About Us

What are we all about?

Phoenix is an experience-driven learning community that gives kids the tools, thoughts, and experiences that will help them become the best versions of themselves and fosters their development as contributors to society. At Phoenix, we emphasize process over product, implementing project-based learning through our curriculum to help students think critically, explore deeply, challenge themselves, contribute positively to their world, and learn more from their failures and celebrate their successes. Our core values are creativity, perseverance, citizenship, and empathy.

Who are we?

Phoenix is a school based on the principle that learning is everywhere and incorporated into everything we do. We trust that children are instinctual learners, and we value their leadership and partnership in their educational path.  The school sets topics for exploration and encourages children to take on projects they are passionate about, while also focusing on the development of essential skill sets for success in their future world. Students are full partners in their own education, parents are integral partners in their child’s education, and every child is known and understood by their teachers. We educate and inspire students in a flexible, mixed-age environment that breaks the traditional walls between school, home, and the community. We offer an engaging learning environment and curriculum that encourages creative growth, tenacity, and citizenship.

Why Phoenix?

The world desperately needs passionate, self-directed learners who take on challenges with voracity. In response, Phoenix has always taken on a different model to education – one that puts the individual child in the in the center of the learning experience. Phoenix students exhibit the engagement and passion that are necessary to change the world. They’re guided to accept audacious behavior as the norm, contributing to a greater good as successful, happy, and healthy adults.


Founders of the School -Betsye Sargent & Barbara McFall

A school near the heart of the city
Since the beginning of The Phoenix School in 1981, we have been committed to being a school near the heart of the city, not only to make use of community resources but also to be a vibrant part of our neighborhood. Even at our current location on the edge of the downtown, Phoenix kids are still a part of the Salem scene, moving easily along its sidewalks, a familiar sight to business people in the downtown as they run errands, clean up, collect ink cartridges from area businesses, make deliveries, walk to the Common, the YMCA, or the Peabody Essex Museum, celebrate May Day on Salem Common, attend a Rotary meeting, or participate in City events and celebrations.

A school that cares
With this commitment to Salem comes an obligation to teach Phoenix students the importance of giving back to the community from which they have benefited. We do this because it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to support a school! Every year Phoenix kids contribute generously to their surrounding community and their global community.



Mission and Philosophy

Academic Excellence, Creativity and Community Engagement

Phoenix revolutionized education almost forty years ago when the prevalent teaching methodology was turned on its head, and students were given an active voice and role in the classroom and their education. Today, we continue to  pioneer with our innovative, experience-driven learning community. Phoenix provides students with the tools, ideas and encounters to help them be the best versions of themselves. With teachers as their partners in the PK-8 education equation, students learn to emphasize process over product, executing project-based learning through a robust curriculum. Phoenix helps students think critically, explore deeply, work collaboratively, contribute globally, learn from failure and celebrate success. Our core values are creativity, perseverance, citizenship, innovation and empathy. 

The Phoenix School is a place where …

  • Learning is an adventure.
  • Basic skills come alive as tools leading to further knowledge, not as ends in themselves.
  • Excellence comes from challenge, curiosity, and hard work.
  • Kids of different ages work and learn together in mutually beneficial ways.
  • Respect for one another and taking responsibility for one’s actions are integral parts of the school experience.
  • Kids and teachers of diverse backgrounds work and learn together.
  • The creative arts are an integral part of the curriculum.
  • Kids care — about themselves, about their community, about the world.
  • Parents are active partners in their child’s education.
  • Teachers come to learn.

Board of Trustees

Michael Chefitz President
Evelyn Wilson Clerk
Jeff Given Finance Committee Chair
Ed Schutte Educational Committee Co-Chair
Paula Cardarelli Health & Wellness Advisor
David Beecher  
David Liebmann  
Melanie Andrews  
Diane Solomon Personnel Committee Chair
Barbara McFall Founder of School
Betsye Sargent Founder of School
Leslie Levesque Head of School


Phoenix Teachers are facilitators. We believe in involving children in the direction of all projects to reach our goal of a truly immersive and personalized education for each child, while tucking in the skills necessary to lead productive, successful lives. Phoenix facilitators make it possible for students to find their most authentic versions of themselves.

Leslie Levesque

Head of School

Leslie joined the Phoenix team over 20 years ago after completing a BA in Biochemistry, creativity in examining how children are unique learners, each having their own process and learning map. After a decade of working with students at TPS, acquiring an M.A.Ed in Creative Arts and Learning was the obvious choice. Through a multitude of classroom, project-based, administrative, and hands-on experiences Leslie has always been a firm believer that there is no single approach for all children and has striven to work with them as individuals to help them pursue and explore their interests and let their ideas to be the driving force of their educational experience. Opening doors and creating pathways inspires kids to reach for the stars.

Outside of teaching, Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering for various Salem organizations, exploring the seashore, and digging in the dirt.


Mistral Dodson

Director of Admissions & Marketing. Authentic Teacher Leader

Mistral joined TPS in September 2017. Coming with over a decade of teaching experience from the classroom, to professional development, to outdoor education. Mistral has traveled to many places around the globe, exploring the oceans and participating in research projects from seagrass to marine turtles while completely her Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and Conservation Biology. Mistral is passionate about experiential learning experiences, where education can come in many forms of learning and often the best learning happens when outside the classroom. She is excited to be a part of a school that has been practicing experience driven and student-centered learning for over 3 decades, where innovation, discovery and student empowerment are key learning skills taught in the classroom. Where global education and technology programs are a normal part of our day. Where the extended Phoenix Family is your school and your school has no boundaries.

Mistral enjoys spending time with her kids, from being in the ocean to camping in the mountains to traveling and experiencing life to the fullest. As a new resident of the Salem area, she is excited to explore and become more involved in the local culture, activities, and experiences.


Mike Smith

Director of Operations. STEAM Specialist and Educator

Current Phoenix teacher, a past program director at New England Science & Sailing, a kayak guide in the San Juan Islands, a marine science naturalist on whale watching vessels in New Jersey, a sailing and science instructor aboard Tall Ships in California, and teaching math, reading, and writing in a K-3 school in Nicaragua. He is also a director of Common Tides, a non-profit that provides free marine science and sailing programs to children from underserved communities. Mike is a Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor, NAUI Rescue Diver, ACA Coastal Kayak Certified, NSSIA SUP/Surf Instructor and a USCG Master 100GT Captain.

Phoenix at a Glance

Founded: 1981 by Barbara McFall and Betsye Sargent
Head of School: Leslie Levesque

Our home base is 3,000 sq. ft. at 28 Goodhue St. in Salem, in the heart of downtown. Rather than a campus that provides all the facilities needed for the curriculum, we have chosen to integrate the world around us, near and far, into our campus. We utilize the community to fulfill our educational mission.

Need-based financial assistance available.

Student Body:

  • Students come from 8 neighboring communities.
  • African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian-American, or multiracial children currently represent over 29% of our enrollment.
  • Student-Teacher ratio: 6:1

1 to 1 computer, laptop, or tablet per student

Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE)
Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE)