SALEM — After nearly two decades, a key piece of the “break-the-mold” Saltonstall School got broken last night.
The School Committee voted 4-3 to end the 190-day, extended-year schedule at Saltonstall, one of the hallmarks of the K-8 school since its founding in 1996.
Mayor Kim Driscoll called the vote “a colossal mistake.”
The mayor, who is also the school board chairwoman and a Saltonstall parent, said she feared the vote would be a “real momentum killer” at a time when the Salem public schools are in the midst of a turnaround effort after getting a Level 4 designation from the state for low scores on the high-profile MCAS exams.
The majority of the board, however, strongly disagreed during a meeting at Salem High School before an audience of about 80.
The four who voted to end the longer schedule — Jim Fleming, Brendan Walsh, Janet Crane and Nate Bryant — insisted that only one piece of the innovative school model was being eliminated. They said the school system could not justify spending the estimated $150,000 the program costs when Saltonstall does not have measurably better MCAS scores and when funds are needed at schools with more low-income children and greater overall needs.
“This is not the dismantling of Saltonstall,” insisted Fleming, who made the motion to shift Saltonstall to the 180-day schedule used at other city schools.
“You’re going to lose 10 days,” Fleming said. “You’re not going to lose multi-age classrooms” or the extended-day program or teaching according to an educational philosophy of multiple intelligences.
Saltonstall students go to school an hour longer every day, are grouped for two years with the same teacher and, up until now, have gone to school through the month of July.
Bryant, who was seen as the swing vote, stuck to the stand he took last month.