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Should Salem Schools Alter Grade Level Configurations? [POLL]

K-5, K-8 —Should grade levels in the district be uniform? Weigh in here.

The Salem School Committee Monday voted in favor of creating a task force to examine grade level configurations in the district.

The decision to examine grade configurations comes as a result of feedback the School Committee received after soliciting ideas from the public as part of the district's turnaround effort, according to Superintendent Dr. Stephen Russell.

Should Salem have all K through 8 schools or just one school serving middle schools students? Should things remain as they are?

"There were many...alternatives [to the current structure] that were discussed," Russell said. Whatever the case, the superintendent said not enough middle school aged children in the district are succeeding in the current setting.

Five schools in the district — , , , and — have K through 5 programs. Students then proceed to for grades 6 through 8 before heading off to .

Two schools — and maintain K through 8 programs.

Committee member Jim Fleming said he was interested in "getting some of the hard facts over the next six months" and developing a "coalition of people including the public" to determine where the issues currently are and to consider what should be done in terms of possible reconfigurations.

He later noted that having three schools that have middle school aged children splits up district resources.

Nate Bryant said he would rather put the School Committee's efforts into extending hours and the length of the school year to "yield better results."

Dr. Janet Crane said she was concerned the School Committee has "a lot of ideas that we're dealing with," and said she wasn't in favor of forming another group. She said she would prefer if the discussion stayed within the committee.

Dr. Brendan Walsh said he was concerned that "the makeup of the group (the task force) will determine what information will be brought to the committee…Oftentimes the parents of many of the children affected do not choose to or cannot be involved due to circumstances," he said.

"People with a vested interest will be there and will be there in force, he added. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," Walsh said. He also made reference to "a contentious meeting a few weeks ago."

Chairperson of the Committee Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and Fleming noted that discussion about possible reconfiguration was designated as a School Committee "priority" in district turnaround discussions.

Driscoll said there were "parents who expressed concern," adding that hearing concerns, getting the facts and exploring different models to get "different perspectives" is something to which she is open.

"We need to find out what's best for us," she added.

In addition to Driscoll and Fleming, Lisa Lavoie and Debbie Amaral were also in favor in establishing a task force.

During public comment, Sean O'Brien told the School Committee he is a product of Collins Middle School and lauded his experience there.

Though there need to be changes to turn the district around, O'Brien said he wants there to be a focus on some of the positive points in the district.

"I don't want things completely 100 percent different like it's bizarro world. I don't want that for my city or for my future children," he said.

What do you think about the possible reconfiguration of grade levels in Salem? Take our poll below and let us know what you think in the comments.

Pam Ryan June 05, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Klassy- Witchcraft does not have 7-8. Yet with more kids, more kids per classroom, and less days/hours, they are out performing all other elementary schools in Salem. Kind of off topic but an interesting tip none the less.
KlassySalem June 05, 2012 at 06:54 PM
You're right of course, I meant to say Bowditch.
lea benson June 05, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The "middle school" concept began in Salem in 1982. Like all of the other "shiny & new" theories in education that Salem has tried and discarded over the years its time has come. Beyond this, the "Everyday Math" and "Connected Math" curricula have clearly failed. The students need math books with actual algorithms in them. Several other states have abandoned the "New" new math programs and have integrated traditional math programs with "hands-on" activities successfully. The experiment with these substandard programs is OVER!
KlassySalem June 05, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I don't disagree at all. With the slashing of the textbook budget, these math programs aren't going anywhere, though.
christine August 22, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Witchcraft outperforms other schools because of the family demographics, we all know that. Stop mixing up the demographics and fix the problems. If Bentley has more spanish speaking families enrolled then spend more money and provide smaller classrooms at the schools that need help, these children need to receive xtra help. This needs to be fixed well before middleschool age!

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