, Salem, MA

Local News

April 9, 2013

Longer year to stay for now

Board declines to act on Saltonstall School until new summer program proposed


The first to speak in the roll-call vote was School Committee member Lisa Lavoie, who turned out to be the deciding vote. She was clearly undecided.

After pausing for several seconds, Lavoie said, “I’m thinking.” Finally, she voted against Walsh’s motion and was joined by Driscoll and board members Nate Bryant and Deborah Amaral.

Walsh’s motion was supported by fellow members Jim Fleming and Janet Crane.

A follow-up motion to create a committee that will come back by the end of the school year with a report on a citywide summer school program for 2014 that could replace the extended-year program at Saltonstall, won unanimous support.

Several school board members, even some who voted against Walsh’s motion, said they have trouble justifying the additional expenditure at Saltonstall, estimated at $100,000 or more, in a school system with many low-income children who have done poorly on the state MCAS exams and who could benefit from more help and more time in school.

“I truly believe there are students who could benefit more if we (take) some of those funds and distribute it ...” Bryant said.

“Extended time is important ... but it’s important for all children,” Fleming said.

Several board members also noted that the extra time at Saltonstall has not resulted in significantly better scores on the statewide MCAS exam, one of the primary standards by which the state is measuring Salem’s underperforming school system.

“I’m not sure time on learning is being used wisely ...” Amaral said.

Before the vote, parents were allowed to speak, and many made emotional pleas to save the extended-year program, or at least delay action until more was known about the proposed expanded summer school.

“This is not improvement ...” parent Cindy Johnson said. “This is inviting dysfunction ...”

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