It looks like the Manchester Board of School Committee has picked up the gauntlet thrown by Education Commissioner Virginia Barry over using the Smarter Balanced Assessment and thrown it back at its meeting last night as Ward Nine School Board Member Arthur Beaudry declared his agreement with Mayor Ted Gatsas and motioned to have the district create an opt out form and letter to be sent to parents. Beaudry said he’d heard over and over from parents in his ward and others throughout the city that they wanted the ability to opt their children out of any statewide standardized test and agreed they had a constitutional right to do so.
The motion included an amendment proposed by Ward Six Committeewoman Robyn Dunphy to have the district take the necessary steps to implement its own district wide standardized testing regime. “How many times do we have to say ‘no?'” she asked pointedly. School Board Members Christopher Stewart from Ward Three, Erika Connors from Ward Eight and at-Large Member Kathy Staub opposed developing the opt out form for parents.
Stewart and Connors also opposed the developing a standardized testing scheme in lieu of using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which ought to prove interesting as both matters will now be taken up by the board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee, which is chaired by Connors. Ward Four Committeewoman Amy Bradley was absent from the meeting.
During the discussion, several interesting facts and points of view came out. Gatsas reminded the board that it invited Barry to visit with it over the matter eight months ago and she’s still not come. “I know things can get rough in these chambers,” he said, “but we’re pretty respectful of people’s positions when they come here.”
In response to a question by Ward Twelve Committeewoman Constance Van Houten, Superintendent Debra Livingston confirmed that the state had withheld more than four million dollars in federal disbursements to the city to penalize it for voting not use the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The funds have since been released, but concern over losing five million dollars in funds between March and August surfaced. That was the reason Stewart cited in opposing the measures.
Ward Ten Committeeman John Avard raised the issue of evaluating just how much money the district is forced to spend on various programs it receives federal funds for to find out if they’re cost effective, suggesting that the city might find it less expensive to do things its own way without federal dollars. Gatsas agreed with Avard that the information, which he has requested in the past, should be produced. For his part, Gatsas didn’t appear worried that the city was being used to threaten funding for the whole state. He said it might be necessary to get the attention of reps and senators statewide to hopefully force some changes. Gatsas seemed determined to leverage the threats from Barry rather than cave into them.
It was a momentous night in Manchester. Let’s hope they stick to their guns.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the Windham School Board as more details come to light about the company they’ve given a six hundred thousand dolllar no-bid contract to. According to an article published by our Politically Buzzed anchor Kimberly Morin, who broke this story on our airwaves yesterday, Cenergistic, the company that won the contract, has quite the checkered past.
Once known as Energy Education Incorporated, it has a history of making rather hefty payments to school bureaucrats that advocate for the passage of their contracts. In Massachusetts, the Inspector General issued an advisory to school districts not execute contracts with E E I until they fully understood their obligations, which often times sopped up all the savings realized by their questionable practices.
Oh, and here’s a little tidbit on the company: It’s not registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, despite doing business in three other school districts, and despite being required, by law, to register to conduct business in the state. I’m thinking the Windham School Board might want to reconsider this action and you can bet we’ve got interviews on the way that will make you go Oh My HEAD! We’ve linked to Morin’s story from this news read at Girard at Large dot com!
The Sandown Board of Selectmen voted last night to recommend a citizen’s petition calling on the Timberlane School Board to conduct a study on the feasibility of Sandown withdrawing from the Timberlane Regional School District. That makes Sandown’s the second board of selectmen in the Timberland Regional School District to seek relief with selectmen in Danville backing a question to change how tuition is assessed. Citizens in Atkinson are gathering signatures to put a question on the ballot to study its withdrawal from Timberlane as well.
Also in the works in Sandown is a citizen petition asking if six hundred thousand dollars should be restored to Timerlane’s budget to maintain the Sandown Central Elementary School. It’s designed to compete with the district’s warrant article that would, in addition to securing the operating funds, also cause taxpayers to cough up another four hundred grand to renovate the school’s kitchen. Of course, the citizen petition would self destruct if the one with the kitchen passed. I’m thinking taxpayers faced with both questions would vote for the one without the four hundred thousand dollar kitchen. What do you think?
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.