In a passionate speech, John Connolly declared his support for an appointed School Committee and pledged to reform the Boston Public School’s central office if elected mayor.
“I want to bring fundamental change to our Boston Public Schools,” Connolly said Wednesday evening in Dorchester. “It will require an appointed school committee that embraces this vision but challenges the superintendent and me to give our children the best.”
The event took place in the crowded basement of Prince Hall Lodge, a popular community gathering place, where a racially diverse crowd gathered.
A former teacher and current at-large city councilor, Connolly has long been one of the city’s lead critics of the school district’s leadership and has made citywide education reform the central tenant of his campaign.
Connolly had previously said he was not sure if he’d back the continuance of an appointed school committee or the return to an elected one – a popular idea among many residents, especially among minorities. But he said Wednesday that he is convinced an elected committee would breed candidates hoping to use the committee as a stepping stone to higher office and allow teachers unions to pour money into races to get the committee they want.
“John understands what students need inside the classroom and outside of the classroom,” said Roxlind James, one of the Connolly campaign’s summer interns and a 2012 graduate of Boston Latin Academy, who was one of the event’s speakers.
James was one of dozens of campaign volunteers and staff members on hand for the event, which included live music, potato salad and chicken wings, and a lengthy address by Connolly. The campaign estimated that more than 200 people were in attendance.
Among them, was Rev. William Dickerson, past of the Greater Love Tabernacle, opened the event with a prayer.
While the speech focused almost entirely on education, Connolly also touched on public safety, police diversity, and threw jokes and soft shots at his fellow mayoral contenders.
First, Connolly noted the similarities between his name and that of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who is also running for mayor.
“I think it takes a few more letters to get the job done,” he said with a smile.
He also noted that he was the only candidate to officially enter the race before Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that he would not seek re-election.
“I didn’t get in the race because it was an open race or because it was politically opportune. I got in the race because I care about Boston’s future,” he said.
After speaking, Connolly said he was excited by the receptive audience.
“I’m thrilled by the turnout,” he said. “We’re filling rooms like this one, night in and night out.”