Once in a while on a Thursday night, I like to go to city council meetings. There is no particular reason for me to do this, it is just a guilty pleasure of mine.
Last night was one of those nights, and I am very glad that I went.
In between the budget talk and the goodbyes expressed by outgoing councilors, Joan Lovely stood up and asked the council to move the selection of the new school committee member up from Jan. 3, 2012 to Monday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.
John Ronan was alone in speaking against this proposal.
This is not the first crisis our school system has ever faced, and probably won't be the last. I am a survivor of one such crisis from 30 years ago.
The closing of some Catholic schools in Salem in the early 1970s led to a sudden influx of students to the public school system. The city was not prepared to deal with it. The solution was to create a brand new grammar school, the Hawthorne School, located where the now sits.
It was a disaster. The students all came from the Point neighborhood and the Derby Street area. It seemed that all off the problem students, those of limited income and those with language problems, had all been thrown together in a stew of poverty and misery. Many of the teachers seemed to be of the burned out, past their prime variety. Despite the efforts of Principal Peter Doyle and a few dedicated teachers like Mrs. Marjorie Ives, I felt each day as if I was entering a war zone.
Whatever planning actually went onto the birth of that school was inadequate. Chaos ruled, confusion reigned, and only the few students who had strong parenting, and personal resolve managed to emerge three years later as still viable students. Many of us never truly recovered from being thrown into the abyss that was the Hawthorne School.
Joan Lovely sees that preparation will be the key to the future success of Salem Public Schools. Time, even if it is only a few weeks, will ulitmately be an advantage to the students.
The point made by John Ronan, that the new council should make the decision, is valid. Fresh eyes are never a terrible thing, but I feel that this council, which was in session as this problem developed, is best prepared to make the decision as to who is best for the school committee appointment.
If we wait until January, there will be one less elected official to question the candidates and make the decision. Kevin Carr's committee seat will be vacant. This decision should be made by both a whole council and a whole school committee. After all, these are the folks we the voters elected to speak for us.
Appointing the first runner-up in the general election is an option many like, but other options need to be considered.
The situation has changed dramatically since early November. Many of us would probably vote a little differently today than we did in the general election. Knowledge is power, and we have a little more knowledge now than we did then.
Let the council in cooperation with a full school committee use that knowledge and the experience gained over the last two years to make an informed and hopefully good decision.
On a lighter but no less important note, check out the . This is a chance for you to help out Salem Schools. A check for $100,000 could probably be put to good use down at or up at the Middle School.