While the Gloucester School Committee continues to wrestle with a variety of issues, and while residents J.D. MacEachern and Joel Favazza have taken out papers to challenge for committee seats, the board already faces a challenge with the pending loss of a member who isn’t running.
Val Gilman, who is closing out the last five months of her third term on the board, has announced she will not seek a fourth this fall. And that will indeed be a loss for the committee, the school system, and the city as a whole.
In her three terms to date, Gilman, who chaired the committee in 2010-2011, has often been a stabilizing player on a board that can has, at times, cast a polarizing appearance on key issues, from wayward emails to parents to cast-in-stone stances on projects with little or no outreach for residents’ input.
Most notably, she steered the committee and the schools through a crucial transition with the departure of seven-year superintendent Christopher Farmer, heading up searches that first brought in one-year interim superintendent Joseph Connolly and then, more importantly, current Superintendent Richard Safier. And during the tumultuous 2009-2010 launch of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, it was Gilman — again, while chairing the committee — who tried to work toward an alternative “independent” school that could operate within the city’s education budget, loosely similar to the “innovation” school format that has brought vision and improvements to O’Maley Middle School today.
In these months ahead, School Committee members will no doubt offer Gilman praise and thanks for a job well done. But as they do, they would also do well to consider how to carry forward the same traits and commitment she has shown to work toward real solutions that benefit the schools, students, parents and the city as a whole.