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SEFLETTER

SEFLETTER

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Published by Salem News

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Published by: Salem News on Mar 13, 2012
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05/13/2014

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SalemEducationFoundationRequests2YearDelayonLimitedChoice&MiddleSchoolRestructuringProposals
TotheEditor:TheSalemEducationFoundation(SEF),whichiscomposedofadiversegroupofcommunityandnon-profitleaders,parentsrepresentingalmosteverySalemschool,andbusinessowners,hasbeenakeystakeholderandpartnerintheschooldistrict’sLevel4turnaroundprocesssinceNovember.RepresentativesfromSEFhaveservedineveryaspectoftheturnaroundincludingtheBentleySchoolturnaroundplanninggroupandschoolredesignteam,theCommunityStakeholdergroupsandonseveraloftheindividualschoolimprovementworkgroups.Inaddition,wehaveheldcommunitymeetingswithmanygroupsincludingparentsofcurrentandincomingschoolchildren–Latinoandnon-Latino,retiredteachers,empty-nesters,businessownersandleadersofcommunityagenciescaringforkidsandfamilies.Overthepasttwomonthswewitnessedourcommunityunitetostudyourschooldistrictanddevelopthoughtful,andoftenwell-researched,recommendationsforimprovement.Likemanywhohavebeenpartofthisprocess,theSalemEducationFoundationhasbeenexcitedaboutchange.However,wearedisappointedwithwhatwaspresentedatlastMondaynight’sSchoolCommitteemeetingbecausetherecommendationslackanemphasisonimprovingstudentachievement –whichisthesinglewaythatSalemwillmoveoutofLevel4status.AlthoughweapplaudthedistrictandtheSchoolCommitteeforincludingrecommendationssuchasplacingAssistantPrincipalsineverybuilding,creatingaK-12scope&sequence,addingaLeadNurseAdministratorandextendingtheschooldayforanhour,thesearecommonpracticesalreadyinplaceinmostpublicschooldistrictsin2012anddonotrepresentthe“boldchange”thatwaspromised.Instead,therecommendationspresenttwomajorstructuralchangestoourschoolsystem–limitedchoiceattendancezonesattheelementaryschoollevelandtheshifttoK-6schoolswithonecentralmiddleschool–bothofwhicheffectivelylimitschoolchoiceforallSalemfamilies.SEFopposesthemodelsofreducedschoolchoicepresentedintheserecommendations.Wehavespokenwithparentsthroughoutourcommunity–fromVinninSquaretothePointtoHighlandAvenuetodowntownSalemandtheWillows–andparentsfromallwalksoflifearefrustratedandangeredbytheserecommendations.Throughourcommunityoutreacheffortswe’velearnedthatissueslikeschoolchoiceisonepointthatparents–regardlessofrace,ethnicityorsocio-economicstatus–feelstronglyabout.Atatimewhenfamiliesarestrugglingtoretainfaithinafailingdistrict,eliminatingchoiceseemscounterintuitive.ParentsinSalemarealreadystrugglingwithdecisionsabouttheirchildren’seducation.Manytellusthattheyareconsideringmovementfromoneschooltoanother;othersareconsideringlocalcharterschooloptions,parochialorprivateschooloptions,andout-of-districtplacementslikeHamilton-Wenham.StillotherstoldustheyplantotrytoselltheirhomesandmoveoutofSalem.ThelotteryatSalemAcademylastweekyieldedmoreapplicationsfor6
th
gradethaneverbefore,andthewaitlistfornextyearislargerthaninyearspast.Itseemsinconceivablethattheschoolsystemwouldchoosethistimetoaskparenttogiveupthelittlechoicethatremains.Althoughitisclearthatthecurrentbalanceofourschoolsisskewed,itseemsequallyclearthatthecurrentcontrolledchoicepolicyhasnotbeenimplementedproperly.Whynotstrengthentheimplementationofthecurrentpolicyandholdthesystemaccountableforitsimplementation?Surelythisissomethingawell-staffed,robustParentInformationCentercouldhandle.Whatevidencesuggeststhat“limitedchoiceattendancezones”willleadtoanyimprovement?Hasanyformalassessmentbeencompletedtodeterminewhetherthenewchoicesystemmayresultinaraciallyand

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