Saugus sets the bar high

We applaud Saugus Superintendent of Schools Erin McMahon for throwing down the gauntlet and urging the Saugus School Committee to join her in making the academic improvements required to rocket Saugus by 2027 into the top-10 percent of Massachusetts schools based on state comprehensive assessment tests (MCAS). 

This is an ambitious goal. According to the website, Public School Review, Saugus schools are in the bottom half of Massachusetts schools based on testing ranking with math and reading scores below state averages. 

But McMahon’s objective is not unattainable based on the timeline she has laid out.

McMahon, who succeeded Dr. David DeRuosi Jr. as superintendent in May, has zeroed in on reading as the key to achieving her goal. McMahon said learning to read by the age of 8 equips students to “shift from learning to read to reading to learn.”

She warned that third graders who struggle with reading also struggle with writing and face hurdles in grasping increasingly complex learning concepts introduced in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. 

McMahon is banking on the second phase of the massive school reorganization project the town undertook in 2017 to propel Saugus schools into the top strata of MCAS success.

Approved by voters with a $185 million price tag, the reorganization initially centered on building the combined middle-high school. The second phase focused on creating the Veterans Early Learning Center for the town’s youngest students and the Belmonte STEAM Academy focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, technology and mathematics. 

DeRuosi deserves credit for his relentless attention to pushing these state-of-the-art projects forward. Now it is McMahon’s turn to make Veterans and Belmonte academic engines powerful enough to reverse Saugus’ mediocre educational course. 

To achieve her goals, the School Committee must endorse McMahon’s objective. She will join Committee members on a retreat on Sept. 25 to discuss the plan. 

Like DeRuosi, McMahon is showing she is not afraid to “go big” when it comes to education. She has mapped out a realistic strategy for turning ideas into achievement. 

We hope Saugus elected officials, parents, and students will line up behind her.

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