BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Tomorrow’s election for School Committee is one of the most important in years.
The state has designated Salem a Level 4, under-performing district and given the School Department three years to raise student scores on the state MCAS exams and to make other improvements. Salem is nearing the midpoint of its turnaround effort.
There are six candidates for three open seats on the school board: three incumbents (Janet Crane, Lisa Lavoie and Brendan Walsh) and three challengers (Rachel Hunt, Richard Johnson and Patrick Schultz).
The candidates were asked to respond to a question: What is your top priority for improving the Salem schools?
“My priority is greatly expanding help for our youngest, providing in-home work with parents of our low-income families, then following it with extra help for K-3 students who either fall behind or are at risk of falling behind. This is the most cost-effective help we can provide and will reap both immediate and lifelong results for a population that currently faces the biggest obstacles in successfully completing high school.”
“We need to improve teaching and learning by supporting our teachers — not asking them to work harder, but helping them to work better. Our instructional leaders need to identify and share best practices, as well as create an environment in which all students can and do learn.”
“I have advocated for early childhood intervention for more than 30 years. If we do not get help as early as possible to children whose profiles predict school failure, we lose the opportunity to utilize relatively inexpensive and proven successful prevention while depending on expensive “cure” strategies with, at best, mixed results.”
“Our schools need strong leadership to ensure high-quality education for all students. Leaders set the tone for school culture, and they inspire, coach and hold their staff accountable for excellent instruction, aligned curriculum and data-informed reflection. Leadership begins with the School Committee, flowing through the superintendent to each school.”
“Great organizations have one thing in common — great leadership teams. Therefore, my top priority as a member of the School Committee will be to ensure that we hire the right leaders, provide them with the tools to succeed and hold them accountable for improving the academic achievement for all our schools.”
“One of the district’s greatest responsibilities this year is to hire and train highly effective school principals. We need three or four for 2014-15. Excellent principals are absolutely critical, especially in turnaround schools. I will make sure our new hires have proven success elsewhere, urban experience and very high expectations of students.”