SALEM — City leaders hosted a community forum last night that was both an information session and public rally for the school turnaround plan.
Mayor Kim Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell pointed out key areas of progress the school system has made since last fall, when it was designated a Level 4, underperforming district by the state.
“We’re all focused on seeing better results,” Driscoll told a crowd of more than 150 at Salem State University’s Mainstage Auditorium. “We can do this, and we have to do this.”
Russell pledged to oversee a transparent school system that will share news — good and bad — with the school community and public.
“We have nothing to hide,” he said. “You will see public reports from the Department of Education ...”
The city leaders used the forum to introduce Dr. Roland Fryer Jr., an economics professor at Harvard University who has worked with the New York City and Houston public schools. Founder of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard, the 35-year-old Fryer is a consultant to the Salem schools.
Using humor and inspirational stories, Fryer talked about what he has seen work in urban school systems. He stressed the importance of longer school days and spending more time on learning, of using data about children’s achievement to drive instruction and of setting a “culture of high expectations.”
“This is about what we can do to educate our kids who need us the most,” he said. “If a kid is at a Level 4 school, they need our help.”
Last night’s forum was one in a series of efforts by city officials to keep the public informed about what is happening in city classrooms.
The audience was told about the new assistant principals hired at every elementary school, a first for Salem; the competitive $1.5 million, three-year school redesign grant the city was awarded; and the addition of an extra hour to the school day at Bentley Elementary School, something the mayor hopes to do at every school.