New Position Goes to Daughter of School Committeewoman

by | Oct 2, 2014

The new 40-hour-a-year position of performing arts coordinator has been filled by Megan Catelli, a music teacher at Cole Middle School and daughter of School Committee member Mary Ellen Winters. Nina Reiner, an art teacher, was named the visual arts coordinator. Both positions pay $2,000.

The School Committee votes on every job hire in the district. Winters, who recused herself from the vote at a meeting Sept. 16, was a strong proponent of creating such a position.

Supt. Victor Mercurio said Catelli and Reiner were the only people who applied for the coordinator positions.

Winters, who has served on the committee since 2006 and is running for re-election, also recused herself when Catelli was originally hired in 2011. A School Committee member with a child on the payroll is not new. Matt Records, son of committeewoman Susan Records, was hired as a computer teacher in 2008. Records, elected in 2006, recused herself from that vote. Matt Records is now teaching physical education at Meadowbrook Farms. For the past several years, he has also been hired to coach basketball at East Greenwich High School.

The new arts coordinator positions come in response to a suggestions from Winters and committee member Deidre Gifford, Supt. Victor Mercurio said. School Committee Chairman David Green concurred.

“I was first exposed to the topic of visual and performing arts by Deidre Gifford, shortly after my joining the SC back in 2010,” said Green via email. “She noted, and was supported in conversation by Mary Ellen, that in previous years EGHS enjoyed the benefit of having a staff member who took it upon themselves to aggressively support, provide coordination, and advocate for the program(s). As I understand, this was largely, or totally a volunteer activity – a labor of love for the individual.”

After that teacher left the district, Green said, the arts programs “saw a decline.”

Unlike the other subjects, there is no department head for the arts. The coordinator positions approved in September were seen as a way to provide some support to teachers, in particular in planning for extracurricular activities.

With regard to how Winters’ daughter ended up with the performing arts position, Green said it was on merits alone.

“Mrs. Winters was not involved in any of the steps in this evaluation process, and … recused herself from the vote to approve the superintendent’s recommendation.”

Click here to read an editorial on this issue.

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Deidre Gifford
Deidre Gifford
October 3, 2014 7:32 am

Unfortunately this is one of those silly stories that seems to imply wrong-doing in the headline, and then is followed up with nothing of substance. There may be some of your readers who don’t know Mary Ellen Winters and are considering how to vote, so let me say a few words about her. In short, it is people like Mary Ellen who make East Greenwich a great place to live. Whether its making sure the Luminaria tour in Stoneridge happens, or helping out on a committee when nobody else will volunteer, Mary Ellen is the type of person who makes a community all that it can be. Mary Ellen’s children went through the East Greenwich schools. During their time there, she was a tireless volunteer for music programs and extra curricular activities. When I joined the school committee 6 years ago, she was fully involved in the building committee, and her hours of thoughtful work on that project contributed greatly to the beautiful facilities our kids are now enjoying. Mary Ellen has been one of my mentors on the school committee, and I have tried to emulate her. She is always prepared, knows the subject, and is thoughtful about how she votes. I am grateful to her that she has decided to run again, and am very proud to serve with her. I am also proud that Ms. Catelli, a product of the East Greenwich schools, chose to come back to her home district and share her talents and gifts with us. That speaks well of our schools, and of Ms. Catelli’s desire to give back to a district and program from which she herself benefited as a child. We are lucky to have both of them in our midst.

October 13, 2014 8:14 am
Reply to  Deidre Gifford

Deidre, your post is not accurate. The headline is not sensational, nor is the story without substance. I find i interesting that this story causes a burr in your side, but it IS news in a small town. Thanks, Elizabeth, for your hard work.

And I’m sure Ms. Winters works hard at her job – but don’t we all? It’s really two separate issues here.

EG Lawyer
October 3, 2014 10:03 am

Ms. Gifford you response here is almost comical if not laughable and at its best so self-serving…..this is exactly what is wrong here in RI and its politicians. You protest a bit too much! This is nepotism at its best, and being a doctor who should use all her senses to analyze the patient, should see it for what it is. You and Mrs. Winters were instrumental (no pun intended) in creating this position well knowing it would go to Ms. Catelli, Mrs. Winters daughter….so please do NOT take the electorate of EG for fools. Isn’t Mrs. Winters the same representative of the EGSC that was on the building Committee when the new Cole Middle School was being built while the neighbors of the projects homes were being damaged and she as well as you closed yours eyes and held your noses while these people begged for it to stop, resulting in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against our town. I guess you credit yourselves only when it benefits you and your members…please pat yourself on the back, I apologize for being so cynical but I am a realist. The facts are that the job went to Mrs. Winter’s daughter, and you and Mrs. Winter were the catalyst for this new job….stop being so sensitive and face reality for what it is nepotism….sometimes when you are too close to something you can’t see or smell it and when you get near the rear end of a horse sometimes its smells bad and sometimes it might kick you! So not such a silly story as the facts speak for themselves! Some of the electorate are still paying attention.

October 3, 2014 11:48 am
Reply to  EG Lawyer

Well said EGLawyer – this whole thing is a joke. Let’s make a position so my daughter can have it, EGSC is a joke, always has been always will be, it’s all about favors in this town and who you know. I am sure there are many things we don’t know that are going on behind our backs. The fact that Deidre is coming on here to post that bs is even more comical than the story. Again well put EG Lawyer.

October 4, 2014 11:17 pm
Reply to  Habones

I’m sorry but I have to say that these comments are pointless, disrespectful, and ignorant. Make sure you know the whole story before you judge, please. This is a positive move in the right direction for bringing back quality arts education in our schools and please note that these two qualified candidates were the only ones to apply for the position so you should be thankful not critical.

October 6, 2014 12:17 pm
Reply to  Danielle

It maybe pointless to you Danielle but it isn’t to others, oh so we now don’t know the whole story but you do? Please fill us in and what we are missing expert Danielle. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions and as far as I am concerned this is a typical EG move. Grow up.

Heather Larkin
Heather Larkin
October 3, 2014 4:07 pm

Megan Catelli is an excellent, enthusiastic teacher. Both visual and performing arts departments have been (officially) leaderless for a long time. These are robust programs that service a wide range of students. When I heard that Megan was the new coordinator, I was very pleased. Discovering that she is the daughter of Mary Ellen Winters actually bolsters my confidence in Mrs. Winters. Look how well her kid turned out!

October 5, 2014 7:50 am

I think the bigger question is why these were the only two that applied for the positions.

October 8, 2014 2:14 am

This is pure sensationalism at its finest! I am disappointed in the headline and the presentation of this article, as it diminishes the tremendous efforts of Mrs. Records and Mrs. Winters, respectively and also the merits of Mrs. Castelli and Mr. Records. Instead of focusing on the positive changes such a position with an abundantly qualified music educator will enact for our community, EG News has decided to slant the story and imply nepotism. If Mrs. Winters recused herself from the vote and Mrs. Castelli was the most qualified why should it matter? I am aware there there was a limited number of applicants, but I have seen the tremendous impact Mrs. Castelli has had on her students and the music program. It is commonplace to have a unified performing arts coordinator for a school district. Taxpayers of EG love to complain about our town not being competitive but then when positive changes are enacted, it is most convenient to complain and infer conspiracy and nepotism. I have all the confidence in the discernment of our school committee and both Mrs. Winters and Mrs. Castelli’s abilities to lead. It’s a shame that we devalue their hard work with this shoddy headlines. This is why it has been difficult to maintain news websites…. weak, subjective journalism.

EG Lawyer
EG Lawyer
October 8, 2014 10:09 am

@EGres…As always when the facts are presented, blame the person (in this case E. McNamara) who presents the facts, please tell me if the facts presented in the article headline or body are false?…..Did Ms. Castelli get the job that was initiated by her mother, EGSC member Mary Ellen Winters and then cheerleading by another EGSC member Deidre Gifford (see her comments above)? Maybe you think it’s alright even if EGSC member Winters voted on her getting the job? Your insinuation that the “ends justify the means” in my mind is disturbing, your thinking is at the least very troubling (ethics). No matter what Mrs. Winters has done as an elected official before this incident has no place in what has transpired here……this whole thing stinks of nepotism and unethical on its face. Are you saying because Mrs. Winters has given her time as a school committee member her daughter should be entitled to a job?…..and please do NOT tell the electorate that any other member of the EGSC would have voted against Ms. Catelli for her new assignment…please be real. This whole incident with this job going to Ms. Castelli, initiated by Mrs. Winters (and Gifford) SCREAMS of an ethics investigation by the state. Allowing this to continue as is totally deteriorates the public’s perception of honest politics and gives leaves a bad taste of the “Good Ole Boy (Girl) System” of RI politics and politicians…..if this is positive change I want no part of it!

October 8, 2014 5:36 pm

The comment by Mr. Green in the article is that the position was added at the suggestion of SC members, including Winters. Every other district in the state has a position of this sort for the performing and visual arts. Why shouldn’t EG? Why shouldn’t it go to an individual that has proven her merit and worth time and time again? Mrs. Winters recused herself from the vote, as she should have. There is a system of checks and balances in place with the SC. By saying that Mrs. Winters was one of many who suggested a much needed performing arts position just for her grown daughter is unethical and reeks of nepotism is ascribing one individual too much power, when this was a joint decision to implement a position and the hire of Catelli was not even on blimp on the screen when they decided to open this position.

EG Lawyer
EG Lawyer
October 9, 2014 9:57 am

@ EGres… very simple definition from Websters



noun: nepotism

the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.

synonyms: favoritism, preferential treatment, the old boy network, looking after one’s own, bias, partiality, partisanship
“hiring my daughter was not nepotism—it was just good business”

antonyms: impartiality


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