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Marblehead School Committee Candidates 2023

Four Candidates Vie for Two Spots on School Committee

With yesterday’s announcement that Karen Tal-Makhluf is withdrawing from the School Committee race, Marbleheaders will have four candidates to consider for two open seats when they head to the ballot box on June 20, 2023.


Tal-Makhluf, who originally announced her intention to run in a press release on March 23, issued a follow-up announcement on May 8 indicating that, due to the entry of several additional candidates into the race and to her need to be away for travel during the election season, she would be withdrawing her candidacy effective immediately. She concluded by encouraging voters “to carefully consider which candidates have the most to offer in terms of their commitment to student needs, measured approach in the face of disagreement, and willingness to focus on learning fundamentals in order to give Marblehead students the truly exceptional education they deserve.”


The remaining four candidates are retired Glover School principal Brian Ota, Devereaux Head of School Paul Baker, previous School Committee member Jennifer Schaeffner, and current School Committee member Sarah Gold.


Ota, in a statement provided to Marblehead Beacon on March 30, highlighted his accomplishments while serving as principal of Glover School and stated that his primary goals include “building a collaborative working environment within the School Committee, School Administration, Select Board, and the Finance Committee to ensure our students receive the very best education” while bringing to the role “a unique and deep understanding of the needs of students, teachers, and parents.”


Schaeffner, who served on the School Committee from 2016 to 2020, issued a press release yesterday highlighting her commitment to address “significant student learning loss and the social and emotional struggles of our children.” She noted that her goals include creating a “zero-based budget for each school building from scratch based on existing student headcount, needs, and appropriate staffing levels” and developing a plan to “bring back current out-of-district placements so as many students as possible can be educated in their hometown community.” 


Baker serves as the current Head of the Devereux School in Marblehead and on the board of the Marblehead Community Charter Public School (MCCPS). In late 2022, he was one of the candidates who applied to fill an interim School Committee seat that was ultimately awarded to Tom Mathers by a joint session of the Select Board and School Committee. Mathers is not running in this election cycle. When asked during the interview process about why he wanted to serve, Baker replied that “the most important thing is to back the school department and [Superintendent of Schools] Dr. John Buckey and [Assistant Superintendent of Schools] Nan Murphy while she’s still with us.” Baker also indicated his commitment to supporting a tax increase to better support the schools, saying, “I feel that an override is due. I wish it had passed last year. I wish it had been asked for many years ago.”


Sarah Gold was elected to the Marblehead School Committee in 2018 and served as the chair from May 2019 to June 2022. According to her biography on the School Committee website, she is a licensed mental health counselor and serves as the school counselor at the Tower School in Marblehead. In an interview during her 2020 reelection campaign, she noted that she had “worked tirelessly to bring stability and calm back to the School Committee and district.” 


Marblehead Beacon has invited all candidates to submit a statement or press release for publication but had not received a reply from Baker or Gold as of publication time. Stay tuned for additional coverage – including candidate questionnaires – as the election date approaches.


Editor’s note: Jennifer Schaeffner is a founder and editor for Marblehead Beacon but has taken a leave of absence from any role with Marblehead Beacon during her campaign for School Committee.