State rep. candidates agree: New school must be priority
By We Are Pentucket Communications Team
Both candidates vying to represent the Second Essex District on Beacon Hill say that advocating for the construction of a brand-new Pentucket school building for grades 7-12 would be a top 2019 priority, if elected.
Incumbent state Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, is defending the House seat he has held since 2012 against challenger Christina Eckert, a Democrat from Boxford. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
With 30 years’ experience in construction, Mirra said he saw first-hand the type of structural issues in the existing facilities during a tour by former Superintendent Mulqueen. His two sons are also Pentucket alums.
“Most problematic are the structural issues with the building itself, and so rehabbing that building would be more costly and time consuming than building a new one,” Mirra told We Are Pentucket in a phone interview Sunday night, explaining his support for the proposal to build rather than renovate or repair.
Mirra said if re-elected, he plans to help educate voters on the need to fund new construction and the fiscal realities around investing in the campus.
“We're going to end up with a new high school no matter what and if we say no, we will be revisiting this in another year and the costs will only be higher,” Mirra said.
Both Mirra and his Democratic opponent, Christina Eckert, said they would work with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to secure as much state funding as possible.
Eckert, who lives in Boxford, has made education — especially funding for regional districts — a central tenet of her platform. During a phone interview with We Are Pentucket on Sunday, Eckert said she would work with the MSBA to make sure the state’s reimbursement rate for the project — currently estimated at 40 percent — would get as close to 50 percent as possible.
Eckert said she has recently met with Pentucket officials to learn more about the state of the existing buildings and the proposal heading to voters this spring. If re-elected, she said she hopes to play an active role in educating voters across all three towns on the importance of voting to approve funding for the project.
In a statement released to We Are Pentucket later that day, the Eckert campaign said:
“As a lifelong supporter of public schools, Christina Eckert will be a fierce champion for the new Pentucket 7-12 school. The mother of students in a regional school system, she understands the challenges of fighting for funding in multiple towns. With Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury contained within her district, Christina plans to make advocating for Pentucket her top priority at the State House.”