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Salem School Committee to discuss turnaround plan, Saltonstall extended program

Posted by Ryan Mooney  May 21, 2012 09:07 AM

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The Salem School Committee has a lot to discuss when they meet on Monday night in the cafeteria of Bentley Elementary at 7:30 p.m.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, chair of the committee, and Superintendent Stephen Russell will update the public on the status of the Bentley School Redesign grant application. Russell, Driscoll, Bentley Principal Renata McFarland and two members of the Bentley Stakeholder Group met with representatives of the Department of Education in Malden last Wednesday to discuss the how the administration would use the grant, which would provide Bentley with up to $500,000 per year for three years, to improve the school's academic performance.

Without going into detail, Russell said in a telephone interview on Friday that he feels the meeting went well. More interviews and presentations will most likely take place in the coming weeks before the next step is discussed.

The overall district turnaround plan that the Bentley grant is a part of will also be deliberated in more detail. After school programs and the possibility of an increase in the GPA requirements for students who wish to participate in extracurricular activities will be discussed.

One of the larger topics on the agenda will be the issue of the Saltonstall School's extended year program, which touched off a contentious debate at the last meeting. Saltonstall students currently attend an extra hour of school per day, and 10 more days than any other school in the city each year.

The discussion that Saltonstall should eliminate the extended program in favor of hours and days on par with the rest of the city - brought on by school committee members Janet Crane and Brendan Walsh during a routine school calendar discussion - was met with opposition from Driscoll, who felt it inappropriate to discuss such an immense change out of the blue. Crane and Walsh believe that eliminating the extended year program could free up to $100,000 for the district to use as needed, for programs and tutoring services in some of the city's underperforming schools.

Saltonstall has been one of the top performing schools in the district overall, though MCAS scores have been largely in decline at the K-8 school on Lafayette Street.

Also on Monday, Philip Littlehale, business manager for Salem public schools, will present the proposed 2013 school budget.

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