Since when does the mayor select School Committee members?
Less than 24 hours after it was publicly announced that School Committeeman Kevin Mulvey was stepping down to accept a position with the Quincy Public Schools, Mayor Koch announced his “hand-picked” choice for the position: State Rep. and former School Committee Member Ron Mariano.
There’s just one problem: As mayor and school committee chairman, Koch does not have the authority to merely appoint a replacement when a committee member steps down. That authority rests with both the School Committee and the City Council, whose combined 15 members most hold a joint convention and vote to select a replacement. What’s more, any Quincy resident may apply for the position.
By naming his choice so early, however, Mayor Koch has clearly signaled his preference for the position, thereby discouraging less well-connected residents from even applying. That’s disheartening. Even more disquieting are the reasons Koch gave the Patriot Ledger for selecting Mariano:
Koch said he ushered Mariano into contention for several reasons: his influence and knowledge at the state level, his experience with the state’s school construction program and relationship with the program’s director, and his long history of serving the Quincy schools.
“Influence and knowledge at the state level?” So now, in order to serve on the Quincy School Committee, you have to be politically well-connected at the State House? True, state funding and support for our schools is very important. But that’s what we elect state legislators for — and Rep. Mariano already holds that position.
It’s also rather troubling to note that in the past few years we’ve seen a succession of School Committee members who have either elected to send their children to private school — as Mayor Koch does — or, like Rep. Mariano, have no children. Having parents of children who attend Quincy Public Schools on the School Committee not only ensures that the committee is fully invested in the improvement of our public education system, but also provides a parent’s perspective on important issues such as school safety, curriculum, homework and more.
Instead of discouraging public participation by naming his preferred candidate from the outset, Mayor Koch should keep an open mind and allow the public selection process to run its course.