SALEM — The dramatic change going on in the public schools was reflected in yesterday’s stunning election for School Committee.
Newcomers Rachel Hunt and Patrick Schultz, making their first runs for elective office, knocked off two incumbents, Janet Crane and Lisa Lavoie.
Hunt, the head of school at Salem Academy Charter School, topped the ticket with 3,205 votes.
Schultz, a former school teacher and administrator who owns the Howling Wolf restaurant, came in third, about 200 votes behind incumbent Brendan Walsh, who captured the second spot while being elected to his third term. Walsh had finished first in September’s preliminary.
“I’m psyched,” said Schultz. “I think across the board it was a vote for change.”
Hunt’s win was impressive not only because she finished first. A decade ago, when she helped found the charter school, there were hard feelings by many at the Salem School Department. A member of the Salem School Committee even passed out leaflets protesting the new charter school.
But over the past 10 years, as the charter school has earned academic accolades, attitudes have changed.
“The charter school debate is over,” said Schultz.
Hunt said she was “surprised” to finish first and “excited” to be able to serve on the school board.
Walsh probably worked harder than any other candidate, going door-to-door across the city.
“I think we did pretty well given the fact we were up against a well-coordinated machine orchestrated from the highest levels of Salem government,” said Walsh. He was referring to Mayor Kim Driscoll, chairwoman of the school board.
This is the first city election since November 2011, when the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education designated Salem a Level 4, under-performing district based on the Bentley Elementary School’s consistently low scores on the state MCAS exams. Salem was given three years to improve the 350-student elementary school’s performance or face a possible state takeover.