When Betsye Sargent and Barbara McFall started The Phoenix School in 1981, they had $800 between them. What they also had was the determination to found a school that would set new standards for education. They aimed to provide opportunities for Salem children that the public school system just didn’t have the funding for, with the focus being on academic excellence, creativity, and community engagement, foundations which still exist at the school to this day.
On Friday, 28th at 6:00 pm, the Phoenix School is hosting an event at Root North Shore at Shetland Park in Salem to honor these two great women. It will be an evening of amazing food, drink, and celebration all while raising financial support for The Phoenix School’s core values of creativity, perseverance, citizenship, innovation, and empathy that Barbara and Betsye began 38 years ago.
In the late 1970s, both Betsye and Barbara were working in the gifted and talented youth programs as part of the Salem Public School system when suddenly their funding got cut. Betsye was a well-traveled artist committed to the idea that creativity and curiosity belonged in the classroom and Barbara added on to that with her dedication to encourage exploration out in the world and instill a sense of wonder in all of the kids she taught.
But when the money ran out, Betsye and Barbara, buoyed by approximately twenty families who with kids who had been a part of the gifted program, decided to take matters into their own hands and start a school near the heart of the city with a mission that would be more child-centric and driven. Instead of being just lecturers and facilitators, they wanted to teach on a more individual basis, and be able to educate each child who came through the school on a level that made sense for them.
The event at Root this Friday will honor the work that Betsy and Barbara have done. The evening will consist of a silent and a live auction and a short program in tribute to Barbara and Betsye’s achievement. Proceeds from the event will go towards continuing the mission started 38 years ago, so the Phoenix School kids of today can learn the way that suits them best.
To learn more about The Phoenix School, go to https://phoenixschool.org/