Ordinance knocks Rachel Hunt out of running for Salem superintendent

File photoRachel Hunt

SALEM — Rachel Hunt is not eligible to apply for the Salem superintendent’s job.

Hunt, a member of the school board, told the News Wednesday evening that a city ordinance prohibiting elected officials from taking jobs with the city knocks her out of the running. The news came even before Hunt had made a decision whether to apply for the position.

“It puts an end to my deep thinking,” Hunt said. “I felt it was important to vet my potential candidacy with the committee — and the public — given the fact that I, their colleague and an elected official, was considering applying for the role. While I had not come to a final personal decision regarding my candidacy, it is clear that I would not be eligible based on the city ordinances.”

“I continue to believe that there is nothing more important ahead of our School Committee and community than hiring an excellent leader for the Salem Public Schools and I am enthusiastic about the outcome ahead,” she said.

Hunt had spoken to the state ethics commission earlier in the day and was informed she would have to resign from the School Committee and the board would have to let 30 days pass before considering a job application from her.

But a separate city ordinance calls for a one-year period between elected officials assuming city jobs, Hunt learned Wednesday afternoon. That ordinance was drafted years ago and inserted in rules governing the City Council, according to Mayor Kim Driscoll, in response to a former mayor giving several councilors who supported him in an election jobs in his administration.

The city ordinance states “No elected official shall, within one year of the date of the termination or resignation of his office in the city government, become an officer, employee or consultant in the city government and shall not, either directly or indirectly, receive compensation from the city government for any services rendered to him.”

The city solicitor determined Wednesday afternoon that the language applied to School Committee members. There is an exclusion for elected officials who receive no compensation, but School Committee members receive stipends.

It was first publicly revealed at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting that Hunt was considering applying for the superintendent’s job after being approached by Jim Huge, the search consultant school officials had hired to run the search process.

Huge told board members in a letter that Hunt, the founder and former principal of the Salem Academy Charter School, was strongly recommended by people within the district, community stakeholders and state education leaders, and he then initiated a meeting with her last week.

Driscoll announced Tuesday evening Hunt had resigned her spot on the superintendent screening committee and School Committee member Patrick Schultz was chosen to replace her.

Driscoll said Wednesday afternoon that at least a dozen applications have come in so far — some in the past couple days — forming a “strong pool” of candidates. She wasn’t aware of any internal candidates at this point.

According to a time frame Driscoll laid out Tuesday night, another public forum is scheduled Thursday with the Latino community before the screening committee reviews survey results and actual applications on Jan. 29. The group will then schedule interviews in early- to mid-February and recommend finalists to the School Committee by March 2.

Hunt was elected to the School Committee in 2013 and also spent two years as a Spanish teacher at Collins Middle School before founding Salem Academy in 2003. She has a degree in school leadership, is licensed to be a superintendent and works part-time with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to support Level 3 schools and districts and part-time as a member of a small team of educational consultants for the Denver Public Schools.

You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, jcastelluccio@salemnews.com or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.

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