Salem School Committee candidates

The candidates for School Committee in Salem, clockwise from top left: Donna Fritz, Kristin Pangallo, Bethanne Cornell, Mary Manning, Jim Fleming, Jennifer Brown and Stephen Beauparlant.

SALEM — Below are capsule profiles for six of the seven candidates running for three seats on the Salem School Committee. A preliminary election Tuesday, Sept. 17, will narrow the field to the top six vote-getters, who will advance to the general election on Nov. 5.

Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown

Candidate Jennifer Brown did not respond to requests to participate. 

On Tuesday, preliminary contests for City Council will also be decided by Ward 3 and Ward 6 voters, as well as in the at-large race. 

The candidates

Stephen Beauparlant

Stephen Beauparlant

Stephen Beauparlant

Address: ​18 Varney St.

Age: ​41

Family: ​Wife Kathleen, son Henry (Witchcraft Heights Elementary School)

Profession: ​Laboratory Manager at biotech incubator Tufts Launchpad Biolabs in Boston

Education background: ​BS in Microbiology from Penn State University; Ph.D in Molecular Biology & Genetics from Temple University

Elected office experience: ​None, first time running for any office

Why are you running for School Committee? 

I’m running for School Committee first because my voice (a parent) has no representation. Secondly, I see a huge disconnect between the current committee and the reality families face. Third, I’m running to provide a fresh perspective and passion to push thoughtful progress for my son and his peers’ futures.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why?

Neutral implies static, we are actively moving and are on the cusp between in trouble and good. I believe the administration now gets how angry the public is and that things have to change. With the right membership and fresh perspectives, I have faith that we can get this done.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system? 

I don’t think all committee members need to have children in the system as it is important to have members with other expertise. However, I think it should almost be a requirement that some fraction of the committee must be a parent of an active student in the district.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts? 

The public trust is broken. No matter how many great turnaround plans are put in place, people think it's lip service and doubt it will be effectively followed through. We need to invest the effort for community buy in. The previous administration never evolved, never learned from their mistakes or truly took the pulse of the community. A strong, vocal, experienced, active and passionate leader (superintendent) will go a long way toward giving people hope.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why? 

Science is lacking in the schools and green initiatives are the future. Getting SPS involved with the city’s green initiatives and working on green city projects would be worthwhile.

Beth Anne Cornell

Beth Anne Cornell

Beth Anne Cornell

Address: 18 Briggs St.

Age: 46

Family: Husband Matt, children Susannah and Cade (St. Mary’s High School), and Dever (Carlton Innovation School)

Profession: Professor, Wentworth Institute of Technology

Education background: BA, English, Merrimack College; MA, English, Central Connecticut State University; MA, American Studies, UMass Boston

Elected office experience: None

Why are you running for School Committee?

The district urgently needs to develop a transparent, process-based decision-making system. As the chair of my university’s faculty senate, I built systems for stakeholder engagement and bottom-up policy-making that are transforming the culture of the university. I am the only candidate with that kind of practical change-agent experience.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why?

The strategic plan’s four pillars are strong, which is positive. Where we’ve fallen short as a district is in fortifying the “foundations for success,” identified in the plan: communication, infrastructure, equity/innovation, and district/school culture. The keys to improving teacher retention, community engagement, and student achievement lie here.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system? The School Committee should include SPS parents, but we cannot rely solely on parent representatives to the School Committee to communicate on behalf of a diverse range of families in 10 different schools. I will work to build pathways for consistent parent engagement on targeted issues.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts?

To begin, we have to understand why families are choicing out and develop a strategy to address those issues. The school choice application is one way to collect this data, but we must also develop a method for measuring family satisfaction as they progress through each grade level. It’s the role of the School Committee to support the superintendent, principals, and district leaders in developing these strategies.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why?

We have a rich arts culture on the North Shore and I would like to explore opportunities to partner with local arts associations and creative writing programs.

Jim Fleming

Jim Fleming

James M. Fleming

Address: 47 Buffum St.

Age: 77

Family: Sister Sally Hayes, former Ward 6 Councilor

Profession: Retired attorney

Education background: Boston College, AB Economics; Georgetown University Law School, Juris Doctoris

Elected office experience: School Committee (16 years), City Council (three years)

Why are you running for School Committee? 

I am running for re-election because I firmly believe we can make Salem schools great again. We have a cadre of wonderful teachers and by following the strategic plan based on improving teaching and learning, nurturing leadership, strengthening community engagement and redesigning the high school the district will improve.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why? 

The district is heading in the right direction. We will soon have a new qualified superintendent. In the meantime, the district is in the capable hands of an experienced interim superintendent. These along with improved personnel retention should show better results.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system? ​It is not a requirement imposed by law. I have 3,800 children in the district that I treat evenly, not a chosen few. On every vote or issue, I have but one litmus test — what is best for all of Salem’s children.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts? 

The largest loss of students has been at Salem High School. When the redesign of Salem High School is completed, the out-flow should be halted. By reimaging the high school experience, we will develop a reputation of excellence in preparing our students to be locally engaged, globally connected and fully prepared to survive in a diverse world.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why?

​If I could add one more partner, it would be a consortium of Salem restaurants with whom we could give our culinary arts program an outlet for training our students.

Donna Fritz

Donna Fritz

Donna Fritz

Address: 57 Summit St.

Age: 44

Family: Husband Mike, children Jake (Salem High School), Sophia (Collins Middle School), and Jackie (Witchcraft Heights Elementary School)

Profession: Development Coordinator at Hamilton Hall, previously I was a Program Director at a group home for troubled teenage girls.

Education background: Graduate of Peabody High School and bachelor's in psychology from Clemson University

Elected office experience: None

Why are you running for School Committee?

As a parent of children at all levels of our school system, I bring a genuine investment in making our school system a place where teachers want to work, families want to send their children and where all students gain the confidence and agency necessary to succeed.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why?

I believe the district was in trouble, over the last 6 months I have seen some improvement but the district is still vulnerable. ​The extreme administrative turnover in recent years has created both instability and a lack of confidence in our schools.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system?

I believe the committee should have representation from teachers, parents and the community. Parents whose children are currently experiencing Salem’s education system can provide real-time perspective and feedback that will help to impact the culture shift our school system so greatly needs.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts? 

Community, community, community...we need to get the entire community to trust our schools again and explore the great things happening at our schools. There is much work to be done to gain families trust back, which is a major reasons I decided to run. I want to have a voice and be a part of the change that this community needs to improve our schools so all families feel confident their children will succeed.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why?

An interesting partnership could be Salem Hospital because it has the potential to impact all our students, from our youngest students with disabilities to our oldest looking for an internship.

Mary Manning

Mary Manning

Mary Manning

Address: 16 Oliver St.

Age: 70

Family: Not provided

Profession: Retired, Salem Public Schools 42 years, teacher, coach and administrator

Education background: BA in English, Salem State College; M.Ed in Recreation Education, Boston University; M.Ed in Education Administration, Salem State College

Elected office experience: Completing first term on Salem School Committee

Why are you running for School Committee?

Extensive experience in and knowledge base of SPS. Team player. Want to continue to help our schools become the great places for students to grow and learn, and the professionally challenging yet rewarding places for staff to work, that I knew them to be and know they will be again.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why?

Heading in good direction: Strategic Plan is in place and being followed. Budget process has been re-organized to provide more clarity. Increased support for building/grounds. Improvements in English language learning, with dual-language and increases in world languages in planning stages. Social-emotional learning curriculum.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system?

​I believe it is important that ​some ​members of the School Committee have children in the school system. I believe a balance of members both with and without children in the system is most desirable.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts?

Attract and select best possible superintendent and high school principal. Maintain stability in administrative and teaching staff. Continue progress on Strategic Plan. Provide safe environments for students and staff. Increase supports to students, parents and staff in all areas of technology, with emphasis on both communication and curriculum. Support schools interested in becoming Innovation schools; also those not choosing that path. Implement quality dual-language program, increase World Language program offerings for native English speakers.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why? 

I believe that the City Connects program already in place in the schools has already established relationships with most, if not all, organizations within the area.

Kristin Pangallo

Kristin Pangallo

Kristin Pangallo

Address: 25 Buffum St.

Age: 40

Family: Husband Dominick, children Aurelia and Lucy (both attend Bates Elementary School)

Profession: Chemistry Professor, Salem State University

Education background: Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering; B.S. in Chemistry from Bates College

Elected office experience: None

Why are you running for School Committee?

I want to help. My own children are students in the district and I teach students who have graduated from the district. I bring a valuable and unique perspective, as I can connect the experiences and policies of our K-12 education with successes and challenges our graduates experience.

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the school district in the last couple years. Do you believe the district is heading in a good direction, in trouble or neutral, and why?

Neutral. While we are no longer a Level 4 designated district, we are still struggling. K-8 are meeting or exceeding MCAS targets, but grades 9-12 are not. We also lack a modern communications infrastructure and culture of transparency.

How important is it that School Committee members have children in the school system?

It is critical that some members of the committee have children in the school system. This perspective is valuable and is currently absent. It is also completely fine to have committee members without children in the system, but not having any parents is problematic.

State data shows that for the 2018-19 school year, the number of students choicing out of the district rose to 89 — that figure has more than doubled over the past seven years. What must Salem Public Schools do to retain families who may otherwise be choicing out to neighboring public school districts?

We must improve our schools. Our struggles as a district are likely directly correlated to students choicing out. It would also be beneficial to request ‘exit interviews’ with the families of these students so we can understand better what drove their decisions. Once we can identify the particular struggles, and perhaps find common themes or trends, we will be better able to address this problem.

If you could add one partnership between Salem Public Schools and a local organization, what would it be and why?

Create a long-term, sustainable partnership with Salem Sound Coastwatch for exploring science, learning about the region’s history, using math, communicating findings, creatively interpreting their experiences — so many opportunities! 

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