It may not be unprecedented, but this week’s multi-meeting, multi-day public conversation about the search for the public school system’s next superintendent is like a welcome gust of fresh spring air rushing across the city.
The first discussion scheduled for 8:45 a.m. today at English High School is for parents. There are a total of 14 sessions spanning this week through next Monday, including a Saturday session from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Auditorium in City Hall.
Teachers, principals, school administrators — everyone who wants to listen and offer a viewpoint on the superintendent search has an opportunity to do so throughout this week. The city has made a concerted effort to reach out to Lynn’s multitude of non-English speakers to ensure their inclusion in the search discussion.
City leaders took the first steps to ensuring the next superintendent will match the caliber of the current school leaders, Dr. Catherine C. Latham, when they signed off on a home rule petition providing state financial assistance to the city that includes stripping away a Lynn residency requirement for the superintendent.
The School Committee chaired by Mayor Thomas M. McGee is charged with hiring the next superintendent. But this week’s thorough round of conversation opportunities on the topic sets the stage for plenty of public input into that decision-making process and sets a great precedent for public exploration of other city challenges.
Billed as “community focus groups,” the listening sessions scheduled for today, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and next Monday are a great way to galvanize city residents and people who teach their children and keep them safe around a hugely important topic.
The listening sessions have been scheduled in locations central to city residents but also with sessions reserved today at English; tomorrow at Classical High School and Thursday morning in the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute field house.
Three afternoon and evening listening sessions are also scheduled for today, Tuesday and Thursday in the City Council Chamber in City Hall. But the Saturday morning and early afternoon session and an evening session scheduled for next Monday will be held in Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
Taken together, these sessions can bring a powerful focus to bear on not only the superintendent search, but all other important questions concerning the state of local schools.
School security, the age and condition of school buildings, and parental engagement are sure to be topics at least touched upon during the course of the 14 sessions. The smart decision to schedule today’s sessions and others planned for Tuesday and Thursday back to back allows parents, educators, and anyone else from across the city to compare notes, exchange ideas and renew acquaintances.
With multiple sessions spanning the week, participants in the initial sessions have plenty of chances to mull over what they heard, refine their own ideas and viewpoints, and attend the Thursday, Saturday and Monday sessions with new suggestions and refocused perspectives.
McGee made it clear in his Jan. 2 inaugural speech that the voices of everyone in this city will be heard and respected. This week’s amazing opportunity for dialogue on an enormously-important decision is proof he is making good on his word.