Danvers has filled its spot on the Essex Tech regional school board, a role left open by the death of former Town Manager Wayne Marquis.
Mike Landers, a former member of the Danvers Select Board and Planning Board who now serves on the town’s Finance Committee and Municipal Light Board, was unanimously confirmed to the position by Danvers’ School Committee at a meeting Tuesday night.
Marquis served in the role until his death in June. Landers’ appointment will span 18 months — the rest of Marquis’ term.
“We approach problems in a very different way, and we have different personalities in regards to how we deal with people,” Landers said of Marquis, who he worked with for over 30 years.
“We both share an overwhelming love for Danvers and a desire to do what’s best for Danvers,” he continued. “In that regard, I think I can follow strongly in his footsteps.”
Landers is looking to get his feet wet in the role before he makes any major suggestions to the district. But he is committed to vocational education and making sure districts like Danvers have a good working relationship with Essex Tech, he said.
“I’m not accusing anyone of doing this, but what I do not think is of any benefit to anyone is if Essex Tech is somehow in competition with the member districts,” Landers added. “That’s number one. Number two, we want to make sure that the kids who are going to Essex Tech are the kids who are really going to benefit the most from that type of program.”
Landers has been on the town Finance Committee for four years, including when Town Meeting voted this spring to table a proposed cap of sending only 40 freshmen from Danvers to Essex Tech each year.
He said this proposal “certainly is not something that is on the table now.”
“I know there are attempts to try to work out something that will give the town of Danvers more cost certainty. and if I put my Finance Committee hat on, that’s always to me then the real issue here,” Landers said.
“I hope that we can be more cooperative in regards to trying to come to a reasonable resolution but quotas aren’t on the table at this point, and nor should they be,” he added.
Danvers School Committee member Gabe Lopes will act as a conduit between the town board and Landers, but this shouldn’t deter committee members from coming to him with issues or for updates, Landers said at Tuesday’s meeting.
He also plans to come before the Danvers committee as part of an official agenda item during general meetings multiple times a year to discuss matters in public.
“We have not done that in the past, but I think it’s important, especially at this time, what we do in terms of building that relationship with the Tech and the issues that have come up over the last couple of years,” committee chair Eric Crane said.
Crane also apologized for not sending the notice about Landers’ appointment to committee members sooner.
The notice of Landers’ appointment was sent to Crane on Aug. 5 by Town Moderator Pat Fraizer, but Crane said he initially missed it.
“It certainly would not have changed the process very much,” Crane said. “The process has always been that the moderator makes the appointment, however, it would have given you perhaps a longer opportunity to question and talk about the process and again, while it might not have changed the process, I accept responsibility for dropping the ball on that.”
Lopes said was initially concerned about the lack of information on the nomination before the meeting. Along with committee member Alice Campbell, he reached out to community members about Landers and the nomination process.
Lopes and Campbell also spoke to Landers ahead of the meeting.
“None of us saw (the nomination notice) until today and that was quite shocking,” Lopes said. “The School Committee is still carrying the burden of past scandals. For this reason, we will be more closely scrutinized and deservedly so, so it’s imperative that we embrace transparency and that we’re all on the same page.
I want to be crystal clear that I’m not voting as a procedure, I’m voting because I agree that Mike Landers will represent Danvers well,” Lopes said.