Well, the Gilford School District has responded to our Right to Know requests, at least in part. From an email sent bySuperintendent Kent Hemingway, we learned that the Jodi Picoult book Nineteen Minutes was first used in the district in two thousand seven and that a notice advising parents as follows was sent: Quote. “Some of the characters in the novel are high school students dealing with realistic problems and issues. The content that is realistically dealt with includes adult language, sexual scenes and violence.” Parents were told they could opt their children out of the assignment and that alternate work would be assigned. The book wasn’t used again in the district until two thousand thirteen. As with this year’s controversy, parents were not notified of the book. This year, the book is being used by two English teachers in four classrooms affecting a total of one hundred fifteen students. They are veteran teachers who should be aware of the parental notification policy, though Hemingway wrote there is no procedure spelled out to implement the notification policy. He said twenty percent of the students assigned the book have opted out since the controversy broke and that they are reviewing their policies, at the direction of the school board, by checking with the School Boards Association and other districts to see how they handle things like this. Hopefully, they won’t take any cues about how to pretend notify and deceive parents from Bedford. Writing the matter remains under investigation, Hemingway declined to say who directed the removal of parent William Baer from the school board meeting at which the public spoke on the matter. He said that Baer had been repeatedly asked by the School Board Chair to respect other speakers prior to his removal and arrest. Baer will be our guest this morning. 2007 letter re: Nineteen Minutes. 2014 letter re: Nineteen Minutes.
While we’re on the topic and have mentioned Bedford, where they need written parental consent to take a voluntary algebra screening test, but not answer an allegedly voluntary survey asking disturbing, suggestive questions, parent Jonathan Zdziarski is wondering if the Gilford School Board can admit wrong doing, apologize and embark on policy reviews and modifications, why can’t Bedford’s? In an email to several school board members, Zdziarski said the school board needs to evaluate the survey and whether it’s needed and make notification and parental consent policies and standards to ensure this doesn’t happen again. He said the board needed to hold people accountable for the intentional failure to notify and seek consent from parents.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester Board of School Committee meets tonight and it could prove to be an interesting one. Superintendent Debra Livingston may find herself on the hot seat after telling Girard at Large that the settlement she entered into with the Office of Civil Rights of the federal Department of Education was not something that required board approval. Mayor Ted Gatsas disagreed with that assertion in an on air interview last Wednesday and several school board members have told us privately they intend to question that. At the April fourteenth meeting of the board, Livingston advised of the settlement, which the federal government announced four days earlier, saying the district has been the subject of a random audit by the department. The Office of Civil Rights basically called the district racist alleging that blacks, Hispanics and non-English speakers were underrepresented in A P classes. Among their suggested remedies was the elimination of leveling, the practice of grouping children by ability level in any given subject; something the district had been floating at meetings of the subcommittee on Curriculum and Instruction prior to the settlement’s release. Prior to the release of the settlement, Assistant Superintendent David Ryan told the committee that eliminating levels would be the right thing to do to improve academic performance for all students, saying that those opposed would be motivated by prejudice, power and prestige and that attempts to de-level classrooms would need to understand and overcome those obstacles. Of course, he said this after having several minority students, who interestingly identified themselves as organizers within their school communities, speak as to what a wonderful world it would be if leveling didn’t exist. Also on tonight’s agenda is a presentation from district Communications Coordinator Andrea Alley on a program called “Ready Set Kindergarten” which has a number of parents on various social media sites up in arms believing that the presentation is another step toward Universal pre-K in Manchester, something Livingston has said she wants to implement in the city.
On a positive note, Green Acres School in Manchester is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this week. The school, which opened its doors as a K through 8 school, imagine that, will mark the anniversary of its opening with festivities this Thursday. All past and present students are welcomed to attend the big birthday bash from six thirty to eight thirty at the school. Organizers are still hoping you’ll share old photos, yearbooks, class t-shirts and other memorabilia from your time at the school. For more information on the event and how you can participate or otherwise help them out, contact Principal Rick Norton at the school or visit their Facebook page, to which we’ve linked.
Finally, this morning, and I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but the Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission has announced that it has secured “Scenic Byway” designation from the State Scenic and Cultural Byways Council for the Robert Frost/Old Stage Coach and Upper Lamprey roadways. This affects the towns of Auburn, Atkinson, Candia, Chester, Deerfield, Derry, Hampstead, and Northwood. Now, they need to develop a Corridor Management Plan to meet the requirements of the designation and planning meetings with the public have been set for June 17th in Deerfield’s Town Hall and for June 23rd at the Auburn Safety Complex. We’ve posted the details so you can take a look before they ban cars from the roads.