SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 1, 2013

Charter school reports progress

SALEM — After a bumpy start, the Salem Community Charter School, a public school for high school dropouts, is making steady progress, charter school officials said last night.

“We’re going to do really well on the next site visit,” Principal Jessica Yurwitz said at a joint meeting at Salem High between the charter school’s board of trustees and the Salem School Committee.

The meeting was scheduled after Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester took administrative action against the charter school in May, citing “substantial concerns regarding the management of the school.” The school was “placed on conditions” and given deadlines for making improvements.

However, the school for about 50 at-risk students, located inside Museum Place Mall — which is not the same as the Salem Academy Charter School — received good marks in a follow-up visit last month by the state’s’ Charter School Office.

The state officials said Salem Community Charter School “has made significant progress towards addressing each of the conditions placed on its charter.”

During last night’s meeting at Salem High, officials at the two-year-old charter school tried to explain some of the reasons for the poor evaluation by the state. Some of it is due to the unusual nature of their school, which is unlike other charter schools in the state, even those that serve dropouts, they said.

Students at Salem Community spend time in the classroom but also are in sheltered work programs, counseling sessions, internships, jobs and community-based programs.

Although cited for poor student attendance, the school actually has relatively good attendance, Yurwitz said, because the out-of-school programs are all part of the curriculum. After the school recently purchased computer software that can reflect the various educational placements outside the school building, attendance went up markedly, she said.

Yurwitz also pointed to MCAS scores that show a high number (92 percent) of students passing the English Language Arts section of the high-stakes state exam.

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