Before becoming Superintendent of one of New Hampshire’s smallest school districts in July, 2007, Dr. Debra Livingston was appointed to be Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Socorro Independent School District in Texas in 2005.  At the time, the district had approximately 37,000 students.  With Manchester in the midst of an academic audit and wrestling with multiple major C & I issues, it’s time to ensure that questions regarding Dr. Livingston’s tenure in that post are asked.  Manchester is feverishly trying to come to grips with schools failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) in the tests required to comply with “No Child Left Behind.”  Everything from the math curriculum (Everyday Math) to methods of instruction in “Language Arts” (would be nice if they just called it English, wouldn’t it?), to children failing to perform at grade level is under scrutiny.

Give that, it is imperative that Dr. Livingston be questioned about exactly what her Curriculum and Instruction recommendations were and why.  In light of the school district’s poor SchoolDigger ratings ,  it is imperative to know what, if any, changes she made during her brief tenure there and what, if any changes have been made to their curriculum and instruction practices and why since she left.

Some questions to ask Dr. Livingston, based on her resume:  What curriculum does she believe is best for the classroom?  For example, Reform (fuzzy) Math or Traditional Math?  Is she for the teaching of phonics, grammar, spelling and hand writing, or is she more focused on keyboarding, Whole Language, and optional spelling?

With respect to Instruction:  What is “evidence based instruction,” and what does she mean by referring to teachers as “facilitators?”

Finally, what noteworthy improvements can she point to as a direct result of what she’s implemented?

There’s a difference between being a cog in a big machine, leader of a tiny district, and Superintendent of Schools in Manchester, NH.  If she’s hanging her hat on her experience in Texas, the school board ought to dig deep to understand it without question.