SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 24, 2012

Proposed school budget focuses on turnaround

SALEM — The school district has built roughly $1 million worth of turnaround programming and initiatives into next year's budget, from hiring assistant principals at the elementary schools to providing extra professional development for teachers and launching a new reading program for non-native and native English speakers.

This ensures change will happen whether or not the district is selected for the $500,000 federal grant it has applied for to help turnaround efforts at Bentley Elementary School, Superintendent Stephen Russell said.

"The fact that Bentley was identified as our Level 4 school (this fall) is only one chapter in the story," Russell said. "Frankly, as we look at all of our schools, none of them are doing as well as we think they can."

In November, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education declared Bentley a Level 4, underperforming school based on scores on the state MCAS exams and gave the School Department three years to turn the school around.

Russell released his proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year at Monday's School Committee meeting. The board will discuss the budget in several public sessions before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

The proposed budget totals $50,695,000, a 3.8 percent or $1,839,000 increase over this year.

Roughly $1 million of the $1.8 million increase is tied to turnaround initiatives, including a detailed improvement plan for Bentley and the launch of an "innovation school" model at Carlton Elementary, Russell said.

The new model at Carlton, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school of 235 students, will have students in blended grade levels and allow youngsters to move through curriculum at their own rate, Russell said.

The change will mean additional costs for professional development; the hiring of a reading teacher, music and arts staff; and stipends for teachers at a two-week assessment camp for students before the start of the school year.

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