About Us

What are we all about?

Asking our students to be curious about everything, we emphasize process over product. We are an experience-driven learning community that gives kids the tools, thought processes, and experiences that will help them become exceptional. 

We don’t just teach what to learn, but how to learn. Phoenix kids learn how to be successful far beyond academics with our 6 core values.

Through project-based learning, Phoenix kids:

  • think critically
  • explore deeply
  • challenge themselves
  • contribute to their world
  • learn from mistakes
  • celebrate successes.



Who are we?

Learning is everywhere and incorporated into every facet of a Phoenix education. 

Phoenix educators are not just math or science teachers, but experts in student academic motivation, creating effective habits, and student empowerment. We hire top-performing educators who think outside the box and know that there is a learning opportunity everywhere.  


We know children are instinctual learners, and we value their leadership and partnership in their educational path. Here, students are full partners in their own education, parents are their integral partners, and every child is known and understood by their educators.

Our flexible, mixed-age environment breaks the traditional walls between school, home, and the community. A Phoenix education nurtures 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 developed a different model of education – one that puts the individual child at the center of the learning experience. Phoenix students exhibit the engagement and passion that are necessary to change the world.


Founders of the School ~ Betsye Sargent & Barbara McFall

Like the mythical bird, The Phoneix School rose from the ashes of Proposition 2 1/2 budget cuts that resulted in teacher cuts that made the operation of the Magnet School and the Gifted and Talented program no longer viable within the Salem Public Schools. Our Founders were not willing to see the substance of the gifted and talented programs decimated, so they left the public school system and founded The Phoenix School. Thus a multi-aged, open classroom, with personalized learning maps provided was born and offered an alternative to the “boxed education” of the traditional classroom. Now in its 41st year, The Phoenix School has remained true to its philosophy, one that is uniquely applicable to preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century.


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 in the downtown as they walk to the Common, the YMCA, or the Peabody Essex Museum, 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. Every year Phoenix kids contribute generously to their surrounding community and their global community.  Read more about the Salem Rotary here.



Mission and Philosophy

Personalized Education, Creativity and Community Engagement

We develop caring, self confident, inquisitive, competent individuals responsive to a changing, complex world. We believe a personalized education supports a love of learning and provides academic growth without boundaries. 

Our K-8 immersive partnership experience cultivates leadership and problem-solving skills, while our project-based learning spanning all subjects gives students the opportunity to think deeply on topics of interest.

Phoenix educators are not just math or science teachers, but experts in student academic motivation, creating effective habits, and student empowerment. They think outside the box and know that there is a learning opportunity everywhere.

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 Trustee
David Liebmann Trustee
Bonnie Weiss Trustee
Diane Solomon Personnel Committee Chair
Barbara McFall Founder of School
Leslie Levesque Head of School


Phoenix educators are not just math or science teachers, but experts in student academic motivation, creating effective habits, and student empowerment. As mentors and facilitators our goal is a truly immersive and personalized education for each child. Phoenix teachers make it possible for students to find their most authentic versions of themselves. We hire top-performing educators who think outside the box and know that there is a learning opportunity everywhere.


Leslie Levesque

Head Of School

Leslie joined the Phoenix team over 25 years ago after completing a BA in Biochemistry at Wheaton College. 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 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 Rotary Club of Salem, Salem Mainstreets, Salem Art, and many more, exploring the seashore, and gardening.



Mike Smith

Director of Operations. STEAM Specialist and Phoenix Educator

Mike first taught at The Phoenix School in 2015 before adventuring out to see the world.  Returning in the summers, Mike taught Phoenix’s Summer Adventures program. Returning full time in 2017 Mike earned his Masters Degree in 2018. Mike brings rich and varied experiences to The Phoenix School. He has been 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 a teacher of 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. Mike organizes The Phoenix School’s Travel-Study Program for upper school students.


Dave Morrill

Phoenix Educator

Dave joined TPS in September 2022. Coming with experience in both private and public school settings, teaching those with behavioral, academic, or social challenges in inclusionary and sub-separate settings. Dave received his license in Special Education, Moderate Disabilities K-8, from Bridgewater State University as a part of his Masters program in 2021. He graduated from Endicott College in 2016 with a BA in Psychology and Education and began his M.Ed. S.P.E. in 2017. 

Dave also has many years of experience as an in-home consultant, teaching using the scientific discipline of Applied Behavior Analysis. Coming from this teaching background, Dave has learned that there is no single approach to teaching and reaching all learners. He is thankful to be a part of a school that practices student-centered learning where students feel empowered and excited to learn each and every day.

Dave enjoys spending time with his wife, Lizzie and Goldendoodle, Tilly. While a resident of Medford, MA Dave enjoys spending time on the north shore and loves exploring local eats and coffee shops. On the weekends you can usually find Dave hiking, reading, or playing board games. He knows that time outside is time well spent, unless it’s football season, during which you’ll find him in his favorite jersey snacking on game day apps.


Mistral Dodson

Director of Admissions & Marketing.

Mistral joined TPS in September 2017. Coming with over a decade of teaching experience from the classroom, teaching professional development, to facilitating 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 completing 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 four 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 the 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.


Supporting Staff

Meet some of the amazing artists, teachers, and community members who make Phoenix extra special. They help us with music, May Day performance, Graduation performance, singing and band. 

Daisy Nell

Special Performance Instructor

Daisy grew up in Essex, a shipbuilding town. She spent summers sailing with her family along the New England coast. She has owned and sailed several schooners including Morning Star, Shearwater, and now Redbird.
An accomplished singer and songwriter, Daisy has written the soundtrack that celebrates our cultural heritage, composing and performing songs about the vessels, their builders, and their crews.
An impassioned educator, Daisy worked for years as the School Program Director at the Peabody Essex Museum, teaching maritime heritage, and has continued to teach music, songwriting, and maritime heritage through her work with the Phoenix School, Manchester Essex Elementary, and other local schools. She is the proud author of 8 children’s books, several of which feature schooners and their captains. Just this year Diasy was awarded the American Schooner Association Award for 2023.

Dennis Shafer

Band & Private Lesson Instructor

Dennis loves working with kids and making music FUN! He has a passion for music and instills this in his students. Dennis has over 15 years of experience teaching all ages and styles of music and holds degrees at Longy of Bard College, Boulogne Conservatory (France), The Boston Conservatory, and Brooklyn College. He feels it is important to organize performances for his students. His students have performed in many venues from Harvard Square to Carnegie Hall.





Max Ignas

Private Lesson Instructor – Trumpet

Max makes trumpet fun!! Max is the Visiting Lecturer of Trumpet at Salem State University and is currently finishing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the New England Conservatory of Music where he is the first classical trumpet player admitted to the NEC doctoral program. He received his Bachelor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees at the University of Oklahoma.




Jose Reyes

Private Lesson Instructor

He began his violin studies at the age of six at El Sistema academy, where he was immediately taken into their very own national youth orchestra. During his studies, he earned the title of Concertmaster for the FIU Symphony Orchestra. He graduated under the guidance of FIU Artist-in-Residence Misha Vitenson, the first violinist of the renowned Amernet String Quartet, with a Masters in Music Performance and Masters in Science in Music Education.

In addition to his remarkable skills as a violinist and music educator, Mr. Reyes is a seasoned marketing leader with diverse experience across various industries, including consumer packaged goods. Most recently, he completed his Master of Business Administration at Boston University. He is now poised to pursue a career in marketing strategy, all while maintaining an active and flourishing career as a violin performer and pedagogue.


Phoenix at a Glance

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


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.

Our home base is just over 3,000 ft. at 28 Goodhue St. in Salem, at the edge of the downtown within walking distance to the Commuter Rail, Salem Library, Mack Park, Community Life Center, Salem YMCA, Peabody Essex Museum, and Salem Common, and other community resources. 

Need-based financial assistance is 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: 10:1

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)


Local Partners in Learning:  

Global Collaborations: