Salem Public Schools Update

News for our families

Superintendent's Message

October 15, 2021

Nationwide, we are seeing an uptick in anger, conflict, and general negativity that affects all of our Salem community. I am seeking the support of our community to help us to promote civility across our city and schools. Sadly, our society continues to be bombarded by negative messages on social media, on television and in the news that promote exclusivity, hate, discrimination and violence. In some cases, our students have acted on, emulated or video recorded these behaviors, which can be incredibly destructive to the culture of belonging that we are growing in the Salem Public Schools. It is important to note that the vast majority of our community speaks up about creating the community we seek, including our students as they thoughtfully advocate for their future.

We need our entire community's support to teach our students what respect, kindness, and empathy look and sound like (this includes how we interact with each other as adults). We must model and strictly enforce the principles of inclusivity which should be the hallmark of strong communities.

Please help monitor what your child views and communicates on social media, offer feedback on the language they use when speaking to their friends, siblings, and peers, and guide them through how they navigate conflict. While the pandemic continues to be challenging for so many, it should not be an excuse for any members of our community to act in ways that diminish others.

We appreciate your partnership and collaboration as we prepare our children to be thoughtful and productively engaged citizens who are prepared to lead positive change in our city. One way to start on that journey is to have your family accept the #SPSkindnesschallenge (see below) by sharing videos showing kindness in action across our community. We also wanted to share the following resource with you- which offers guidance on how to speak with your children about sharing, posting, and responsibility using technology.

As always, we appreciate the opportunity to work closely with our families to provide our students with the educational experience they deserve.



Cone of Excellence

At Salem Public Schools, we are recognizing one staff member a week who exemplifies our core values of celebrating differences, facilitating collaboration, fostering innovation, creating equity and access, growing all students, and upholding high standards for all. We are surprising a deserving SPS team member with a construction cone that displays the words: “Awesome,” “Well Done,” or “Great Job.”

This week's Cone of Excellence goes to Collins Middle School teacher of multilingual learners, Kethly Colon Lebron, for her efforts to develop strong and positive relationships with each of the students with whom she works. She is equally committed to supporting the academic growth of her students as she is to supporting their social and emotional development.

National Principals Month

October is National Principals month and we are excited to take this opportunity to recognize our amazing principals for their vision, leadership, and dedication to providing all of our students with access to a high-quality education.

Our principals are critical to the mission of Salem Public Schools. They have embraced the challenges and opportunities of the past and present school years and work hard to support all students with their social emotional needs. Every day, they lead our teachers and support staff to fulfill our commitments to our students: to provide high-quality instruction, to build a sense of belonging in our schools, and to develop the engaging family and community partnerships our students need to be successful.

Thank you to all of our principals who do this work every day!

honoring the close of Hispanic Heritage Month

At Salem Public Schools, we value the diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lived experiences of all of our staff and students, and we believe that these should be recognized and celebrated every day.

In honor of the closing of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we wanted to share a video of our students and staff sharing some of their experiences and connections to Hispanic/Latinx heritage. We're excited to give our students and staff an opportunity to share a part of their identity, to hear their stories, and to celebrate such a large part of our community, as over 43% of our students identify as Hispanic/Latinx.

We hope that everyone enjoys this video celebration, and even though October 15th marks the end of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we as educators know that we must continue to recognize and elevate all of our students' voices, backgrounds, and experiences every day.

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Ever Present - Siempre Presentes, Salem's Latino Essential Workers

On Monday, October 18th, at the Community Life Center, the Latino Leadership Coalition will honor a group of 20 Latino Salemites representing school employees and other fields, such as healthcare, nursing home support, food support and distribution, and transportation.

SPS honorees include:

Damaris Almonte, paraprofessional, WHES
Rafael Batista, senior custodian, Saltonstall
Reynalda Batista, custodian, CMS
Alexandra Cuevas, bus driver, SPS

Marta García, ESL Teacher, WHES​
Susi Hammond, retired Family Engagement Facilitator, Saltonstall School

Sandra Miranda, Paraprofessional, Horace Mann Lab School
Rosaura Saldívar, Behavior Specialist, SHS

These school district employees are being honored for the courage they demonstrated in doing their jobs with tenacity and grace all through the pandemic and into the present moment. As essential workers, they didn't have the option to work remotely and safely from home, like so many of us. Instead, they gave of themselves unstintingly to serve the larger Salem community.

Marta García was recently named 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year by the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, in addition to serving her ESL students admirably at Witchcraft Heights.

Susi Hammond is being honored because the pandemic disrupted a planned retirement celebration after her many years of service at various Salem schools, including the Federal Street School, Bowditch, and Saltonstall.

At next week's Latino Leadership Coalition event that will mark the close of Hispanic Heritage Month, a larger group of well-wishers will be able to say "Enhorabuena" to her -- both in person and virtually. The word "enhorabuena" literally means "at a good hour," but it's used in Spain and throughout Latin America to mean "Congratulations!" and "Good for you!"

A Zoom link for this event will be available on the LLC FaceBook page and other social media and live on SATV. People are encouraged to connect virtually.

Special Education Services Survey

Salem SEPAC has created a survey for parents/caretakers of children living in Salem who receive special education services. We are excited to gather input from families on what your experience with special education in Salem has been like and what you would like to see from Salem SEPAC in the coming months.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked below, we will leave this open through the end of October and then will be summarizing the data to discuss at our next SEPAC meeting and to share with the SPS administration and school committee.

If you have more than one child receiving special education, please respond separately for each child as your experiences for each might be different.

SPS Kindness Challenge

In response to the destructive TikTok challenges that have swept the country, Salem Public Schools is launching a “Choose Kindness” video challenge during the month of October.

To promote positive energy and kindness in our community, SPS is challenging students, families, and staff across our schools to submit kindness videos during the month of October which coincides with National Bully Prevention Month.

Our contest runs throughout October. At the end of each week, a student from each school community will be selected for outstanding entries and receive Amazon gift card prizes.

At the end of the 3 week challenge, one video will be selected as a grand prize winner.

Videos should be 30-60 seconds in length and can include any of the following:

  • Committing a random of kindness

  • Paying a kind act forward passing it on

  • Attitude of gratitude - thanking someone for a recent act of kindness

When creating your video, please remember to include your name and school community. Each school and principal was provided a document with links for their students, staff, and families (guest password) to participate in the Kindness Challenge. Our hope is that the principals have been promoting this within their school as well as sharing this communication with families in their newsletters.

Check out the video from Dr. Zrike as he explains what the Kindness Challenge is all about.

Dr Zrike and the Kindness Challenge

Win Dinner for Two Anywhere in the World

Salem Education Foundation again sponsors its Food for Thought: Dinner for Two Anywhere in the World raffle throughout October. Tickets are only $5 each or 5 tickets for
$20. Each school has tickets available for sale from their PTO members. The school
that sells the most tickets per capita will lead all schools in next year’s Halloween

We also seek people who’d like to sell tickets. There is a $250 award for whoever sells
the winning ticket. To buy or sell tickets, contact

The winning ticket provides airfare for two people, two-night hotel stay, and dinner for
two at any location worldwide. Previous winners have traveled anywhere from Morocco
to Bora Bora. Where will you go if you win? This year’s winner will have two years to
take the trip.

All proceeds benefit the Salem Education Foundation and its grants program which
funds projects proposed by Salem teachers. SEF awards over $20,000 in grants each
year to help "fund the joy" for public school students in Salem.

P-EBT and SNAP Reminders:

Based on federal rules, students attending school in-person are not eligible for Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT), but the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) encourages students and families to keep their P-EBT cards. More information can be found at

If students received P-EBT, they may be eligible for SNAP. Please encourage families who received P-EBT to sign up for SNAP. It is fast and easy to apply, and the monthly SNAP amount is now higher than ever ($658 for a family of three and $835 for a family of four!). The following resources can help spread the word:


Elementary and middle schools will see a menu change for next week due to the half day.

We will be switching Monday for Wednesday and vice versa.

Monday 10/18 will be pasta & meat sauce, spinach side salad, ww roll or chicken salad sandwich on ww/ roll, lettuce tomato, chickpea salad.

Wednesday 10/20 will be Turkey and cheese on WG Croissant or Ham sandwich on ww. roll w/ sweet potato fries and/or green bean toss.

The high school menu will not have any changes.

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Schedule a meeting with Superintendent Zrike

Dr. Zrike would love the opportunity to meet with any SPS staff or SPS family who would like to do so. It could be in a park, a coffee shop, your home, or anywhere else.

If you would like to schedule some time with Dr. Zrike, please email Mindy Marino to set up a time and place.

The virtual Backpack

Welcome to the Virtual Backpack. This is a space where we will place items that in the past may have been a flyer in your student's backpack from friends and partners to SPS.
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Download the ParentSquare app today!

A reminder that ParentSquare is the district platform for communication. You will receive communication from the district, your school, and your student's classroom all in one space. You can communicate 1-to-1 with teachers, sign up for parent-teacher conferences, and more.

This is how the schools will communicate with families districtwide going forward. Please be sure you are receiving messages from ParentSquare. If you are having trouble, contact your school's front office. You can visit for more information.

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