SALEM — When School Superintendent Stephen Russell announced the creation of a task force to study and possibly reorganize the city’s middle schools, he cited the “troubling trend” of low scores on the state’s MCAS exams.
He also pointed to declining enrollment at that grade level.
“We’re continuing to lose students between grades 5 and 6 or between grades 8 and 9,” he said at the Oct. 7 meeting of the School Committee.
That trend, he said, “causes us some concern.”
He is not the only one worried.
Last week, two parent-led groups held a meeting at a private home near Salem Common to address issues on the minds of parents after the 2011 designation of Salem as an under-performing, Level 4 district based on low MCAS scores at Bentley School and poor results at other schools.
Since then, Salem has adopted an improvement plan and launched a number of initiatives across the district. Convinced the school system could do a better job of communicating with parents, Parents United of Salem and the Salem Education Foundation have taken it upon themselves to listen to parents’ concerns and seek answers.
A lot is at stake, they say.
They are particularly concerned about connecting with parents whose children are about to enter school. For new parents with young children, it can be a questions of whether to sign up for the public schools or not.
“I have received five messages just in the past week from panicky parents,” said Leanne Schild, an officer in both parent-led groups and also a member of The Salem Partnership’s school advisory committee.
“Over and over again, the school issue keeps coming up, especially the past few years. We see people who are very involved here move out, and it’s very sad.”
Schild said she and others feel there is a lot of good news about the schools that is not getting out that could allay some of those fears.