If you want to see passion, ask John Connolly about schools. The at-large Boston City Councilor heads the body’s education committee and is wired on the subject.
He joined us today to talk about what he does on Council and the pending elections in November and maybe with a preliminary in September if nine or more candidates qualify. The general election puts the top eight on the ballot for the four at-large seats in the 13 member body. This race should have been low-key, even boring, with no statewide, mayoral or national pols up here. However, with former at-large member, ex-Council President, and challenger to Mayor Tom Menino on the ballot for at-large, it is suddenly exciting. Mike Flaherty wants back in.
Connolly said that effectively there are now five incumbents for the four seats. He figures any one of them could lose. Yet he lists the niches the four current ones have:
- Ayanna Pressley is “a voice that’s been missing” and raises important issues the Council would otherwise not consider. She is also the first woman of color ever.
- Felix Arroyo “led the charge” on preserving he libraries and for worker’s rights. He is the Council’s sole Latino member.
- Steve Murphy, current President, “is our fiscal hawk.”
- Connolly himself leads in education.
Connolly said they all work together well, but that each has earned constituencies for what they emphasize individually.
Click below to listen in as he speaks of the current and pending challenges in budgeting a school system that uses over $1 billion a year. He admits that he has not quite gotten to his goal â€” “I have not been successful in accounting for every dollar.” He also says he’s still working on convincing the School Committee to push down as much money as possible to the site level. He rues the long-term top-down management style. He doesn’t find the BPS “sordid and unseemly,” rather sometimes “misdirected and mismanaged.
He touches on teacher contracts too. He’d like to see a trade-off whereby Boston pays its teachers more and gets more in return, including a longer school day. He notes that our effective 5.5-hour education day puts us in the nation’s lowest 2%.
Of course, we could not let him away without a discussion of the out-of-date frozen foods he found and investigated. He said here that he did not expect the kind of publicity that engendered. Yet, he described himself as “heartbroken” to find the school serving lower quality, poor tasting food. He noted that 70% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and that their school lunches “may be the best meal a child gets in a day.” He explained what improvements resulted and what is still to happen.
Finally, he described the pending elections. He said that “I never feel secure. That makes for a successful office holder for reelection.”
John ConnollyConn [32:32m]: Play Now
| Play in Popup