The City of Salem will be well-represented when some of Virginia’s educational leaders head to Finland in November as part of a statewide delegation. The University of Virginia’s School-University Partnership is coordinating the 10-day trip that will focus on Finland’s results in the highly acclaimed Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The entire cost of the trip is being covered by an anonymous Salem citizen with no outlay of money from the School Division.
“Salem has a long history of providing the very best opportunities for its children,” says Dr. Alan Seibert, Salem School Superintendent. “The generosity and vision of a Salem business leader, who is committed to ensuring that our schools remain world class by sponsoring this opportunity, is greatly appreciated.”
Finland has produced world class scores in reading, math and science during the past decade, and this trip will give educators a chance to learn up close how Finnish teachers and administrators have been able to generate these high marks in their schools.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to see one of the world leaders in education,” says David Preston, Salem School Board Vice-Chairman. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to take this information, step back and honestly look at what we can do to improve our business and school models in Salem.”
Salem schools consistently rank among the best in the Commonwealth, however, the growing number of cuts in state funding makes it necessary to look outside the box for creative ways to not only maintain, but improve the division.
“If they know a way to ‘skin the cat’ for less money, we certainly want to see what they’re doing,” he says. “We have to do more with less and from that standpoint alone, I think this trip is money well spent.”
Preston will be accompanied on the trip, that falls during the division’s Thanksgiving break, by Seibert, Joe Coleman, Director of Assessment and Principal at G.W. Carver, Diane Rose, Principal at East Salem Elementary, Forest Jones, Principal at Andrew Lewis Middle School and Debbie Carroll, Associate Principal at West Salem Elementary.
In the fall of 2009, Seibert, then Virginia Secretary of Education, Thomas Morris, and other Virginia school division superintendents traveled abroad to learn how India’s economy was tied to Virginia’s and to discover what they could do as educational leaders to help students become more globally competitive. With that trip, and this one, the school division’s only investment is the educators’ time.
“If you’re maintaining then you are going backwards,” says Preston. “We have to be looking at ways to improve our schools every single day and this is an opportunity to see some different approaches first hand.”
Submitted by Mike Stevens, City of Salem.