The foundation, which hosted candidate forums, did not endorse candidates. But it was generally perceived that many of its members favored Schultz and Hunt over Walsh, who had become a lightning rod for some parents due to his stands on several issues, including his opposition to continuing the extended-year program at the Saltonstall School.
At an emotional meeting on the Saltonstall issue, the current and former head of the foundation spoke in favor of keeping the extended-year program. Two former presidents of the group wrote a letter to The Salem News before the election urging residents to “vote for change.”
In his statement Monday night, Walsh said: “At the School Committee meeting of Jan. 27, I was somewhat taken aback by the comments of Ms. Alexa Ogno, speaking (as she said) as the clerk or secretary of the Salem Education Foundation.
“Ms. Ogno came to that meeting to congratulate two of my colleagues on their success in last November’s election and to express the foundation’s delight in their presence on this committee.
“As the first and, perhaps, only person ever honored as a ‘distinguished educator’ by the then-named Foundation for Salem Public Education, I was simultaneously appalled and happy.
“I was appalled that a supposedly apolitical, nonprofit organization would do something so political and inappropriate. But I was happy that Ms. Ogno’s actions have revealed said foundation for the political action committee into which it has devolved.
“The original Foundation for Salem Public Education was primarily an effort to assist creative teachers by providing grants for project materials, etc. The current Salem Education Foundation is a political action committee led by elitist snobs who wish to influence school policy and practices without putting in the time and effort or taking the electoral risk of those who actually make policy and approve practices.”