By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Ten thousand copies of the Salem Education Foundation’s new bilingual newspaper, Education Now, are being distributed throughout the city.
The 32-page newspaper contains articles — each printed in English and Spanish — written by school staff and community members on school programs, culture and improvement efforts.
The newspaper was born out of an overall need for more communication in the school district, but especially for the harder-to-reach Spanish-speaking population, said Janine Matho, SEF president.
Roughly 35 to 40 percent of Salem’s public school population is Latino.
“There’s little comprehensive information about both the turnaround and our schools in English, let alone Spanish,” Matho said. “There’s never been an attempt to communicate, broadly, what’s happening in our schools.”
Copies of Education Now went home in elementary students’ backpacks Monday, and 5,000 copies were distributed to Salem households as an insert in yesterday’s Salem News. SEF has also left copies with local businesses and at City Hall.
The nonprofit plans to publish a spring issue of Education Now and eventually make it a quarterly publication.
“It’s a representation of what Salem is as a community. We are diverse,” said Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, SEF member and editor-in-chief of Education Now. “This is one way of showing what a great community we are. We are all invested in our community, our schools. The more we learn what’s going on, the more we’re going to get involved.”
SEF is investing $25,000 toward the newspaper for this fiscal year, which doesn’t cover all the expenses of its publication, Matho said. To make up the difference, the organization sought support from local leaders and businesses, such as the Peabody Essex Museum and Footprint Power, which purchased sponsorship ads.
Superintendent Stephen Russell called the newspaper “a natural fit for Salem.”
“It’s a wonderful thing for the district,” he said. “It’s not only communicating information, but brings validity to the idea that Salem is made up a real diverse population and acknowledges that everyone has a place here.”
The newspaper has a voice of its own and can focus on a broader range of issues than if it were published by the school district, Russell said.
“The schools could not have undertaken this, and I don’t think they should have,” Russell said. “The stories, voices, articles are all their own.”
Highlighting the schools
Over the years, SEF has had discussions with school leadership about the need for better, more centralized communication, Ubiera-Minaya said.
Work on a bilingual newspaper began in earnest this fall, when SEF met with principals across the district, asking for ideas for articles.
The first issue of Education Now contains at least one article from every school in Salem and pieces written by Mayor Kim Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell, as well as Salem CyberSpace and the YMCA.
The aim was to cover a broad range of topics and age levels, Ubiera-Minaya said. The newspaper also highlights the district’s turnaround efforts — changes and improvements the district has been working on since Bentley Elementary was designated as a Level 4 “underperforming” school by state authorities last fall.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the schools to talk about what they’re doing every day,” Matho said. “... It’s bringing the work of the schools to life, so that it’s visible in the community.”
Articles were submitted in one language, and SEF hired a translation service to create a second copy in English or Spanish. Headlines and smaller features were translated by bilingual members of SEF, including Ubiera-Minaya and Matho.
SEF collaborated with Darek Barcikowski, an SEF board member and businessman who publishes a Polish newspaper, to print Education Now.
SEF chose to publish a print newspaper over an electronic or Web-based version to better reach its audience, Ubiera-Minaya said.
“(We decided) a printed version of the paper would be more accessible,” she said.
Ubiera-Minaya spoke no English when she came to Salem from the Dominican Republic at age 15, but she went on to graduate from Salem High School and Salem State University.
“This (newspaper) is something that my parents wanted to see, needed to see (while I was at Salem High School),” she said. “They had no other way to communicate with the schools or know what was going on. ... We’ve never had something like this in Salem. It’s something that people have been thinking about for a while. Finally seeing it in print is great.”
To learn more or get involved with Education Now, visit www.salemeducationfoundation.org or call 978-744-8008.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.