, Salem, MA

October 23, 2013

Salem names middle school task force


---- — SALEM — Superintendent Stephen Russell has named a 14-person task force to recommend changes and improvements to the middle school program.

Russell said he is establishing the Middle School Success Task Force in response to consistently low state test scores and other district data “that shows performance has been stagnant in grades 6 to 8.” Two years ago, Salem was named a Level 4, underperforming district by the state.

Witchcraft Heights School Principal Mark Higgins will serve as chairman of a panel that includes parents Mark Lee (Witchcraft), Mike Caggiano (Collins), Elisha Arnold (Saltonstall), Beth Forrestal (Carlton), Kristen Eckhardt (Nathaniel Bowditch/Collins Middle School) and Carrie Cabot (Carlton).

Other task force members are Assistant Superintendent Margaret Marotta, Salem High Housemaster Bill Shevory, School Committee member and parent Lisa Lavoie, community representative Linda Saris of Salem Cyberspace, and teachers Mark Harrison (Collins), Dacey Sartor (Bowditch) and Pam Shorr (Saltonstall).

“This is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle in Salem and absolutely critical to the future success of our schools,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a statement. “We want to get this right so we can all have confidence that our students are leaving eighth grade well prepared for the academic challenges awaiting them in high school and beyond.”

The task force will hold its first meeting Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at Witchcraft Heights School. It also will hold focus groups and conduct a community survey.

The panel expects to make recommendations to the School Committee in March.

Tom Dalton can be reached at