SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 13, 2014

Numbers don't add up for Bentley School

(Continued)

In one report after another, state education officials point to the need for consistent and strong leadership at Level 4 schools.

While the Salem Teachers Union is asking for more time — at least until the end of this school year — before a decision is made, Driscoll contends the city doesn’t have time if it hopes to have a school management firm in place by September.

Driscoll also points to a 2013 state study that shows, in general, that schools that have had successful turnarounds and emerged from Level 4 showed progress in the first year and then continued to make gains.

The clock is ticking on Bentley. The state has given Salem three years for the turnaround. That deadline arrives at the end of next school year. If Bentley does not make sufficient progress by then, it could be designated a Level 5 school, and the state could take over control.

Against that backdrop, Russell and Driscoll are considering an arguably radical step — partnering with a private, nonprofit management organization, which would hire a new principal and staff and make other changes. Current staff would be able to reapply for their jobs.

The mayor and superintendent even named the possible management firm, Blueprint Schools Network, and principal, Justin Vernon, head of Clap Innovation School in Boston and a Salem resident.

In recent weeks, Russell has sounded warning bells.

“We’re all coming to grips with the fact we do need to accelerate progress,” he said yesterday.

The School Committee could vote as early as Monday on a proposal to transfer control of the school to an outside contractor.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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