Salem Superintendent Stephen Russell has proposed ending the extended-year program at Saltonstall, a “break-the-mold” public school that opened with much fanfare nearly two decades ago due to its longer school day and year.
In its place, the superintendent wants to offer an array of “high-interest” summer school programs that would be open to several hundred elementary students across the city.
Russell insists that he is not penalizing Saltonstall, a K-8 school with strong parent support and, often, waiting lists for admission, but only trying to offer summer enrichment opportunities to more children.
The superintendent’s proposal comes almost a year after two School Committee members, Brendan Walsh and Janet Crane, raised a similar issue when they tried to change the public school calendar and have all city schools, including Saltonstall, operate on a 180-day schedule.
Saltonstall’s 360 students attend school an hour longer each day and 10 days more each year. Its 190-day calendar has different vacation weeks, with classes running from September through July.
At the time, Walsh and Crane described the move, which failed to gain support and sparked a backlash at Saltonstall, as an “equity” issue.
After being designated an underperforming school district in 2011 due to low scores on the statewide MCAS tests, Salem officials have focused on the imbalances in the school system, including the concentrations of low-income students in schools with the lowest scores.
Saltonstall has come under scrutiny for drawing additional resources — its teachers get 16 percent more pay — without having significantly better test scores. It also has among the fewest low-income students.
Russell stressed that he is a strong supporter of Saltonstall and is recommending keeping its extended-day program. In fact, both the superintendent and Mayor Kim Driscoll are urging other schools to go to longer school days.