To the Editor:
Recent developments in the campaigns for school committee should make one think about who they vote for in the upcoming elections. Of course, voters should fully research candidates for every office and for too long, ‘down-ticket’ seats such as School Committee have been mere afterthoughts to too many voters.
When I ran in 2016 I decried the mixing of the partisan (i.e. the political) and the non-partisan in education that manifested itself in the campaigns at that time. I said then, “When you mix public schools and politics, you get politics.” Unfortunately, my initial take on this year’s races is that it’s just more of the same and I fear that there’s a creeping politicization happening in our school system and parents, taxpayers – all of us – should be very concerned.
School Committee seats have been nonpartisan for over fifty years. That’s enshrined in our Charter and rightly so. And yet, like last time, social media is awash with what some could conclude is a kind of coordination between political actors/candidates and school committee candidates. On their social media pages, we see school committee candidate’s photos of their participation at local elected officials fundraising events; photos of themselves with local and state elected officials at their own campaign fundraisers. We see primary day photos of local politicians holding up a candidate ‘sign tree’ containing signs for the local, partisan candidates along with those of local school committee candidates.
Whether or not there exists a friendship between and among the candidates is beside the point - it’s still the mixing of the partisan with the non-partisan and one would hope that they would recognize that and respect the very different nature of the offices. Like last year, school committee candidates display photos of them with current City Councilors who have openly expressed support of doing away with the very elected School Committee seat that the candidate is pursuing! (That one is simply mystifying.) Perhaps most concerning, is when photos appear of a school committee candidate campaigning at a school event, which should really cause one to question a candidate’s judgment.
Be wary of candidates for a non-partisan office who cozy up to partisan officials for support because one has to wonder what their motives are. Similarly, be wary of partisan politicians who cozy up to candidates for nonpartisan school committee seats because one has to wonder what their motives are. Also, look to see whose campaign signs end up in the windows of the local party headquarters and then ask yourself why? I honestly don’t believe that one can respect the non-partisan nature of a School Committee seat and engage in or condone these blatantly partisan behaviors.
Finally, be wary of those candidates who appear to promote a “ticket” or “block” of SC candidates. This is something I’ve never seen in my 27 years in this city and it concerns me. Some may think me a Pollyanna or naive, but elections matter and elections can have consequences. I hope that in the upcoming weeks, we have the opportunity to see and hear the candidates debate the issues facing our schools, for that’s the truest way to gauge a particular candidate’s fitness for the office. I believe that we need to know just who it is we’re voting for in this School Committee election and with whom those candidates are aligning themselves to get elected because again, when you mix public schools and politics, you get politics.
School Committee Member At-Large