Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A history lesson, Salem ed style, and the rest of the DESE report

In light of the DESE report, it's interesting to take a look back at old news articles about the Salem schools.

About 15 months ago, the Salem News had this little tidbit. In hindsight, right on, Nelson. How does a school's program change without the principal or superintendent knowing about it? Mismanagement and lack of leadership?

Just over a year ago, one month before the DESE visits that the report is based on, the Salem School Committee gave Dr. Cameron a glowing review. They praised his vision and his relationship with the board and administrators. The DESE couldn't find any evidence of either.

"I see both a short-term and a long-term vision for the district that I've been impressed with," School Committee member Kevin Carr, as quoted by the Salem News on 12/7/10. Again, that was a little over a month before DESE visited the district and couldn't find anything near a short-term or long-term vision. This isn't to pick on Carr, who now serves as a city councilor, but to point out that maybe our school committee doesn't know much about what's going on in our schools. The fact that the level 4 designation, and publishing of the DESE report, didn't come out prior to the recent city council election was certainly to Carr's benefit. The DESE site visits were early in 2011. They didn't find what Carr says he saw. His quote above would certainly have been election fodder. Could he have turned level 4 into a city council seat?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The State of the Salem Schools: Read DESE's take

Every Salemite should read the DESE draft report on the Salem Schools. So why isn't it available? I'm told that the report will be released later this week. However, before it is, the city/superintendent will be given an opportunity to edit/remove some of the information contained in the draft report. I'll be very interested to see what they remove.

The basic gist is that teachers get very little direction from principals, and principals aren't on the same page with each other, because they've received little direction/mission from the school administration. The report paints the picture of a district-wide problem of direction, not just a problem with the Bentley School, as the superintendent would have you believe in a recent Patch article.

Who is to blame? I'll go with everyone for now. The former superintendent takes a lot of lumps the way this reads to me. Reading the report, you'll be glad he's gone. The school committee, led by the mayor, is responsible for selecting the superintendent, and evaluating his job performance. If the report is accurate, they failed to ensure that everyone was rowing in the same direction, and that Dr. Cameron effectively carried out his job duties.

All non-Asian Salem student groups underperform the state.

Let me address the fallacy that the problem with Salem MCAS results is in the LEP (Limited English Proficiency) and FLEP (Former Limited English Proficiency) populations. As you'll see above, it's true that LEP and FLEP students underperform their LEP and FLEP peers across the state. That said, so does every other grouping of students, except for Asian students. The only group growing achievement faster than the state average is African-American students. A district-wide problem is also a population-wide problem.

I've been trying to come up with a way to share this report with all of you, and am not having a lot of luck getting it to embed in the blog. Blogger don't play that. I was given this report by someone who had a copy, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I took it to a copy center and had a PDF made. Unfortunately, the report was long enough that the scanner split it into two files. I've uploaded the first PDF here. You'll have to stay tuned for the second file soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fun from the Snooze, and only in Government

A few interesting tidbits in the Salem News this now yesterday, morning.

First, a mother on Lafayette Street asked Salem Police to arrest her 15- and 16-year-old children, because she is unable to handle their bickering. Nice. Shockingly, "none of the children's fathers seemed to be involved, according to police."

Second, the news published a letter from Steve Pinto today yesterday. Interesting that now they're willing to print his exact words, with no twisting. Mission accomplished already, Nelson? Pinto's proposal deserves a full examination. I still disagree with his unwillingness to guarantee us some short term cost savings, but after having coffee with him recently, I have a much better idea where he's coming from on the issue. I think we'll see more public commentary from Councilor Pinto now that he's not in a political position. I look forward to it.

Anyone want to bet that Nelson creamed himself a little when he was able to add at the bottom of the letter, "(Editor's note: Steven Pinto is a former councilor-at-large in Salem.)?"

Finally, almost every time I see the name of Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley, I end up cringing at his seemingly asinine decisions. His most recent Mori-esque call is reducing the bail of a criminal who has jumped bail twice already, including last month. Feeley did this despite the fact that the accused recently received enough cash to post the now-lowered bail and disappear again. Apparently the term "flight risk" is foreign to Judge Feeley

There may be a reason that Feeley is known as Judge free-thee.


The MBTA is really a piece of work. Only a government entity would propose that they provide you with less than before, while charging you significantly more for it. That's what the new proposal from the T boils down to.

One scenario nearly eliminates all Salem bus service, and does eliminate any bus service north and west of Salem depot. The other scenario only reduces Salem bus service, while still eliminating any bus service north and of Salem. Service to the malls is eliminated in both proposals.

For you commuter rail users, both proposals eliminate weekend service completely, as well as any weekday service after 10 PM. You won't be using the commuter rail for Celtics, Bruins, or Red Sox games any more. I guess this would mean the end of the game day Patriots game as well.

In return for only being able to use the train 5 days instead of 7, and only until 10 PM. you'll see your monthly pass price increase from the current $163 per month, to either $219 or $234. Try that with your boss. Tell him to pay you 43% more, and you're going to take two days a week that you currently work off. Good luck with that.

No way these scenarios are specifically designed to create outrage and scare the crap out of users to get them to go after their elected officials for more state funding for the T, right? Worked the last time.