SALEM — It was not by chance that yesterday’s inaugural ceremony was held at Collins Middle School.
Mayor Kim Driscoll moved it there for the first time to show off the recently renovated school building. But she also wanted to leave no doubt that the biggest challenge facing the city heading into 2014 is the struggling public schools.
“We are gathered here ... in this place for a reason — to signify to all, with unmistakable clarity, that our primary focus in the years to come will be fixed with unwavering commitment upon Salem’s public schools,” Driscoll told an audience that included School Superintendent Stephen Russell, community activists and city officials.
“And this charge is not simply for our School Committee and school leaders. We must all together devote ourselves to this end. This is a community mission.”
Driscoll, as mayor, chairwoman of the school board and a school parent, knows there is a lot at stake.
In 2011, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education designated Salem a Level 4, under-performing district and gave the city three years to show significant progress. This is the second year of the turnaround effort.
In a call to action, Driscoll said: “We must be serious about reform and continue being positive, pressing leaders for our school district.
“That means we don’t wait for things to improve on their own. We don’t chance that we’ll be able to close the achievement gap and improve test scores. We don’t watch idly if plans don’t deliver results. We don’t pretend things are getting better if they’re not. We don’t forget that our work is not about the adults — it’s about the kids.”
The speech drew a standing ovation from a nearly packed auditorium.
In anticipated votes taken during the ceremony, the City Council elected Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy president for 2014. The School Committee voted Nate Bryant its vice chairman, the officer who presides at meetings whenever the mayor is absent.