Since the Nov. 9 elections, when School Committee member won an , we've been fielding questions about the future of the school committee position he will presumably vacate come Jan. 1.
So, what's going on with the open position on the school committee?
Contributor Stewart Lytle researched the issue for inquisitive readers in this edition of You Ask...Patch Answers, finding information on the procedure for filling the space and communicating with potential candidates for the position.
Here are some answers:
How Will It Be Filled?
Carr was elected this month as a city councilor-at-large and will be vacating his seat on the school committee at the end of the year.
To fill the vacancy on the seven-member board, the city council and school committee will meet in joint session, probably in December, consider any person who has applied for the appointment and vote to fill the vacancy. That should occur by Jan. 1.
The exact procedure for the appointment and the date of the meeting have not been set. City Clerk Cheryl Lapointe said she is waiting to meet with Council President Jerry Ryan to work out the details of the appointment procedure.
The mayor and several council members have said that the unsuccessful candidates for the school committee during the last election should be given strong consideration.
Lisa Lavoie, a teacher and language specialist, ran fourth in the election, getting 1,763 votes. Sean O'Brien, a student, came in next with 1,659 votes. Francis Vigeant, a teacher and education consultant, received 1,322 votes. There were almost 13,000 votes cast for candidates.
Jason Silva, chief of staff to the mayor, wrote in an email that Driscoll is “not publicly backing a candidate at this point. She believes a process of soliciting names of those who might be interested to serve on the School Committee makes sense.”
Driscoll also “thinks that any candidates who put their names on the ballot and already ran campaigns to serve should be considered.”
Councilor-at-Large Tom Furey, a former school committee member who once was a candidate for a similar appointment, agrees.
He believes that Lavoie, being next in the vote totals, should be given strong consideration.
Former School Committee Candidates Weigh In
Lisa Lavoie sent an email to Mayor Kimberley Driscoll shortly after she ran 622 votes short of winning a seat on the Salem School Committee.
The email said she would be interested in serving out the remainder of Kevin Carr's term on the committee.
“I am not a sore loser. I would love to step in to help in whatever capacity I can,” Lavoie said.
Lavoie, who holds a doctorate degree, is a professional language specialist. She said she thinks she could make a contribution to the programs for students who speak and read limited English. She said she also thinks she could contribute to the current school improvement programs being developed for the Bentley School and other district schools.
“I am looking forward to it,” she said.
is currently developing an improvement plan after the state rated it as an . The state also told the district that several other Salem schools may be rated as under-performing in coming months without significant improvement.
O'Brien has attended city council meetings and expressed his interest in the vacant seat to several city councilors, including Ward 7 Councilor Joe O'Keefe, who was appointed to the school committee in a similar fashion in 1974.
In an email to Salem Patch Tuesday night, O'Brien confirmed his interest in the position, highlighting his organizational and leadership skills.
Like Lavoie, he said he is particularly concerned about Bentley School and others that "are on the Level 4 brink."
"Our scores have been low in the city for a long time, and this came as little to no surprise to me," O'Brien wrote, addressing the Bentley School. "The school committee should have acted sooner rather than later on this matter. We need to get our teachers, students and parents working together on the same page so that we can prevent more Level 4s in the Salem district and improve scores so that a level 4 school will be something we will not have to worry about."
As he mentioned during his campaign, O'Brien said he "will work tirelessly to best represent the citizens of Salem and especially the students within our school district."
Vigeant also responded to an email from Salem Patch Tuesday night, expressing his continued interest in a position on the school committee after a campaign that involved meeting with residents and participation in public forums.
During his time campaigning, Vigeant said he demonstrated that he is "well versed on Salem's Level 4 and Level 3 issues."
"At this juncture I think it is incumbent on the Council and Committee to appoint a runner-up from the election with the experience they feel is best fit to the needs of Salem under our circumstances," Vigeant wrote. "As a runner-up I think it’s only ethical to accept the seat if your experience will directly enhance the committee’s ability to effect change."
Vigeant stated that he would apply to fill the vacancy, and if asked to fill it, he would accept for several reasons.
"When it comes to making choices, I have a base of school and administrative-level experience to weigh our options against. I am a teacher myself and can identify with Salem’s teachers who face the realities of our urban schools. As a consultant who works with urban districts I have helped administrators develop programs that produce measurable learning results. As an innovator I can attest that the most successful schools are those supported by informed principals who lead day-to-day with clear and consistent communication, realistic goal-setting, and constructive feedback on classroom practices."
In addition to his qualifications, Vigeant included thoughts on and Level 4 status.
"Salem cannot have great schools without great leadership and clear communication among teachers, parents, and administrators. Before the news of our Level 4 status we neglected to build timelines and milestones for improving relationships and communication in the community among these stakeholder groups and so we have fallen to the bottom-tier, Level 4."
In conclusion, Vigeant said he believes he is the best choice for the job.
"My passion is for helping develop the next generation of students with schools well-equipped and trained for the task at hand. If the council and committee are seeking support to rapidly improve the effectiveness of Salem schools I feel I am their best choice."