, Salem, MA

Local News

February 5, 2014

Walsh: Ed foundation leaders are 'elitist snobs'

Tirade sparked by 'welcome' to new School Committee members

SALEM — At the start of Monday night’s School Committee meeting, during a segment reserved for members of the public, board member Brendan Walsh asked if he could make a statement.

His brief statement is now the talk of the town.

Although only a handful of people attended, Walsh’s comments were carried on SATV, the local cable channel. By yesterday, the video clip had — at least locally — gone viral.

Walsh, who survived a heated campaign this fall to win re-election to a third term, spoke for only about a minute, but used those few seconds to blast the Salem Education Foundation as a “political action committee ... led by elitist snobs.”

Founded in 1994, the Salem Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization, made up largely of parents, that has raised more than $500,000 for the public schools.

Walsh, 73, a retired Salem school administrator from a family with deep roots in the public schools, has been on the School Committee since 2006.

Walsh said he was spurred to speak by comments made by an officer in the foundation, Alexa Ogno, at the start of the Jan. 27 School Committee meeting.

At that meeting, Ogno, the foundation’s board clerk, told the School Committee about a new initiative by the foundation to purchase books for Salem teachers and staff. Before discussing the new program, she welcomed the two newest members of the school board, who were attending their first meeting.

“I’d like to welcome Patrick Schultz and Rachel Hunt,” Ogno said. “I think this is your first official School Committee meeting, so congratulations and welcome to help leading the schools.”

After those few words, Ogno went on to discuss the new program to buy books.

Hunt, the head of school at Salem Academy Charter School, and Schultz, a former vice president of the Salem Education Foundation, were first-time candidates who finished first and third respectively in the November election. Walsh came in second, while two fellow incumbents lost.

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