BEVERLY — Members of the Local School Council at Sutherland Elementary School have remained silent for months as parents, teachers and students have peppered them with questions regarding the ouster of Principal Catherine Gannon.
The silence was broken on Tuesday evening.
The public comments portion of the monthly council meetings have been largely dominated by Gannon's supporters. Most of the commenters gathered in the school auditorium at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly have remained civil.
But a handful of attendees have turned to personal attacks. Luke Somerville was the latest target. The council member and Bulldog candidate sat shaking his head as one commenter brought up his 2006 testimony in the federal corruption trial of the city's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich.
Somerville testified to being promoted to chief mason inspector with the city after doing campaign work. He retired on June 30, 2010. Somerville didn't shy away from his testimony when questioned after the meeting but felt the attack was unwarranted.
His wife, Donna Somerville, stormed out of the room while the comments were being made. She later returned, visibly flustered. She addressed the crowd and questioned why the debate had turned ugly.
"Our children go to school together," she said.
Luke Somerville also addressed the crowd. He said much of the information swirling about the ouster of Gannon and the council's rationale for ousting her is inaccurate.
"Sometimes when it comes to public comments, the truth takes a holiday," he said.
Tom McGourty, Julie O’Connor and Laurie Duncan Cleary also voted against Gannon's contract renewal and spoke on Tuesday. All asked for a return to civility.
O'Connor, the council's chairwoman, read a joint statement with Duncan Cleary, the council secretary. Their letter pointed out the difficult position of the council members with respect to personnel matters.
"Our deliberations have been conducted with careful regard for Ms. Gannon's right to privacy. Discussing the reasons for our decision would be unprofessional," O'Connor said.