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Salem State Names McKeown School of Education, Launches Center for Educational Leadership

Salem State University celebrated the naming of the McKeown School of Education on Wednesday, November 16 and launched a new center to strengthen the North Shore’s school leader workforce. The naming follows a $10 million gift from Cummings Foundation, and the Center for Educational Leadership is the first of many initiatives that the contribution will fund.   

“We are honored to remember our alumnus Jamie McKeown, and the school that now bears his name will achieve far more for the region's educational ecosystem than would have been possible without the generosity of Bill and Joyce Cummings,” said Salem State University President John D. Keenan. "The McKeown School’s name represents great promise for its lasting impact.”   

James L. (Jamie) McKeown was a 1977 alumnus, former Cummings Properties president, and dedicated community leader who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41.  

“This investment in Salem State University is especially meaningful for us,” said 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.” 

Cummings Foundation’s $10 million gift helps Salem State’s founding program, education, collaborate with school districts to strengthen and diversify the educator workforce.  

Center for Educational Leadership (CEL@SSU)  

At the naming, McKeown School of Education Dean Joseph Cambone announced the launch of the Center for Educational Leadership at Salem State (CEL@SSU). CEL@SSU 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 CEL@SSU will transform the way we serve them,” said Cambone.   

CEL@SSU 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.  

CEL@SSU 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.   

“School leaders have responsibilities that no one else in the building shares, and they often need to look outside of their district for professional mentorship, support, and best practices,” said Ippolito. “CEL@SSU will help these professionals build the kind of network that our educational leadership alumni began as graduate students and need more than ever as they grow their careers.”  

“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,” said 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. CEL@SSU aims to provide the support networks needed for educational leaders to be effective.”   

A professional development program targeted to school district needs is already underway with Reading Public Schools.  

“CEL@SSU has been instrumental in our efforts to design and implement a system for coaching and supporting our principals as instructional leaders,” said Reading Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski. “Through our partnership, all of our principals have access to expert leadership coaches to serve as thought-partners and mentors on ongoing instructional improvement efforts. This partnership will undoubtedly make a significant impact on students across our district.” 

“Our embeddedness with regional school districts for many years has demonstrated that Salem State can play a central role in fostering educational justice in the communities that surround us,” said Cambone. “CEL@SSU is just the start of how Cummings Foundation’s generous gift allows us to grow our positive impact in the region.”  

To learn more and talk directly with CEL@SSU leaders, please reach out directly via

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.   

About Salem State University  

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls about 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Salem State proudly participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate above the national average, earning it a Silver Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. In 2020, Salem State received Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The university is designated a Best for Vets College by Military Times.     

About Cummings Foundation  

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the largest private foundations in New England. It aims to give back in the areas where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed on a pro bono basis by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly $450 million in grants. Read additional information.    


Joseph Cambone | Dean, McKeown School of Education
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