Boston At-Large City Councilor John Connolly was kind of surprised that his old-frozen-foods-in-schools investigation made such a splash. Regardless, he chairs the body’s education committee and shows an astonishing passion for public schools.
He joined the Left Ahead show today to talk about the works — the food deal, teacher contracts, the pending fight for Council reelection and more. You can click below for the half-hour chat.
The election talk comes mostly in the last ten minutes. He figures with ex-Council member and President Michael Flaherty running, “You effectively have five incumbents for four spots.” He lists the niches each current at-large member has created, but figures any one of them might lose.
I’ve been to meetings where Connolly explains budget process and problems. In these tight times, with entrenched School Committee and teachers union, as well as dwindling funds and no pending federal stimulus money, running the education committee is one job I don’t want. That’s probably true of the rest of Council. Connolly seems to love it.
He does admit that he has not met all his goals here yet, including:
- Accounting for every dollar in the $1 billion plus budget.
- Shifting Court Street’s (School Committee) emphasis from top-down management to pushing as much money as possible to school sites to use.
- Getting more (like longer school days) by paying teachers more.
- Having the school food department run like a restaurant and not stopping by replacing managers and improving inventory control.
For the out-of-date food issue, listen in as he describes how he came to learn of it and what happened. He said that the very old frozen food might not have made kids sick, but it likely was unpalatable enough to drive them to skip the meal or find some money for vending machine junk. He says he was “heartbroken.” 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.”
For the at-large race, he discusses his own prospects by saying he is campaigning hard because, “I never feel secure. That makes for a successful office holder for reelection.”