Introducing the New Salem Community Charter School

Posted on February 28, 2011
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by FeliciaOctocog
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February 28, 2011

Today the Massachusetts Board of Education approved the charter for the Salem Community Charter School.  This is a Horace Mann Charter which means it is an in-district charter school.  Unlike a Commonwealth Charter (such as the Salem Academy) which is totally independent of the public school district, the Horace Mann Charter is approved by the local school committee and by the local collective bargaining unit (i.e., the teachers are still part of the teachers’ union).  However, the Horace Mann charter is governed by its own Board of Trustees independent of the school committee.  It is indeed a strange beast!  This hybrid charter derives its charter and funding from the local district and school committee approval BUT its decisions are made by its own Board which do not require School Committee approval.

The new Salem Community Charter School (SCCS) is a school targeting youth who have dropped out of school and youth at high risk of dropping out.  The school is truly student-centered meeting the student where he or she is at. What does that mean?   SCCS will provide flexible hours to accommodate students who need to work or have childcare issues and offer a small, supportive learning environment, individual education plans allowing students to work at their own pace, extensive career and college planning, and many available wrap-around social and therapeutic services.

The school will be small with only 4 faculty members double-certified in either ESL or Special Education.  Teachers  and staff  will work collaboratively with the principal, be empowered to offer up innovative approaches and be much more closely involved with the students and their families providing each with individualized plans and lots of counseling and mentoring.

SCCS, has the opportunity, in a way traditional public schools do not, to be quite innovative in its educational practices.  Unlike most High Schools, students will not be required to be in school a prescribed number of years or earn a prescribed number of credits. Each student graduates based on their ability to demonstrate competencies in the core subject areas.  There will be more involvement with families as well. Finally, there are a large list of non-profits including Salem CyberSpace, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, Children and Friends, NSCAP, Salem State, Salem Police, WIB and many more who have agreed to provide services to the students and their families to assure the issues that students and their families face will be dealt with so that  student will graduate.

While virtually all students who consistently attend Salem CyberSpace will graduate high school, we do see many teens who wander in and out of CyberSpace often just to sit and talk but rarely willing to do any homework, get tutoring or engage in any enrichment programs.  Yet they sit and observe as if they want to find something to latch on to but don’t quite know what or how to do it.  I have talked to them about this new school and for many their eyes light up and say that maybe this kind of school would work for them.  I am not a Pollyanna about this and realize that problems and distractions stemming from poverty, family violence or neglect, socio-emotional issues, and drugs,  will make learning so impossible for some youth.  However, I really believe that SCCS can make a difference to a majority of these kids who have disinvested from the public school.

If you know any students who might benefit from this new charter school who are living in Salem and are between the ages of 16 and 21 on September 1, 2011, please encourage them to attend one of two information sessions on March 9 at Salem CyberSpace and March 10 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church from 7:00- 8:30 PM.