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Write-ins spark school panel race

June 27, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Although the nine-person Town Council race has

gotten far more publicity, the developing School Committee contest is looking like it's the one to watch on June 29.

From a single candidate without opposition, that section of the ballot has turned into a five-way fracas featuring two incumbents, a former committee member, a former police chief and a newcomer. In order, they are Scott Lazo, Mary Ellen Prencipe, Brent Stanley, Gary Fontaine and Michelle Cook.

According to Assistant Town Clerk Julie Pena, this is the largest pool of write-ins she's seen since she started working at Town Hall, and the first real campaign among them. Last year, three people did get write-ins for the candidate-less Bay Path School Committee seat, but the winner only got 40 votes.

Back in 2004, that same seat was also candidate-less, so Helen Lenti won it on stickers, getting about 150 votes.

Today, however, some of the write-ins are actually putting up signs, with a few for Prencipe and Cook around town. They were visible even before official candidate Lazo had his up.

"This is going to be quite the election," opined Prencipe. "To me, the two biggest surprises are Gary and Brent."

Although she's concluding her third term on the committee, this is Prencipe's first write-in campaign. She said she initially didn't want to run and was comfortable with the prospect of having Roger Reopel replace her, but when Reopel dropped out she felt she had to reconsider. Among the things that encouraged her to jump back in, she said, was a conversation at a recent town Democratic Committee meeting that led her to believe nobody else was interested in running.

"I don't know how the community feels [about the switch]," she admitted. "I'm sure some are thinking, 'She was gone and now she's back. What's up?'"

The answer to that question is "a lot" — the district is in the throes of major change and all of the candidates the Southbridge Evening News could reach said they want to be part of it.

See Monday's Southridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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