, Salem, MA


July 9, 2014

Column: School leaders are failing Salem parents

My husband and I both grew up in the public school system, we believe in public education, and we always believed that our daughter would attend public school. We believe in our teachers, who do an amazing job in this test-score-driven system we find ourselves in. We believe in our children, but we are finding it very hard to believe in district leadership.

I feel very strongly that this district, like many others, has not achieved the goals of Brown v. The Board of Education decision, and after 50 years, I find that heartbreaking. I believe that what we are seeing today in Salem is closer to what was addressed in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the court accepted segregated institutions for African-Americans, stipulating only that they must be equal to those open to white people. While in Salem, our African-American children are equally represented in our schools, it is our low-income, our Hispanic and our English language learners who are not. Our children who are wait-listed and asked to make five-minute decisions about attending another school are not. Yet, it would appear that this systemic duality has been unquestioned for years.

The district tells us that it supports equity and balanced schools, but one only needs to look at the enrollment statistics over time to realize that equity has never and likely will never be achieved.

In this school year that is just ending, the reported low-income student population was 60 percent. Of this 60 percent, only 9.8 percent was enrolled at Saltonstall and 13.5 percent at Witchcraft Heights. Yet, 28.1 percent of the low-income population was enrolled at Bowditch School.

And this is not an isolated occurrence; one needs only look at the enrollment data for the past 10 years.

The low-income enrollment at Saltonstall and Witchcraft Heights has actually declined, even in the face of an increasing low-income population within the city.

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