One thing is certain: this is a time of change for the Gloucester School Committee.
That will be the case regardless of which candidates gain the most votes in next Tuesday’s elections. And that change is assured because two current committee members are not seeking re-election.
Roger Garberg never took out nomination papers to seek a new term after an embarrassing e-mail put-down of a school parent and her family after they dared to question school programs and policies, while Val Gilman, who formerly chaired the committee and whose leadership will be missed, decided against seeking a fourth term this time around.
What is very much in play, however, is the degree of change that this board will see after Gloucester voters go to the polls Tuesday, and who the agents of change will be. For the incoming School Committee will indeed be confronting a full plate of significant issues that will carry over from the current panel’s work.
Those will include nailing down a temporary site and overall plan for housing the West Parish students, assuming the new West Parish School is built on the current site. It may well include a need for redistricting students to gain a better parity among the schools and programs. And all of that will come against a backdrop of providing the help needed to raise the city’s overall level of education, so it is not just on a par with comparable school districts, but with others across Cape Ann and around the state as well.
None of that, of course, is an easy task. But a mix of leadership from the current committee and an infusion of new ideas can well give city students, parents — and yes, taxpayers — the responsiveness and accountability they need.
In a race that allows residents to vote for up to six candidates — the seventh seat on the board automatically goes to the newly elected mayor — that School Committee change should begin with a vote for local attorney and first-time candidate Joel Favazza.
During the recent Times debate and in other outreach to residents, Favazza has made the case for taking a fresh look at a number of issues, up to and including the potential use of the former Fuller School, and the need to avoid passing off poor test scores and other results to the city’s demographic makeup, as some school apologists have in the past. He believes in the potential of all of Gloucester students, and will bring the fresh approach that the committee and Gloucester’s schools need.
In that same vein, first-time candidate Hannah Scialdone Kimberley — an educator herself, teaching at the Gloucester campus of Endicott College — would also bring a needed new perspective to the board.
Their infusion alongside incumbent members Jonathan Pope, Kathy Clancy and Melissa Joy Teixeira and Tony Gross would create a board that would carry a depth of knowledge of what’s gone before, and a willingness to hear and heed new ideas.
Has the current board made mistakes? Absolutely. But it’s been interesting to note during the campaign that Clancy, especially, has noted she’d be willing to at least use Fuller as a transition site for West Parish — something other school officials seemed to fear in the past. And current Chairman Pope has acknowledged that the committee should look at potential redistricting or perhaps other approaches to bringing up the scores and learning progress of all of the city’s students.
There are no doubt some voters who have seen the current board’s approach, and call for a clean sweep. But diving into all of these issues from back at Square One is not a realistic approach.
Re-electing Pope, Teixeira, Clancy and Gross — and adding Favazza and Kimberley as new voices — should bring the balanced approach this board needs. They deserve your support.