The first real meeting of the new term of the Manchester Board of School Committee took place last night and, well, it didn’t disappoint. In the first item of business, after recognizing more than two dozen high school students who A P test scores earned them distinction, Superintendent Debra Livingston presented the district’s not so distinct Smarter Balanced Assessment scores, both with and without zeros. Livingston said that the state gave the district a zero for every eligible student who did not take the assessment.
That prompted at-Large member Rich Girard to ask for any and all written documentation from the state showing that zeros were given to students who didn’t take the test. Assistant Superintendent David Ryan said he would look to see if he could find documentation from the state, but said it was common for zeros to be given to students who didn’t take the test. Girard cited Technical Advisories issued by the state Department of Education noting that neither students nor parents would be penalized for refusing to take the tests and that districts who had refusals would see those refusals reflected in their participation rate. Neither Ryan nor Livingston seemed to recall those advisories, which Girard said he would provide and has, of course, linked to this news read at Girard at Large dot com. (Nov. 2014 Advisory Jan. 2015 Advisory. See also state DOE SBAC results reports which have the following explanation: “Number and percent of accountable tested students scoring Level 3 or above. N is the number of accountable tested students participating in the tests.”)
Mayor Ted Gatsas said the story of the numbers should be that students who took the test did well versus their peers around the state. Removing the contested zeros caused scores across the city to rise, especially in the high schools which saw significant numbers of refusals. Several board members expressed their dissatisfaction with the results and their displeasure over the use of zeros to penalize the district. Ward Four member Debra Gagnon Langton noted the irony of the state giving the city zeros while pushing teachers to not give students zeros to students because zero doesn’t ever accurately reflect what a student’s learned. Ward Four member Leslie Want called the assessment information was “supremely unhelpful.”
The big item of the night, however, was the amendment and adoption of the board’s operating rules. Once the initial squabbling over who did and didn’t do what was put aside, Gatsas capably led the board through a section by section review where amendments proposed by Ward Nine member and Board Vice-Chair Arthur Beaudry and Ward Twelve member Constance Van Houten were addressed.
Most of the changes made were in the interest of greater transparency. Board members and the superintendent will now be required to submit items of business to the agenda, rather than being able to simply bring them up, unannounced under the “communications” part of the agenda. Agenda items submitted by board members will be required to be placed on an agenda. Sub Committee on Finance agendas will include a listing of all checks paid by the district in the prior month so that all board members and the public have an opportunity to see exactly where district funds are going. The board itself, not just the chair and vice chair, will have to approve administrator and board member conferences and personnel actions will have to be disclosed on the district’s Web site within twenty four hours of approval.
Also, concerns raised by new board member Leslie Want of Ward Four about the failure of the orientation process to educate board members on proper parliamentary procedures prompted Superintendent Livingston to announce the policy addressing new board members and their orientation would be revised.
In other business, at the behest of several members, the board re-referred proposed policies on Instructional Materials and Curriculum Management back to their committees for further review. That is a good thing!
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Hooksett Budget Committee’s seen a bit of a shake up. At last Thursday’s meeting, committee member Tabatha Jennings announced her resignation and yesterday morning, Budget Committee Chairman Patrick Gosselin did the same. Nobody’s quite sure what that means, but Committee Vice Chair David Pearl is the de-facto chair, at least for now. Whether or not Jennings and Gosselin will be replaced prior to the conclusion of the committee’s work remains unknown.
The Rotary Club of Merrimack is seeking nominations for their Excellence in the Workplace Award. If you know someone who either lives or works in Merrimack and has been a wonderful coworker who you think deserves public recognition, consider nominating them for this award. The deadline for nominations is March twenty third. For more information on how to nominate, see the Rotary’s news release containing all the details at Girard at-Large dot com. We’ve linked to it from this news read for your convenience.
On Thursday, January 14th, the city of Manchester Gift 4 Life Blood Drive will take place in the offices of the Manchester Health Department located at fifteen twenty-eight Elm Street. The event is scheduled from one to six, with each presenting donor receiving a five dollar gift card from Dunkin Donuts. To schedule an appointment, go to Red Cross Blood dot org and enter sponsor code Manchester N H Public Health or call one eight hundred Red Cross (1-800-733-2767). Walk-ins are, of course, welcomed.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!