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Local News

June 15, 2013

Charter school head is running for Salem School Committee

SALEM — In a first for this city — or maybe any city in Massachusetts — a top administrator in the public schools is running for School Committee.

Rachel Hunt, head of school at Salem Academy Charter School, has taken out papers to run for the Salem School Committee.

She joins a crowded field for three open seats that includes three incumbents — Brendan Walsh, Janet Crane and Lisa Lavoie — and newcomer Patrick Schultz, a former Salem High teacher.

Her entry in the race is expected to raise a lot of questions — and a few eyebrows.

Hunt taught at Collins Middle School for two years before founding the charter school nine years ago. Although a public school, the 340-student, grade 6-12 Salem Academy Charter School is independent and is overseen by its own board of trustees. It has a separate budget and hires its own staff.

Hunt said she checked out her potential candidacy with the state and was given initial approval.

“I called the state Ethics Commission to talk through the potential conflict with them and they didn’t believe there would be a conflict,” she said. “I think I would get additional follow-up if I am elected, just to make sure what kinds of things I would need to recuse myself from.”

Although Hunt would not be able to participate in anything that involved a conflict, the Ethics Commission has said in the past that traditional charter schools are state agencies, not municipal agencies.

In a 1997 advisory opinion, the Ethics Commission said a trustee at a charter school, with some restrictions, could serve on the school board of a city or town.

Hunt not only is head of a charter school in the city, but she runs a school that some see as a competitor to the district schools, from which it draws many students.

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