The Salem News
---- — To the editor:
I can’t believe what I am reading in The Salem News regarding the Salem school crisis. Are the leaders of our city trying to tell us that our teachers are not competent? Or maybe the teachers are not solely to blame for the low MCAS test scores, as some believe. As a former Salem school teacher, I can tell you that our teachers are highly competent, and in my opinion, we don’t need outside experts to help us straighten out this problem. We must first get to the root of the problem, and it is not the teachers or the administration. In my opinion, the root of the problem is primarily with some of the parents. Generally, on parent-teacher’s night, the parents who show up are those whose children are on the honor roll.
First of all, the schools need a strong discipline code, a strong attendance policy and a proper dress code. I feel that most of us can agree on those points.
Early in the morning, I can’t believe what I am seeing in how the students are dressed as they walk to school. Some boys were wearing their trousers halfway down their backside. Do the parents know what their children are wearing to school? It makes me blush to see how the girls are dressed. I am not saying that all of the children are half-dressed walking to school, but there is a good percentage who are not dressed properly. The language coming out of their mouths would shock the older generation. It wasn’t this way when I was a student walking to school. But I can’t blame the parents entirely, because we do have freedom of speech. The children are only expressing themselves.
Regardless of the Bill of Rights, there is also an unwritten “Bill of Wrongs,” and I feel that these two bills should first be taught at home. The church and other bona fide institutions, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, should teach more on these two bills, as well as the Ten Commandments. All adults should help in the grooming of our youth for they, too, will soon be our leaders. We must all share in the blame and join together in molding our youth into good citizens.
We have been increasing the school budget for a good number of years, but the results have not been positive. Money alone is not the answer. At this time, I, too, feel that we should not abandon the three-year plan. It would be like changing horses in the middle of the stream.
A longer school day, in my opinion, is not the answer. It is not cost-effective since school personnel will demand more money. Children will only get bored since they can only take so much. Many work afternoons, and a longer day will only interfere with extra-curricular activities, such as sports, music, clubs and drama, to name a few.
We must find a way to teach the parents how to parent. A few points that we could emphasize are — are your children doing their homework? If not, get some proven Salem institutions to help out, such as the Boys and Girls Club, and The House of the Seven Gables. Parents should find out who their children are associating with. Do you suspect your children are on drugs or chum around with the some who are?
I remember an elderly person once telling me that if I told him who I chum around with, he could tell you who I am. How right he was.
We have met the enemy, and it is us.
Anthony V. Salvo
Former mayor of Salem