School Committee chairwoman Bethany Furtado, vice chairwoman Terri Medeiros and clerk Karen Bachus have endorsed Mayor Scott Avedisian in the upcoming Republican primary on Sept. 9 between Avedisian and challenger Stacia Petri.
The three members were listed in a press release emailed to the Beacon from the mayor’s office stating their endorsement.
According to the release, while there have been differences of opinion with the city administration, the three members “have total confidence that by working together with Mayor Avedisian, we can bring the proper focus back to reinvesting into the educational system of the city of Warwick.”
The releases concludes, “We believe that the best team to lead Warwick schools into the future includes Mayor Avedisian at the helm.”
Furtado said a conversation regarding the endorsement did not take place with the entire committee. She said she and her colleagues came up with the idea “independently but together.”
“Separately but collectively we support and endorse the mayor, so I thought it was appropriate,” she said. “I try to keep my politics to myself, but I’ve worked with the mayor for the past eight years and I believe he’s been doing an excellent job for the city.”
Furtado said since she’s been on the committee, endorsements haven’t come up in the past.
The move is not only unusual, but unprecedented, as the School Committee has been a non-partisan political body since the 1970s.
“I worked hard in the ’70s to make the school committee non-partisan, and I’ve held that belief ever since we accomplished that in 1978,” said committee member Eugene Nadeau.
When asked about the mayoral endorsement, Nadeau said he didn’t know anything about it.
“I’m surprised they would do it without consulting the rest of the committee,” Nadeau said of his colleagues. “It puts us in an unwarranted position politically; I would not have recommended it.”
Nadeau said he didn’t approve of the move.
“The school committee is non-partisan and it’s run that way for a reason,” he said, adding he doesn’t have anyone political helping him when he campaigns. “I find that disturbing.”
Nadeau said he was also surprised the mayor would release the information in an email to the media.
“To make political hay out of the School Committee is the wrong message to the people,” he said. “It’s discouraging. It belittles what our job is.”
Nadeau said he is a Republican and a conservative and that he’s known Avedisian for 23 years.
“I helped him when he ran for Ward 1 on the City Council, but I don’t think he’s been helpful to the School Committee by not releasing bond money so we can make repairs to school buildings,” he said. “For the fire code upgrades we’ve had to implement, we have to pay the principal and interest.”
Nadeau said the endorsement “leaves a lot to be desired.”
“To endorse him [Avedisian] in the primary, how do they know where Stacia stands on schools,” Nadeau said of his colleagues. “She says, in her campaign, that the tax increases need to stop and the money needs to go toward schools and road repairs.”
Nadeau said anyone can support who they want individually.
“Anyone can support who they want, but to do it as a majority of the School Committee for the primary, I find it beyond what we should be doing as School Committee members,” he said.
Committee member Jennifer Ahearn could not be reached for comment for this story.