By Dustin Luca
---- — Legendary Andover coach and teacher Richard “Dick” Collins, a schools veteran of 54 years, is in his final weeks as a member of the School Committee.
With less than a week left for all voting-age residents to run for one of five town-government posts that will be on the March ballot, School Committee member Collins has announced he will not seek re-election.
His announcement comes near the end of his fifth three-year School Committee term. Collins first taught history at the high school and coached the school’s track and football teams 54 years ago.
“I’m 81 years old, and I know that will be brought out,” he said, laughing. “I think it’s time to turn it over to somebody younger.”
Collins won two Super Bowls as coach of the Golden Warriors in the 1970s, and made it to another, was named National Track and Field Coach of the Year and is a member of both the Massachusetts Football Hall of Fame and Basketball Hall of Fame. The field house at Andover High School, where most voters cast their ballots, is named after him.
Collins “provided the School Committee with some institutional memory, which is very important to any body,” committee Chairwoman Paula Colby-Clements said. “He deserves a break from public service now.”
Even with Collins not throwing his name in the ring for this election, there are still two candidates for two School Committee seats so far. Joining Colby-Clements in her quest for a second term is Sal Tabit, a Brooks Street resident and two-time candidate for state Senate.
“I’ve been interested in various aspects of public service, and School Committee is not something I initially would have thought about running for,” he said.
For the first time in years, the School Committee has an opportunity to dig into curriculum development, Tabit said. This is because other pressing issues over the last few years — teachers contract talks, developing and then defending the Bancroft Elementary School project, and finding new schoolhouse leaders at every level of the district — are now in the rear-view mirror.
“I’m interested in curriculum, and I’m interested in setting a plan forward for, I don’t know, the next 10 or 15 years,” Tabit said. “It might be a great time to focus on how you structure curriculum in the school system going forward.”
The Board of Selectmen had two official candidates in its two-seat race as of Tuesday, but a third resident — Chandler Road resident Larry Bruce — was still circulating nomination papers to challenge incumbents Alex Vispoli and Paul Salafia, the board’s chair (see related story).
Three other positions are also open and, currently, have one candidate each, running unopposed.
Sheila Doherty is running for re-election to the town’s annually elected town moderator post, and Housing Authority member Janice Burkholder also is vying for re-election. Randall Hanson, the town’s previous town clerk, is the lone candidate for a three-year Trustees of Punchard Free School seat.
Residents hoping to run in any of the five contests have until Tuesday, Feb. 5 to file nomination papers with at least 50 voter signatures supporting the person’s entry into the race. Fifty signatures must be certified by the town clerk’s office.
Town Clerk Larry Murphy urges anyone who is considering a run “to apply as soon as possible.” Nomination papers are available at the town clerk’s offices at 36 Bartlet St.
Registration to vote in the March 26 elections ends on March 6. For more information, call the town clerk’s office at 623-8255.