This week, Salem Public Schools welcomed back its hardworking teaching staff after what we hope was a restful and rejuvenating summer full of the pursuit of personal and professional interests. With all of our 4,100 students returning to the classroom in the week ahead, our staff is redoubling its efforts to support each other and to educate, inspire and assure our Salem community that we are a dedicated, committed and well-trained educational team.

During the summer, I had the pleasure of meeting parents and members of the community at events that illustrated the vibrant culture of our city. With every introduction, it became clear that Salem residents are proud of our well-maintained schools, the challenging curricula we provide for all students, opportunities for athletics, music and the arts, and strong partnerships with businesses and school partners.

It is this sense of pride and belonging that makes a community and it is incumbent upon the school district to strengthen those bonds by inspiring and empowering our city’s young people in the classroom.

Our shared commitment to educating the next generation is what makes the school system the foundation of the community. District leadership, in partnership with the School Committee and our elected officials, will devote the year ahead to bolstering that foundation.

During convocation on Aug. 27, I announced a new Superintendent-Teacher Advisory Task Force, which will allow me to hear directly from teachers throughout the district about the needs of their students, classrooms and schools. By connecting on the issues that matter most to our teachers and students, we will nurture a strong professional culture and an inclusive environment for all. We are committed to supporting our teachers every day so that they can focus on providing academic excellence, a safe and welcoming educational environment, and classrooms filled with inquiry, exploration and fun.

We’re undertaking a similar effort at Salem High School by implementing Student Voices meetings between the superintendent and students in grades 9 through 12. This generation of young people wants to lead and have their voices heard. I welcome the opportunity to give them the resources they need to advocate for their peers.

These new lines of communication will extend beyond the walls of Salem Public Schools. We will also host community forums to hear from parents and Salem residents. I hope every Salem family can attend.

There is no doubt that the year ahead will bring unexpected opportunities and challenges, but we will rise to the occasion if we work together and put the students at the center of everything we do.

Kathleen A. Smith is interim superintendent of the Salem Public Schools. This is one in a monthly series of columns from the Salem Partnership’s Community Advisory Board for the Salem Public Schools.

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