, Salem, MA


February 26, 2013

Column: Students are the real stakeholders

Several constituencies of the city of Salem — municipal administrators, educators from higher education to preschools, private organizations, public service organizations, concerned citizens, parents and the media — are currently sustaining an abundance of attention on the progress of the Salem Public Schools. They are looking at multiple sources of data and extending a “laserlike” focus on curriculum, instruction and assessment issues. This is taking place at Collins Middle School, as it is at all other district schools. And this is indeed a needed and commendable focus.

Equally as needed, however, is to keep a strong focus on the real stakeholders in all of this attention, the students in each of these schools. The turnaround as defined by test data will take place. In the meantime, the students are not simply “on hold” waiting to be “turned.” They are busy doing what they have always done: growing and learning as they attend each day. Much of this growing and learning takes place during academic time. But equally as much takes place outside specific academic time. Much of this is in the areas of social and emotional awareness. The sixth-through-eighth-grade years involve considerable efforts spent on both the ups and the downs of being a middle-schooler. Just ask any parent of a seventh-grader! The physical, social and emotional roller-coaster ride can be a wild one for any student at any given time. School staff, parents and students need to take the ride together.

One arena for this is during the after-school activity program. Here at Collins, students are involved in an active, exciting fine arts program. Instrumental music students have already held two marvelous concerts, with two to come. Several students recently auditioned at Northeast Junior Districts, with three students selected as vocalists: Nicholas Angeramo, Madeleine Holtz and Alan MacTaylor. Rehearsals for our annual musical are under way, with “The Music Man” to be performed April 3, 4 and 5. Sets are being designed and built, speaking parts memorized, songs and dance steps practiced. Intramural programs are also running. Flag football is the big draw in the fall. The whiffle ball tourney is under way. A variety of clubs are running, including chess, photography, French, writing and yearbook. And every morning, the gym is open for morning basketball before school.

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