Dec. 19 School Commitee Selection Date a Solid Move

Lovely's proposal allows an experienced group to vet candidates.


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.

john December 10, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Considering that a number of councilors stated the success of the schools as one of the positive things from the past year, I would question the the idea that they have the knowledge and experience to make this decision. They should show respect to the taxpayer and honor the vote of the last election by appointing the next highest vote getter.
gene December 11, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Even a Bentley School third grader knows, "Democracy is what put the current city charter in place." My point, which was obviosly not comprehended by you, is that we need to look at the charter again to see if we want the City's CEO sitting on a department board. In any event, thanks for reading.
William Legault December 11, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Gene, just to set the record straight, I was replying to Edward's comment about what democracy dictates. As for a Charter Change, perhaps you are the man to get the ball rolling on that. It is a whole lot of work, as the charter commission members from ten years ago will attest.
KlassySalem December 12, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I think it's important to point out that there is a lot more information out there now on the schools, than there was at the election. That changes things for me. It's vitally important that the school committee and council really study the candidates backgrounds and qualifications. Finishing 4th in that election, being named on less than a third of the ballots cast shouldn't guarantee someone the spot. I'm not sure that allowing 4 days, and then a 1 hour meeting to interview candidates provides the rigor that this deserves.
john December 12, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Why would finishing 4th not qualify a person in this election. That is the result of what the voters said. This is not and should not be a political appointment. It is things like this that will only cause more people to ask "why should I vote when my vote was not honored"


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