EDITORIAL: Rites and wrongs

Behind the scenes at the Current as last week drew to a close, we could not help but be struck by the juxtaposition of two annual local rites of spring — one that, without fail, draws the community together, and the other that seems to be tearing it apart more than usual.

The first, of course, is the commencement ceremony that sent the Marblehead High School Class of 2023 — along with beloved Principal Dan Bauer — off to new adventures.

From where we sit, speakers at graduation ceremonies hit all the right notes. The Class of 2023 had to navigate a series of challenges that have been and continue to be unfair and largely out of their control, from the lingering impact of the loss of in-person classes, events and activities to the COVID-19 pandemic to the looming threat of gun violence, with a scary false alarm nearby at St. John’s Prep offering a jarring reminder that those active shooter drills of which salutatorian Cate Trautman spoke are a sad necessity.

And yet, it seems that those challenges have drawn the MHS community closer. Valedictorian Yasen Kadiyski Colón spoke of a class that laughed, cried and found comfort in one another. Class President Lucy Sabin proved that the Class of 2023 is leaving 2 Humphrey St. with a finely honed sense of humor.

These are qualities that will serve the graduates well in the places they will go next — and what a set of places they are, as the college-destination map shows.

The second event to which we refer is the June 20 election, the results of which will be known before the next print edition of the Current hits the streets. (Keep your eyes peeled to marbleheadcurrent.org for up-to-the-minute results.)

In the weeks leading up to the election, we have tried to give you as much information as possible to help you make your decisions. We had full participation from candidates responding to the questions in our election guide. With the help of a community member, we are now offering an online “override calculator” so you can see what a “yes” vote on Question 1 will cost you. And we have opened our pages as wide as possible to letters to the editor so you can see what your neighbors think about the issues and candidates as well.

But there are some who will say we could have done more — to dispel misinformation, unmask people’s true motivations for running or illuminate what some view as deliberate attempts to manipulate voters.

On that, we will say a few things.

One, even though they feel like it, elections are not the end of important community conversations. Yes, who has which seat at the table may change, but we retain the ability to turn up the heat on those seats, if necessary, or at least ensure that their occupants are making decisions for the right reasons and based on valid data.

For example, “lacking transparency” may not be the fairest or most accurate characterization of the long history of the transfer station project. But as one of the Board of Health candidates noted, it also should not be as hard as it seems to be to refresh one’s memory about where we have been and where we still need to go with “the dump.”

Job number one for whomever is elected to the Board of Health, it seems, may be to do a “reset” to remind the community where the transfer station stands and then work collaboratively towards consensus around what it should become. The newly elected board member should then accept the community’s verdict, even if it does not match his personal preferences.

As noted in this week’s edition, the sitting members of the School Committee — and presumably those vying to join them — have widely divergent views of the superintendent’s job performance.
Outgoing School Committee member Thomas Mathers used the context of Superintendent John Buckey’s performance evaluation to remind his colleagues that the district has had seven superintendents in the last 15 years.

“This is an untenable period of instability and detrimental to MPS,” he wrote.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Given that, no matter who is sitting on the School Committee after the votes are counted June 20, it should only continue a discussion over the future direction of the district, not end it. There may be a case to be made for yet more change, but it has not been made yet.

The guiding light for those discussions to come should be student outcomes, and the measuring sticks, whenever possible, should be unimpeachable data. Committee members might also be well advised to think long and hard about how fair it is to judge any employee thrown a curveball as big as COVID-19.

In his remarks at graduation, Bauer aptly advised the graduates about the value of tending to their relationships. He also reminded them that it “costs nothing” to be kind.

All evidence suggests these lessons are already part of the DNA of the Class of 2023. But we would love to see them embodied in our newly reconstituted boards and commissions as well. Indeed, it is essential to making the best possible decisions on behalf of the town in the days ahead.

The Current Editorial Board

The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.

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