SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE Q&A: Samaha, Newhouse & Fennelly Discuss Their Involvement In The School System & Community

WILMINGTON, MA — Jesse Fennelly, Jay Samaha, and incumbent Jo Newhouse are running for the three seats up for grabs in this year’s School Committee race.

Despite running unopposed, Wilmington Apple felt it was important for readers to get to know the candidates a bit more. Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates weekly questions leading up to the April 27 Town Election.

This week’s question: Describe your past & present involvement with Wilmington Public Schools and in the Wilmington community.

Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:

Jesse Fennelly

Currently, I am a member of the Wilmington Historical Commission; a member of the Wilmington Democratic Town Committee; a member of the Board of Directors at WCTV; and served as campaign treasurer and adviser for David Robertson during his campaign to be our State Representative. All of these positions are things I am very proud of and very proud to be associated with. It allows me to be in touch with the community and give back the best way I can.

As for my involvement with the schools, I have been closely following the School Committee for the past few years. I attended many of the community events and interviews during the superintendent search and was impressed with the diligence of all those involved. I was recently appointed to the Strategic Planning Committee that Dr. Brand formed, so I am working with others from the community, including teachers, administrators and other parents to chart the course the school department will take over the next few years. Serving on the Strategic Planning Committee has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to witness firsthand the dedication and passion of many of our administrators and educators. I hope to have the opportunity to build on this as a member of the School Committee.

Jesse Fennelly
Jesse Fennelly

Jo Newhouse (Incumbent)

It has been my privilege to serve on a myriad of volunteer and civic organizations since moving to Wilmington in 2005.

I found it particularly gratifying to volunteer as a member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) for six years, and I served as co-chair of the Committee for three of the six years, until August 2018 when I was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the School Committee. On the SEPAC, I set the monthly agendas and researched special education issues to be addressed with the School Administration. I worked collaboratively with school administrators and volunteers to coordinate numerous workshops each year. These workshops educate, inform and support parents, school personnel and the community with regard to special education issues and services. The workshops included “Basic Rights In Special Education,” “An IEP for My Child,” “Anxiety in Elementary Children,” “Google Tools for Special Education” and “Understanding Dyslexia,” to name a few. As a SEPAC representative, I also attended numerous school open houses to discuss issues of concern with parents, teachers and administrators, and participated in the District Coordinated Program Review. With the support of the SEPAC Committee, I am proud to have been actively involved in making monthly support meetings available for guardians of students with special needs.

In addition to being involved with the schools in an official capacity, I have enjoyed volunteering a good deal of time as a parent. I have volunteered regularly at the Wildwood, Woburn Street and North Intermediate Schools, to assist where needed, whether it be in the library or classrooms, covering lunches in the classroom, leveling books for classrooms, at field days or on field trips. Currently, I am proud to be the parent representative on the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) team at the North Intermediate School.

I served as the co-chair of the Wildwood PAC for three years, and I have been serving as the Enrichment Coordinator of the Northside PAC for the last three years. In this capacity I have organized numerous enrichment programs for the children and various teacher luncheons. I also have coordinated book fairs to raise money to purchase books for both the library and the classrooms to support the Readers Workshop curriculum.

In the past, I volunteered as a member of the Homework Policy Committee, District Advisory Committee, Anti-Bullying Committee, and the Wildwood/Boutwell SAC. I have also served on multiple interview committees to evaluate and vet candidates for both teaching and administrative positions within the Wilmington School District.

My volunteer activities have extended beyond the School system, to the Wilmington Community at large. For example, I have served as the treasurer of Local Heroes, a wonderful organization that supports our active military personnel, veterans and their families in a variety of ways. I also served as a board member and treasurer of the Women of Wilmington (“WOW”) organization, before it transformed into the We’re One Wilmington, and for a time, I served as the Wilmington Mom’s Club president. Last, but certainly not least, my husband and I are proud supporters of Autism Speaks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my past and present involvement in the Wilmington community.

Jo Newhouse
Jo Newhouse

Jay Samaha

My wife, Amanda and I moved to Wilmington in 2011 with our twins, Nick and Avis. Since that time we have grown to love Wilmington and all that it offers. We have enjoyed a variety of activities such as Fun on the Fourth, the Memorial Day Parade, the Wilmington 5K and Half-Marathon, and School Concerts. Wilmington has been very open and welcoming and that is one of the reasons I have so much pride in my town.

One of the reasons we moved to Wilmington was because of full day kindergarten and the CARES before and after-school program. Nick and Avis participated and enjoyed Cares from kindergarten at the Wildwood School to fifth grade at the North Intermediate School.

My children have been active in town sports and other programs. When my son, Nick, was in first grade I volunteered to coach his T-Ball team. I continued to coach, along with my wife, my daughter, Avis, in both in-town soccer, travel soccer, town recreational basketball, and Wilmington Travel Basketball. My son was involved in Cub Scout pack 361 for 5 years and crossed over to BSA Troop 136. During scouting I volunteered on numerous field trips and events.

Most recently I was a member of the Wilmington Middle School Principal Search Committee. This experience gave me great insight into the schools and is one of the driving forces behind my run for school committee.

Jay Samaha
Jay Samaha

Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s