BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — It’s not every week that school principals make news. But this is no ordinary time.
First ... the big news.
Mary Manning, who has headed Collins Middle School since Horace Mann was in short pants, has told her staff she is “looking to” retire at the end of the school year. It’s not cast in cement, but it’s pretty close.
In case you’re new to Salem, that’s big news.
Principal of Collins for the past 25 years, Mary is a beloved school figure who spends so much time at her school that some people think she lives in the attic. She is renowned for her devotion to kids — especially the hard-luck cases. And if you lined up all her friends, someone once said, they would circle the city several times.
Mayor Kim Driscoll may have put it best. The Salem public schools, the mayor said, “run through her veins.”
Manning has not submitted a formal letter of resignation, but all signs indicate she wants to see the current school construction project to the finish line and exit in June.
Manning, by the way, is going to be honored next weekend by the Boys & Girls Club at the Champion for Kids celebration. The tribute was planned long before word began to leak out of her planned retirement.
Principals Part II
Remember Charlie Chaurette? Sure, you do.
He was Manning’s co-principal at Collins a decade ago who went on to become superintendent in Amesbury. Well, Charlie’s back in town.
Chaurette is serving as interim principal at Nathaniel Bowditch School until a new principal is named.
And, speaking of retirements, Tom LaValley, the popular Bates School principal, has announced that he is hanging up the eraser after 40 years in education.
LaValley, who has headed Bates for the past 13 years, will be going out on a high note. In the recent round of MCAS tests, Bates received a Level 1 rating from the state for the solid progress it is making.
On a personal note, LaValley attended his 40th reunion last weekend at Johnson State College in Vermont. It was also a reunion for the college’s men’s ensemble, where LaValley was first tenor.
And, if you can stand it, one last principal note.
Among those at the celebration last Saturday for the grand reopening of Saltonstall School were former principals Peg Howard, Bill Shea and Kevin Fahey.
And there was surprise guest from south of the Mason Dixon line — Kathy Corley, the first and founding principal of Saltonstall. It was kind of like having George Washington return for a Fourth of July. Corley even joined the kids in singing the school song, “Saltonstall Pride,” a song she wrote.
For those of you who love birds — you know who you are — a silent auction of birdhouses made by local artists and the community at large will be held Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. on Artists’ Row.
This is a benefit for the Northeast Animal Shelter.
There will be music, food and, if you look skyward, maybe a tufted titmouse or two.
On Sunday, Salem State history professor Bethany Jay will lead a walking tour of the city’s abolitionist past. Salem had several prominent people and families involved in the fight to abolish slavery.
The group is meeting at 1 p.m. at 9 North St. — behind the Witch House. It’s about a two-hour walk, and no reservations are needed.
The free event is sponsored by Historic Salem Inc. — so make a donation.
Cindy Theriault, a local mom, has a great page on Facebook.
It’s called The Chalkboard, and it’s full of information about the Salem schools and goings-on around town.
She’s worked hard on it for the past year, writing almost nightly in her basement down by the laundry. And she’s picked up a lot of followers — Mayor Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell to name two.
You may not know Shanna Cleveland, but you know her work.
She’s the senior attorney in the Boston office of the Conservation Law Foundation who fought so hard over the years to reduce pollution at Salem Harbor Station power plant. It was her work, in no small part, that led to the agreement to shut down the coal-burning plant next May.
Cleveland — no relation to the city — was honored last week with the prestigious 2013 Margaret H. Marshall Award by the American Constitution Society. And she was handed the award by none other than Margaret Marshall, the former chief justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.
Auction of the Year
It’s not often we tell you to sell the furniture, Uncle Ned’s banjo and, if necessary, your husband — anything you can — to go down to The House of the Seven Gables on Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. for Taste of the Gables.
You’ll want to bid on some of these auction items.
They are auctioning off a magnificent watercolor by Salem’s own Racket Shreve; “Winslow,” Beverly Seamans’ classic harbor seal sculpture; a quilt of fabrics created from archival wallpaper from The Gables by Maureen Clarke of Market Place Quilts; and a VIP experience at Churchill Downs, with a race named in your honor.
The event features 26 local chefs, wines and beers and it’s all for a great cause — The Gables.
Tickets are available at TOTG2013.eventbrite.com
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.