May 27, 2011

Salt Institute loses entire four-person teaching staff

The resignations, described as individual decisions, came after curriculum changes were considered.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies is moving forward, following the resignations of its four faculty members this month.

Executive Director Donna Galluzzo said Thursday that the school on Congress Street is ready to take applications to fill the vacancies left by the departure of its part-time instructors. Their last day was Tuesday.

Galluzzo said the resignations were submitted by photography instructor Kate Philbrick, writing instructor Melissa Falcon-Field, radio instructor Rob Rosenthal and perspectives in documentaries instructor Jennifer Smith-Mayo.

All four resigned after Salt began considering curriculum changes for the fall semester to make its courses more focused on multimedia approaches, Galluzzo said. She described their decisions as individual, with each person submitting a letter at a different time.

Smith-Mayo, for instance, cited the long drive from her home in Northport as a factor.

"They are great folk and great teachers. We wish them well. We are going to miss them," Galluzzo said.

Salt was founded in Kennebunk in 1973 by a high school English teacher, Pamela Wood, as a place to teach students to become writers, photographers and storytellers. Since then, the school has moved five times.

Galluzzo said students, whose average age is in the mid-20s, come from across the country to participate in Salt's intensive 15-week course and produce portfolios they can use to apply for graduate school or further their careers. Tuition costs total about $9,600 per semester.

Galluzzo said the school is considering curriculum changes. "We hope to do a better job of incorporating social media and multimedia into our curriculum."

Philbrick, who lives in Gorham, most recently taught documentary photography. She worked for Salt for nearly 15 years.

Her decision wasn't an easy one. She said uncertainty over the curriculum changes, concerns about job security and her desire to leave on a positive note convinced her that it was time to move on.

"I love that place and I always will. But I decided to resign because I wanted to leave loving that place," she said.

Philbrick hopes that Salt will continue to focus on its core mission -- training writers, radio producers and photographers in the art of documentary storytelling.

"I think it's a great school, and it will continue to be a great school. It can be a life-changing experience; at least it was for me," said Philbrick.

Falcon-Field, the writing instructor, who lives in Portland, said faculty members got frustrated because they were not told what the proposed curriculum changes would involve.

But, she said, "I can't say enough good things about Salt. It's an amazing place. I have nothing but love for that place. I hope they can figure out what they are going to do next so that they can keep some of the magic."

Bill Nemitz, a columnist for The Portland Press Herald, serves on Salt's board of directors, as does Karen Beaudoin, a Press Herald features editor.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:


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