Monday, March 3, 2014

Do Actions Speak Louder?

From the "actions speak louder" department. Some of you won't like this, and that's OK, but come on a little logic journey with me.

We were named a level 4 school district largely due to chronic under-performance at the Bentley Elementary School. In fact, since Bentley was named a level 4 school, the school has seen the decline continue. In 2012 the school was in the 4th percentile statewide. In 2013 the school fell to the 3rd percentile, even with a massive amount of turnaround effort and resources pointed at it. Literally 97 of 100 schools perform better. We're 2.5 years in to this, and the spiral appears to continue.

My point is this. There is still plenty of work needed in our schools, and at Bentley in particular. The problem isn't solved. Why then, is our "focus on education" mayor skipping the Salem School Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30 tonight, where the only agenda item is Bentley Turnaround Progress, to hold a ceremonial bill signing at the same time?

And yes, I support the non-discrimination ordinance completely. It echoes state law, while adding and expanding some protections, especially for a group of the most marginalized people you'll find, who aren't currently afforded accommodations by the state law. The No Place for Hate Committee, which worked hard on this ordinance, has a regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow night. I'd think the bill signing could have been done just before, in conjunction with, or just after that meeting. Let's celebrate the crap out of the ordinance, and the No Place for Hate Committee, but let's not do so at the expense of what Mayor Driscoll has referred to as "perhaps the most critical issue facing Salem today." She said herself that we need all hands on deck.

Coming three days after a column in the newspaper from the mayor that discusses our continued commitment to school improvement, and cites the Bentley Turnaround review, and 8 weeks after an inaugural address that included the following:

"We are gathered here, at the Collins Middle School, for the first inauguration in our City’s history to take place in this building – we are gathered here, in this place, for a reason: To signify to all, with unmistakable clarity that our primary focus in the years to come will be fixed with unwavering commitment upon Salem’s public schools. And this charge is not simply for our School Committee and School leaders. We must all together devote ourselves to this end. This is a community mission."

I'm not sure why we couldn't have found a different time to sign an ordinance. So I go back to my first sentence above, and say I hope this isn't a case of actions speak louder.

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