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State officials hear testimony for Salem charter school

Posted by Sean Teehan  November 23, 2010 11:34 AM

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A state commission held their first hearing regarding the proposed Salem Community Charter School Monday night.

The school would serve 125 people, age 15 to 21, who dropped out or are in danger of dropping out of school. The number of students in charter schools has risen dramatically in recent years, including in communities north of Boston.

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary education heard testimony from 12 speakers, 11 of whom supported the charter school, said Salem Superintendent William Cameron. The other speaker, Cameron said, came to support a charter school in Boston.

"No one spoke in opposition," Cameron said.

Other speakers included Seventh Essex district House Representative John Keenan, Linda Faris of Salem Cyberspace, Mathew Buchanan of the Bridge Academy, Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker, and others.

"Only 75 percent of students in Salem Public Schools graduate with high school diplomas," said Sean O'Neil, executive director of the Salem Academy Charter School in an interview the next morning.

O'Neil, who also spoke at the meeting, expressed surprise at the wide support among parents, teachers and city officials.

"It was the most positive meeting I've ever attended regarding the opening of a charter school," O'Neil said.

The school set a goal for a sharp increase in the graduation rate of Salem's at-risk students soon after its doors open, Cameron previously said.

"We're looking for a 60 percent graduation rate among students with the first thee years," Cameron said at a school committee meeting earlier this month. If approved, the Salem Community Charter School will be up for review three years after its establishment.

Seven more hearings in front of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will take place before a decision to approve or reject the proposed school.

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