SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 11, 2012

State liaison working with city schools

Retired Sudbury superintendent to help develop, implement and monitor turnaround plan

SALEM — Retired Sudbury Superintendent John Brackett is working in the Salem Public Schools as a plan manager for the district’s turnaround efforts.

Brackett, who started in July, is being paid by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The state sends a part-time plan manager to each school district it designates as Level 4 or 5 “underperforming.”

He will oversee the development and implementation of Salem’s accelerated improvement plan, a necessity after the district was designated Level 4 last year. Brackett will also act as a liaison between the school district and state authorities, reporting regularly on student progress.

“I will kind of be a pebble in their shoe, so this plan doesn’t end up sitting on a shelf,” Brackett said.

Salem schools have focused on districtwide improvement since state education officials declared Bentley Elementary a Level 4 “underperforming” school last fall, based on its history of low test scores. At the same time, four other Salem schools were identified as being one year away from a Level 4 designation.

Brackett, who lives in Marlborough, commutes into Salem two or three days per week.

He’s working with Salem’s improvement plan team, a group of administrators and teachers who are writing the district’s turnaround plan.

The group is roughly 60 percent of the way through developing the plan and hopes to submit a draft to the state by the end of the month, Brackett said.

“The encouraging part of my job, so far, has been that without exception, (staff members in Salem) are committed to turning the district around,” Brackett said. “There’s a lot of agreement over what needs to happen, and willingness to make that happen. ... There’s a high level of hope in the people that I’ve been working with and talking to.”

Brackett also praised Superintendent Stephen Russell, saying he hasn’t taken his eye off improving student performance, despite having a lot on his plate, including hiring numerous staff and several building construction projects.

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