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Salem State University has renamed is education school the McKeown School of Education and launched a new center to strengthen the North Shore’s school leader workforce.

The new name honors Jamie McKeown, a 1977 graduate of Salem State, dedicated community leader, and former president of real estate company Cummings Properties, who died unexpectedly at the age of 41. The naming follows a $10 million gift from Cummings Foundation, which will support the new leadership center.

“This investment in Salem State University is especially meaningful for us,” says Cummings Foundation co-founder Joyce Cummings. “Jamie was well known for his passion for education and commitment to creating opportunities for young people. I can think of no better way to memorialize such a wonderful person than by supporting the advancement of so many worthy ideals at his alma mater.”

At the naming ceremony, education school dean Joseph Cambone announced the launch of the Center for Educational Leadership at Salem State. The center will help schools support and retain principals and other leaders, while helping districts address their unique leadership professional learning needs.

“Salem State enjoys strong partnerships with school districts throughout the region and Commonwealth, and [this center] will transform the way we serve them,” Cambone says.

The new center is designed to address the turnover and learning needs of principals and other PreK-12 school leaders by creating professional learning communities and providing district-specific professional learning solutions. The learning communities will connect leaders such as principals, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators, special education directors, department heads, and instructional coaches with their counterparts across schools and districts to help them navigate challenges and benefit from one another’s expertise. Similarly, district-based leadership projects will focus on addressing emergent leadership challenges within those contexts.

The center will be led by Megin Charner-Laird, professor of childhood education and care, and Jacy Ippolito, professor of secondary and higher education. The pair also serves as co-directors for the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership.

“From trauma-informed leadership practices, to supporting anti-racist work in schools and weaving in social-emotional learning, today’s school leaders need support and learning opportunities to meet the rapidly shifting educational landscape,” says Charner-Laird. “Currently, few principals have a mentor, coach or support system, and this can lead to turnover that is costly for schools and ultimately affects student learning. [The center] aims to provide the support networks needed for educational leaders to be effective.”

Additional efforts that the McKeown School of Education will pursue with Cummings Foundation’s support include, among others, diversifying the educator pipeline for all teacher license areas, including growing the cohort-based Educator-Scholars of Color initiative; preparing educators to meet student needs beyond PreK-12 education, such as early childhood literacy through the Jumpstart initiative; and supporting pathways to licensure for hundreds of emergency-licensed teachers in the region.