, Salem, MA


July 22, 2013

Turiel: District problems don't lie with Saltonstall

So we stand here once again, in a room packed with parents, to determine the fate of Saltonstall’s extended year program. It’s a program that, though wildly popular within the community, has been on the chopping block because it’s supposedly not “equitable”.

And from the story I read this morning in the newspaper, this is a done deal. The member who everyone looks at as the swing vote is “feeling very comfortable.” Well, that’s wonderful.

From all the most recently published data, Salem’s schools suck. And that’s happened on the watch of our School Committee. So what kind of equity are we looking for? That sort?

If there are problems in the demographics of the schools, is that the fault of the schools, or the parents who choose them? No. It’s a failure of the school department to do its job, and a failure of the School Committee to lead. A failure to follow the stated assignment policy of the past, and judging by last year’s K class, a failure to follow the recently adopted assignment policy.

Fact is (since so many people are citing them): Salem has a Level 4 school district. I’m encouraged by much of what I see from our superintendent, who walked into this job just as our status was announced. I’m encouraged by many of the newer leaders that have come to manage some of our schools. I’m encouraged by the dedication and hard work of so many of our teachers, particularly the ones at Saltonstall who managed to keep working effectively despite the renovation project that’s had them in exile for two years in a dramatically outdated and inadequate building.

But at the same time, I’m discouraged by some of the old-guard teachers and administrators I’ve heard here who have tried to sow discord by setting parents against one another. I’m discouraged by the School Committee’s relentless focus on Saltonstall when it’s one of the only schools in Salem that currently makes it up to the category of mediocre.

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