The most commonly submitted question — and the first to be asked of the candidates last night — was how long is long enough to wait for district improvement, and who should be held responsible?
Numerous candidates said everyone is responsible — parents, teachers, administrators and the community.
“Yes, we are all responsible, but ultimately it comes back to the School Committee,” said Casiglia.
Lavoie and Casiglia both said district turnaround should take two to three years, but signs of improvement should be evident along the way.
Hunt said this year’s MCAS scores will show the district is “laying the foundation” for improvement.
Schultz followed Crane, who discounted district MCAS scores, saying the standardized test is “a moving target.” Crane also said she sees a need for after-school and summer programming and diverting more resources to Salem’s “at-risk” students.
Schultz responded by saying the district has been in long-term decline, and the School Committee and administration did not pay attention to the data that served as a warning sign.
“(Crane’s answers) represent an old way of thinking, and this way of thinking needs to be overthrown,” Schultz said. “Responsibility rests with the School Committee and leadership.”
Walsh turned the question around and asked the audience a rhetorical question: “how is your child doing in the public schools?”
When Walsh did this a second time, on a different question, Johnson bristled.
“My kid was at Bentley (the first Salem school to be designated as Level 4) a few years ago and it was a disaster,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of active, engaged parents that are involved and are not getting the response they need.”
Karen Andreas, regional publisher of North of Boston Media Group, which includes The Salem News, served as moderator of last night’s forum.
The event was recorded by Salem’s local access cable television; it is scheduled to air Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Friday at 7 p.m.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.