SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 28, 2014

Driscoll: Commitment to Salem schools continues

The Salem Public School District has been working diligently for the last two and half years, putting in extra time and energy to improve student outcomes. It started with the adoption of an Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) that spelled out the additional steps we would take to improve teaching and learning in Salem. In late January, we received positive feedback from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) about the actions we have taken to date. DESE highlighted the fact that school officials have taken very seriously the “call to action” prompted by our Level 4 designation and have taken important steps toward improving teaching and learning in our public schools.

Some of these actions include:

Building data systems to collect and review the growth and development of students;

Developing leadership capacity and teacher support systems to improve instructional quality in all our schools;

Implementing the new educator evaluation system to provide educators with timely feedback and opportunities for improvement, as well as greater accountability;

Creating an environment for innovation and support for nontraditional models to achieve results.

We continue to implement our improvement plan, align curriculum and utilize an array of tools to monitor progress and improve teaching. Our partnerships with DESE and others — including the Salem Education Foundation and the Salem Partnership’s Community Advisory Board — are strong and positive. Gov. Deval Patrick, through the Gateway Cities Education Agenda, has recently announced an additional $115,000 grant to support Salem’s English language learners.

The principal searches underway for Bates, Bowditch and Collins schools are happening in a district-wide context, not with each school in isolation. Our number one priority as part of this process is to attract the best-quality leaders for these schools and we have involved school community stakeholders in the hiring process. The goal is to have all the searches completed by May 1 so new, turnaround principals can be in place before the start of the school year. With the assistance of the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston, we are on track to meet that target.

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