School Committee: Mary Manning

Why are you running for School Committee and what particular skills can you bring to the position?

Several years prior to my retirement (2014) I decided to run for school committee as soon as retirement would allow. I bring extensive (42 years) experience in, and an extensive knowledge base of, the Salem Public Schools. I worked as a teacher, a coach, and an administrator. I am a team player. I was fortunate enough to be elected for a first term. Now I hope to be elected to a second term, in order that I can continue to use this experience, this knowledge base, and a cooperative team approach to help our schools become again the great places for students to grow and learn, and the professionally challenging yet rewarding places for staff to work, that I knew them to be in the past, and that I know they will again be.

If you could make any change in the school budget that was recently passed, what would you change?

I would identify more of budget funds for areas of direct services to both students and staff. I would also like to allocate more to maintenance/custodial staffing and materials. I think we have been making some progress in these two areas, I would like to see more.

The district is beginning a search for the next Superintendent. What are three key characteristics you are looking for in the next Superintendent in Salem?

First, we need to be looking for someone who is proven to have had a positive, productive experience as a superintendent (or as an experienced assistant superintendent) in a district or districts with similar needs as Salem. They need to have a background in working in an urban setting, and therefore a background in working with varied socio-economic issues, and with cultural diversity.

They need to understand and truly believe that these parameters are challenging, but not problematic.

Second, we need to be looking for someone who understands the importance of interpersonal relationships, and who will actively lead members of the Salem community and specifically the SPS community in this area. Students, staff, parents, community members all need to be valued and supported, and this requires relationships built on taking time to know and hopefully trust each other; it requires treating each other with civility, and with kindness, and with sincere interest. The superintendent will need to be a genuine model for these attributes.

Third, we need to be looking for someone with energy and enthusiasm who wants to be a part of our work here in Salem; someone who will see the potential here, but who will have the skills and the patience to build upon that potential without destroying the good work already underway. We need someone who is not looking for a job, but rather someone who is looking to become the working leader of the community of good people already here, already working hard, who right now need a leader who will show appreciation of efforts, while also instilling increased expectations of continual growth in organizational structure, in knowledge base and in skill sets.

What will you do to advance the goals of a more equitable education for all students in Salem?

I think a good foundation for that work has happened in the recent past. The change in the approach of how funds are allocated to individual schools has been positive for this. Monies are no longer allocated to schools by a simple formula of dollar amount X number of students. Now there is a careful and detailed analysis of which school/program has what needs, with allocations made based upon that analysis. The closing of the NBS and reassignment of students across the city was a huge move toward more equitable education for all students. This applied to both students in the general population and to students in our English language learner programs. A third step, well along in the development stage, is the plan to bring a quality dual-language program back to the Salem Public Schools. And, I would also include the re-development of our World Language program as an aspect of this area. Just as our ELL students need quality instruction in their development in the English language, so do our native English speakers deserve quality development in a second (or third) language. We need to continue to provide support, including funding, in all of these areas.

New this year, and just as important as the above, a social-emotional learning curriculum will now be offered in our schools. I cannot stress enough the importance of not only educating all students with skill development in these areas, but also for direct services for students who may be in need of help dealing with trauma, with homelessness, with mental illness, with substance abuse etc. Students who are unable to fully participate successfully in our academic programs due to these issues are not receiving an equitable education. We need to be sure that we not only maintain the present level of support and funding for this social/emotional initiative, but also increase those if the need presents in the future. With the exception of the closing of NBS, all other initiatives cited above will need our on-going scrutiny and support into the coming years in order to insure continued progress in an equitable education for all.