SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 12, 2013

Letter: 269 citizens urge city to save extended year at Saltonstall

To the editor:

We, the undersigned, write as concerned citizens of Salem to request that the Salem School Committee press pause on taking any vote designed to reduce the Saltonstall school calendar. We respectfully ask that the views of the public on this issue are heard and understood by School Committee members in advance of any decision.

Salem Public Schools are in a new era of education reform. Year one of implementation of major turnaround strategies has just been completed. The foundation for improvement has been laid in the district and across each school. For the first time in many years, each school has set specific goals for academic improvement, and they have a blueprint, supported by a now robust central office, that will guide them toward that improvement over the next two years. At this point, the “right tools” are in place, and since no school has yet demonstrated measurable progress, we ask that the School Committee delay decisions to alter school models and instead prove its commitment to turnaround by demonstrating focus, sustained investment and ongoing measurement in the following ways:

Ensure that School Committee decisions align 100 percent with turnaround plans. By publicly supporting turnaround and by demonstrating patience as new initiatives take root, we ask that School Committee show leadership by keeping the conversation focused on improvement at all times. Set targets for district improvement in a few critical areas, give each school a timeline and provide them with the supports needed to improve. Allow schools time to work internally to implement new tools and then hold them accountable for their progress and their school model. We ask that you refrain from judging the efficacy of existing school models by using old data that doesn’t yet reflect the effects of the turnaround strategies. And please don’t allow long-standing political debates in the community to disrupt the work of school improvement.

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