SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 5, 2013

Column: A year's commitment

Patricia Maguire Meservey
The Salem News

---- — The Salem Partnership formed the Community Advisory Board (CAB) for the Salem Public Schools in collaboration with the city of Salem in February 2012. The goal of the committee is to serve as a resource for both businesses and residents to have their ideas and concerns heard and to obtain feedback on their efforts. The committee also presents ideas and makes recommendations. Aiding in the turnaround and advocating for the Salem Public Schools is the ultimate objective.

Membership of the Community Advisory Board is composed of a cross section of community leaders to more effectively serve as a liaison between the mayor, superintendent, School Committee and the Greater Salem community. Members of the committee are: Dr. Patricia Maguire Meservey, Salem State University and The Salem Partnership (committee chairman); George W. Atkins, Ronan, Segal and Harrington and The Salem Partnership (committee vice chairman); Patricia Zaido, Salem Partnership (committee secretary); Margaret Brennan, North Shore Community Health Inc.; Lucy Corchado, Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Citizens Advisory Board and No Place for Hate Committee; Ellen Galligan, Catholic Charities; Scott Grover, Tinti, Quinn, Grover & Frey, P.C. and Salem Rotary Club; Janine Matho, Salem Education Foundation; Betsy Merry, Merry Fox Realty; Rinus Oosthoek, Salem Chamber of Commerce; Richard Pabich, The Salem Inn; Mary Sarris, North Shore Workforce Investment Board; Leanne Schild, Parents United of Salem; and Kris Wilson, retired teacher.

Since its conception, the Community Advisory Board has held four public meetings:

1. In June 2012, the Community Advisory Board sponsored a presentation by the Mass Math-Science initiative (MMSI). MMSI is a private/public partnership designed to drive a school culture to high expectations and dramatically increase participation and performance in Advanced Placement courses, particularly among underserved populations, to prepare students for college and career success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The event featured an Advanced Placement teacher who has benefitted from advanced training and testimonial from a student on how MMSI is redefining the high school experience. In Salem High School’s first year in the program, the number of students earning qualifying scores on AP exams in math, science and English increased 129 percent. Currently, 24 percent of Salem High School’s juniors and seniors are enrolled in an MMSI AP course. As research indicates, students participating in AP courses are more likely to succeed in college and also can receive college credit when they earn qualifying scores on AP exams. More than 100 people attended this event.

2. In September 2012, the Community Advisory Board sponsored a community meeting on the Salem Public Schools’ improvement efforts. Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell discussed turnaround efforts, and Dr. Roland Fryer, director of Harvard University’s Education Lab, was the keynote speaker. Fryer suggested that five policies supported by 40 years of qualitative case-studies (frequent teacher feedback, data-driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time and relentless focus on academic achievement) explain roughly half of the variation in school effectiveness as opposed to the traditional resource-based model (class size, per pupil expenditure, teachers with no teaching certificate or teachers with an advanced degree). Approximately 150 people attended this presentation.

3. In January 2013, the Community Advisory Board sponsored a community meeting featuring Chris Gabrieli and Jennifer Davis, co-founders of the National Center for Time and Learning. These nationally recognized leaders shared their successes with hundreds of schools that have redesigned and expanded their schedules to better meet the needs of students and communities. They advocated that expanding learning time improves student achievement and enables a well-rounded education. Mayor Driscoll and Superintendent Russell again provided an update on Salem’s turnaround efforts. More than 200 people were in attendance.

4. In May, as part of the Salem Education Foundation’s “Education Day,” the Community Advisory Board sponsored an expo on summer programs for students K-12. Twelve organizations participated. Parents had the opportunity to receive information and to register their children. Both participants and parents appreciated the opportunity to interact in this setting.

A major goal for this committee has been communication — to serve as a means for the Salem community to be informed about how the city and the Salem Public Schools are working to achieve more for our students. Every Friday since July 6, 2012, there has been an article on the opinion page of The Salem News. This has been no easy feat, and it is only through the cooperation and efforts of many that this has been possible. No one asked, said no. Educators in Salem care!

The committee’s future plans include working closely with the school department to implement a volunteer program and another public meeting in the fall, We certainly want the communication to be ongoing and the conversation to continue. So, although we will not be doing a weekly column this next school year, we will be providing information and updates on a regular basis. Lastly, we believe that every child in Salem can and will achieve at high levels. We invite all citizens of Salem to work with us to make this happen.

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Patricia Maguire Meservey is president of Salem State University and chair of the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.