Partners HealthCare, which recently announced plans to expand its North Shore Medical Center campus on Highland Avenue, is only the latest of several prestigious institutions to have made major investments in Salem. Others include Peabody Essex Museum, the National Park Service, Salem State University and the Massachusetts court system, which have put and continue to put money into major projects within the city limits.
That is due in no small measure to the quality of leadership provided over the last eight years by Mayor Kim Driscoll, who takes justifiable pride in the vitality of Salem’s central business district and the potential of its waterfront and who deserves to be returned to office by the city’s voters.
If there has been one black mark on the Driscoll era, it has been the state of the city’s public schools. In 2011, Salem was named a Level 4, underperforming school district and was given three years to show significant improvement or risk state takeover. Two years have gone by, and results have been mixed, at best. Salem remains a Level 4 district.
Rather than throw up her hands and ask the state to intervene, as has happened in some other urban districts, Driscoll continues to advocate a locally driven reform effort that includes upgrades to school buildings and improved teaching methods.
While that effort has the backing of a wide range of civic and business leaders, not to mention parents, it has run afoul of a School Committee that has too often been unable or unwilling to be a partner in progress. Too much time has been wasted debating the merits of standardized testing, blaming the state for the city’s woes or getting caught up arguing about silly side issues, such as school uniforms. Things need to change, and fast.
The school board could greatly benefit from the new ideas and fresh approaches advocated by first-time candidates. Rachel Hunt instituted the impressive academic program offered by the Salem Academy Charter School. Rick Johnson, a writer and editor for the federal government, has been active in turnaround meetings and promises to make the district more responsive to his fellow parents. And Patrick Schultz is a former Salem high school history teacher and Chelsea High assistant principal with a background in education reform; he also led Salem’s District Turnaround Committee.
All three have our enthusiastic endorsement.
Three hundred and two. That’s the number of votes it took for the Salem City Council to replace outgoing president Joan Lovely this January. It was a shameful performance that put the spotlight on a cabal of naysaying city councilors who seem to yearn for a return to the moribund days of yore.
No one wants to see the council become a rubber stamp for the Driscoll administration. What we would like to see, however, is a group interested in a positive approach to addressing the city’s problems and willing to take advantage of the promising opportunities that continue to present themselves.
Among those we would recommend for election to the City Council next week are Heather Famico (Ward 2), David Eppley (Ward 4), Elaine Milo (at-large) and Norene Gachignard (at-large, formerly of the school board).
In addition, we would strongly recommend the re-election of Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy, whose courageous stand in opposition to an effort to stack the council against the mayor bought himself a stiff challenge from spurned aspirant Steve Pinto. Evidence of voters’ distaste for the obstructionist element came during last September’s preliminary election in the strong showing by newcomer Beth Gerard against veteran incumbent and Pinto ally Paul Prevey. We hope Gerard prevails on Nov. 5.
And for the other two at-large spots, we recommend the re-election of veteran Councilor Tom Furey and William Legault, who was eventually selected to fill the seat vacated by Lovely in January. Touted as a compromise candidate, Legault has shown an ability to work with all councilors. It’s a skill many of his colleagues have yet to learn.