SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 24, 2013

Overseer to be named at Bentley

SALEM — The School Department is hiring an outside administrator to help turn around the troubled Bentley School.

Superintendent Stephen Russell announced the dramatic step at last night’s School Committee meeting.

Russell said he plans to hire a “district overseer” who will work with Principal Renata McFarland and other staff at Bentley, the Salem elementary school designated an under-performing Level 4 school two years ago due to consistently low scores on the statewide MCAS exam.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gave Salem three years to show significant progress or face possible takeover. This is the second year of the turnaround effort.

The pressure on school officials increased Friday when the results of the 2013 MCAS exam were announced, and Bentley had slid backward in several areas.

“We have reached a critical point” that requires “more aggressive steps,” Russell said.

Russell said he has been talking with several potential candidates and hopes to have an announcement by the end of the week. The new administrator is expected to be someone with experience as a principal of an urban elementary school. The job may not be full time, but the overseer will be expected to be at the school at least part of every school day, Russell said.

While noting that solid programs and initiatives are underway at Bentley, Mayor Kim Driscoll said the school has to move more rapidly and make significant progress this year. “We need to pick it up,” she said.

Driscoll described the district overseer as “another set of hands.”

The mayor stressed that this move is being made by the School Department and is not being dictated by the state.

The new position will be paid from the $500,000 annual federal turnaround grant Salem was awarded last year. No salary has been set, Russell said.

The superintendent said he plans to meet with Bentley staff Friday to discuss the new hire.

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