SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 22, 2012

Bentley to get $1.5M grant

Salem: Federal money to fund turnaround efforts at school

SALEM — Bentley Elementary will receive nearly $500,000 a year for the next three years to fund turnaround efforts to improve student achievement.

The Memorial Drive school is one of nine in Massachusetts selected yesterday for federal redesign grants.

Salem schools have focused on districtwide improvement since Bentley was declared a Level 4 “underperforming” school by state education officials last fall, based on its history of scores on the MCAS exam. Salem High School, Collins Middle School, Nathaniel Bowditch School and Carlton Elementary School were also identified as being one year away from a Level 4 designation.

Mayor Kim Driscoll called yesterday’s announcement “great news.”

“This definitely will help us as we want to go as quickly as we can in implementing turnaround programs,” said Driscoll, who chairs the School Committee. “I think (the state) is impressed with the plan we have for Bentley and is willing to invest in it. ... We’re crafting a lot of what we’re doing, districtwide.”

Salem submitted its final grant application to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in April, opting for the state’s “transformation” turnaround model, which will allow Principal Renata McFarland, who was just named principal in August 2011, to remain in charge at Bentley. The transformation model also requires increased learning time for students and new evaluation systems for teachers and principals.

Through the spring, Salem school administrators made numerous trips to the state education offices in Malden for interviews, and Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester toured the district in February.

Salem will receive a total of nearly $1.5 million in federal grant money over three years, or $499,853 each year.

The federal grant money will fund a slate of initiatives at Bentley School, from an extended school day and professional development for teachers to extra supplies and new staff positions, including an assistant principal, math and language arts coaches, and library and technology positions.

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