given [us] only getting a letter” of interest from each candidate, White said. “Some of us may know one or two of the candidates; however, it would just be a more fair process to hear something from them, a statement, something, and to know whether or not they plan to run for the seat.”
The candidates were not told to be present, and their letters provided enough information for officials to make their selection, said Tyer, who also sits on the School Committee.
“They all submitted very comprehensive, well-written letters of interest, and I think that is sufficient for the decision that we are making this evening,” she said.
A motion to move Slaughter’s nomination to a vote put forward by City Councilor Anthony Maffuccio passed by a 9-7 vote, cutting off debate. The two panels then voted unanimously in favor of Slaughter’s nomination.
According to a vacancy notice, Slaughter will serve out the remainder of Powell’s term, which expires at the end of the year.