, Salem, MA


July 13, 2013

Letter: Cutting school year at Saltonstall ‘a big step backwards’

To the editor:

The following letter was sent to the Salem School Committee:

I have watched the news with growing dismay as I realize that a vote to abolish the extended year at Saltonstall may actually occur. I urge all of you to save Saltonstall’s extended schedule, as you simultaneously work to provide extended time to the other Salem schools.

As a citizen, parent and educator, I was extremely proud of Salem in 1995 when it opened a school with such a carefully designed philosophy, including its place as the first public school in the Northeast with an extended year. Saltonstall and Salem demonstrated that true innovation is possible in the public schools.

Later, as a School Committee member and even later as Saltonstall principal from 2005-2009, I saw the value of extended time for learning. Dr. Walsh’s recent op-ed in the Salem News criticized Saltonstall for test scores similar to Witchcraft’s, noting the similar demographics of the two schools. How fortunate for Salem that two schools share the top two rankings in the district! Scores are an important measure of a school’s effectiveness, but I urge the School Committee to consider other factors, as well, as you evaluate the strengths and characteristics of our schools and the Saltonstall calendar, in particular.

First, not all learning is measured by tests. Saltonstall teachers and families cite the strong participatory nature of learning at Saltonstall, the bonds of community, the teamwork, the character development, and the joy of learning. Of course, other schools offer these positives, but Saltonstall has the advantage of time. As an educator who worked in many different schools as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, I noticed a less frenetic atmosphere at Saltonstall, a happy energy that I attributed to longer time blocks and more weeks in which to learn the curriculum.

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