Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Salem School Advocates Question Quick Formation of District Parent Advisory Council

The following letter was sent to the Salem School Committee from Community Advocates for Salem Schools (CASS) regarding the SC's vote this week to form a District Parent Advisory Council. CASS is a group of parents and community members organized as a city-wide education advocacy group currently comprised of approximately 75 members and has been meeting since late April.

Dear School Committee Members
Several weeks ago, before the recent budget crisis, a group of very concerned parents and community members came together to discuss forming a city-wide parent and community advocacy group. This group, Community Advocates for Salem Schools (CASS) has been meeting now for three weeks, and each meeting has been announced on Facebook and is open to anyone who wishes to attend. It is specifically designed to be inclusive. The rationale behind this group was to provide parents and community members with a cohesive voice in regards to the Salem Public Schools. This group is largely made up of people who have felt ill-informed, who have not been well-served by the policies created by the Central Office and School Committee, whose children are struggling in this rigid system and who have been, up to this point, unheard, disregarded, and left to feel as if they've had nowhere to turn.
At last night’s School Committee meeting the Mayor announced her intention to form a District Parent Advisory Council (D-PAC), after reaching out to “certain parents.” This has caused some consternation for us, not least of all because the parents in this group will be appointed. The problem with appointees is that they are often selected to further the agenda of the person who makes the appointment. This is why if this D-PAC should be formed through the democratic process of an open vote, as that is how voices are heard. There are already many concerns regarding the democratic process within the School Committee, not least of all the vote on the D-PAC which was not on the formal agenda last evening
We are very concerned that this group will be nothing more than “Parents Cabinet” designed to disseminate only select information to the community. Equally concerning is the speed in which this cabinet came about. To our knowledge, it was first mentioned in a letter to Schools PTOs yesterday afternoon, and then less than twelve hours later, without even having a place on the agenda, voted on to be implemented with the Mayor offering to take control to get it launched. While we would like to assume that the intentions behind the formation of this council are good, please understand, this school committee has created such a culture of distrust within the community that we cannot assume that this is the case.
We believe that feedback must come from the ground up, not from a select few; all parents must be heard regardless of whether or not their views align with your agenda. It is we, the parents, who are the ones who are truly in this “for the good of the children.” We are committed to our schools, our teachers, our children, and our community, and our advocacy group will continue to meet and we intend to grow this at the grassroots level. To truly show us that you are committed to the democratic process, we ask that you not only give those with aligning views the chance to be heard – you must also meet with and listen to those that oppose your policies so that you can figure out how to best serve the entire community and build the bridges to those that have been long neglected.
Community Advocates for Salem Schools

Thursday, May 14, 2015

2015 Lynn Municipal Election Season Starting

This fall Lynn voters will have the opportunity to cast their vote for local city government. Races this year include Councilor At-Large, School Committee and all 7 ward races; there is no mayoral race this year. While political hopefuls have until June 26th to take out nomination papers, a number of Lynners have already announced their intention to appear on the ballot this year.

As of April 29th, eight people have pulled papers for the Councilor At-Large race. Voters will have the opportunity to elect four of these candidates. Incumbents Dan Cahill, Buzzy Barton and Hong Net have all pulled papers. Additionally, current School Committee member Rick Starbard has joined the At-Large race. The other potential candidates are Jose Alvarez, Edwin Soto, Brian LaPierre, and Posan Ung. Ward 7 Councilor Rick Ford initially announced his intention to run for an At-Large seat and pulled nomination papers but ultimately decided to sit this election out.

[ETA 5/15]: The Daily Item reported on May 15th that former City Council President Tim Phelan has also pulled papers to run for Councilor At-Large. He vacated his council position in 2013 after an unsuccessful campaign for mayor. 

In the School Committee race, eight Lynn residents have pulled nomination papers for the six committee seats. In addition to incumbent Rick Starbard, current SC member Charlie Gallo also announced that he was not running for re-election. Patricia Capano, Donna Coppola, Maria Carrasco and John Ford, on the other hand, are seeking another term this year. Newcomers in this race are Jared Nicholson, Natasha Megie-Maddrey, and Michael Ouk as well as 2013 SC candidate Lorraine Gately.

[ETA 5/16]: A ninth potential School Committee candidate pulled nomination papers on May 12th. Former SC candidate Dolores DiFillipo pulled papers this past week in order to enter the race. DiFillipo previously ran for School Committee in 2009 and 2011.
Potential  candidates in the Ward races thus far are as follows:

Ward One
  • Wayne Lozzi (Incumbent)
Ward Two
  • William Trahant (Incumbent)
Ward 3
  • Darren Cyr (Incumbent)
  • Calvin Anderson
Ward 4
  • Richard Colucci (Incumbent)
  • Rick Borten
  • Ariana Murrell-Rosario
Ward 5
  • Diana Chakoutis (Incumbent)
  • Marven-Rhode Hyppolite
Ward 6
  • Peter Capano (Incumbent)
Ward 7
  • John Jay Walsh
  • Brian Field

Candidates have until Monday, June 29th at 4pm to file their nomination papers. The preliminary election this year will be held on Tuesday, September 1st with the final election to be held on Tuesday, November 3rd.