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Salem elementary school applies for $500k grant

Posted by Ryan Mooney  April 24, 2012 10:31 AM

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A grant from the state could help bring improvements to the Bentley School in Salem, a K-5 elementary school located near the Salem Willows that has been struggling in test scores and other academic areas in the past few years.

The Salem School Committee submitted a 60-plus-page application to the Massachusetts Board of Education on Monday in the hopes of being awarded a School Redesign Grant that is offered to schools in need of academic improvement.

If awarded, the school could receive up to $500 thousand per year for three years, which is the amount of time the district has to improve MCAS scores or face a possible state takeover.

“The money focused on Bentley would be for giving everything from translation services, to bilingual counselors, to new textbooks and materials, to new assessment systems,” Superintendent Stephen Russell said. “But the plan we’re following is really to transform the Bentley School.”

According to Russell, a large focus of the detailed plan involves helping improve academic performance among students who do not speak English as a first language, and students with special education needs. There is also a proposal to lengthen the school day at Bentley by up to an hour.

The application was discussed at Monday’s school committee meeting at Bates Elementary—which was pushed back a week due to Patriots’ Day. The committee hopes to translate the thick application into easier reading for community members by the next meeting on May 7.

By then, the district may also know whether it was chosen to move onto the next step—a round of interviews between school committee members, administrators, teachers, and staff from the state board of education.

The application is just part of a lengthy process of winning what Russell deemed a “very competitive” grant. According to Russell, 18 schools throughout the state have applied for eight available grants.

“It’s pretty detailed in what they want to know you’re going to do,” Russell said.

Massachusetts ranks schools on a scale of one to five based upon how much improvement a school must achieve (five being the most) to remain under district control. Last October, just two months after Russell took over as superintendent of the district, Bentley was designated as a level four school. Four other Salem schools—Salem High, Collins Middle School, Carlton, and Bowditch—are currently at level three, but on the cusp of being demoted to level four.

“Since then we’ve got to work, we’ve got a district improvement plan effort going on with help from the state,” Russell said. “Each of the schools has developed a school improvement plan…and then again between Bentley, the district, and the state accelerated piece, we’re just trying to hit all cylinders.”

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