Last night’s meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee somehow managed to be all that was expected, a let down and more than predicted all rolled into one. Interim Central High School Principal John Rist presented Central’s accreditation report. Looks like the Little Green is in pretty good shape, having received some four dozen commendations for the work being done within its four walls. Administrators say that’s a high number to receive. There were also about three dozen recommendations for improvement or change, thirty one of which Rist said were beyond the control of the people working in the building. You might imagine the plaudits had to do with the amazing, innovative job educators are doing with available resources and the areas of improvement had to do with providing educators with more resources to do their jobs. Rist had one of the lines of the night when he said money isn’t always the answer and throwing money at problems doesn’t necessarily work, but let’s try it for a year and see how it goes. Yes, it was funny. Rist said, overall, they were pleased with the report and that nothing caught them off guard.
One of the shortfall areas had to do with technology. In response to questions posed by Mayor Ted Gatsas, Rist said the accreditation committee was not aware of the two point eight million dollar bond the city floated to improve technology infrastructure and safety in the district, but that in their official response to the report, they would make that known, among other items. Rist used the spotlight to urge the board to adopt the proposed Manchester Academic Standards, which he characterized as an expansion of the Common Core, and to stick with them for a while saying it would go a long way to solving issues identified in the report. He also advocated for a return to a one hundred eighty day school calendar and opposed shaving lunch periods to twenty three minutes saying it would have a detrimental impact on academics. The New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, the organization that undertakes the evaluation, will decide this July whether Central is re-accredited, warned, placed on probation or has its accreditation revoked. Frankly, nobody seemed too concerned about that outcome in July.
A couple of school news notes before we hit the break: Southside’s principal Kimberly Organek has been named principal of The Henry Wilson Elementary School meaning there will be yet another change in leadership at Soutside as the search for a replacement is underway.
Two thousand fourteen West High grad Crystalline Reynolds was announced as the first recipient of the Joe Sullivan Creative Writing Award. The award, created to honor West’s late, great creative writing teacher Joe Sullivan, will be presented annually to honor excellence in writing.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
I’ll bet you thought I’d forgotten to report on the presentation of The Manchester Academic Standards, didn’t you. Well fear not my loyal listeners, here comes the report. Frankly, we’re not sure what to make of it all, except to say it was a dog and pony show which, while I think it missed the mark, gave rise to very interesting, no, let’s say revealing, debate. Taking nothing away from the teachers who did the work they were trained to do, it’s clear that the standards are really little more than a version of Common Core massaged to somehow better meet the needs of Manchester students. Assistant Superintendent David Ryan proclaimed the district had done all it said it would do, which included expanding on the Common Core, not replacing it.
Among those Ryan thanked for assisting the effort was Scott Marion of The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, a New Hampshire firm based in Dover. Marion, who sat next to and chatted almost constantly during the meeting with Board of Education Member Bill Duncan, evidently felt compelled to address the board during the public comment session after the kindergarten standards were compared to what was taught in a home school curriculum by Patrice Benard and shown to be inferior. Benard also noted several inconsistencies in the standards she read, as well as several glaring grammatical mistakes in the write ups.
Marion would have done well to leave well enough alone. Under questioning by the board, he admitted he and his firm were involved in the development of the PARCC Assessment, which is the counterpart to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and that that assessment was designed to measure whether or not districts were following the Common Core, which is something he was clearly an advocate for. That he and his firm had a hand in reviewing and directing the outcome of The Manchester Academic Standards would seem to underscore that the district never had any intention of moving far afield, if at all, from the national standards that are under siege nationwide. Oh, Marion also said they were responsible for developing New Hampshire’s Grade Level Expectations and the NECAP test as well as the state’s standards prior to the GLE’s. Funny thing is, these are the same standards and test that everybody says are sooooo bad, we must now have the Common Core and the new assessments that even he admitted have never been used before. The good news? They did it for free. How nice.
To the positive, the teachers who presented the standards did say the process allowed them to better understand and integrate what was being taught throughout all grade levels, not simply within their own grades and they believed that it would better enable teachers to work together and students to move through the system. Mayor Ted Gatsas used the opportunity to prevail on the teachers, the consultant and the Board of Ed members in the audience to join him in fighting to change legislation in Concord so that the city didn’t have to do the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the waiver to which he said he’d be discussing with Commissioner Virginia Barry. I could go on about this whole thing, and I will during the show. Trust me.
Oh, before we close, the board also voted to extend Superintendent Debra Livingston’s contract for another year and grant her a one percent raise. Ward 2’s Debra Langton, Ward 3’s Christopher Stewart, Ward 9’s Arthur “Look at meeeee” Beaudry and Ward 10’s John Avard were opposed. Not exactly sure why, except to say they may have believed they did that, extended the contract, back in December or they didn’t want to convey the pay raise, or they didn’t want to extend the contract or all of the above. It was unclear given Beaudry’s disruptive antics on the question, which had Gatsas gaveling him out of order before moving on.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is on the way.