Well, we have to admit, we didn’t think it was going to happen, but last night the Manchester Board of School Committee’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee actually did something reasonable and helpful. Though it didn’t actually create the parental refusal or opt out form it was directed to develop by the board, the committee directed the district to draft a letter that would be sent home to parents notifying them of what the Smarter Balanced Assessment was, when it was going to be given to their children and, most importantly, advising that they could refuse to have their child participate in the test by notifying their school’s principal, in writing, and that their children, if opted out, would have provisions made for them while the test was being given.
That action came on a motion from Ward One School Committeewoman Sarah Ambrogi after committee Chair Erika Connors of Ward Eight disclosed that she’d worked with Assistant Superintendent David Ryan to develop the exemption request form that was widely panned by critics of the district and several parents last night. Connors defended the form saying it would not have been legal for the district to distribute an opt out or refusal form and that while they’d had of lots of anecdotal information about parental rights, they had nothing concrete. Yup, she actually said that.
Ward Six Committeewoman Robyn Dunphy was having nothing to do with the Connors-Ryan form, which Ryan said was necessary because the district didn’t have any authority to grant exemptions to the testing requirement, only the state did. Dunphy said the form was unacceptable as it had parents asking for permission from Commissioner Virginia Barry to exempt their child when they have an absolute right to refuse.
Connors made multiple attempts to have the form used in some manner, but the whole charade fell apart when Ward Two Committeewoman Debra Langton asked what would happen if a parent simply sent a note to the school saying their kid was not to take the test. Ryan answered the district could not force participation. In answer to Langton’s questions about what the non-taker would do during the test, Ryan basically said they’d sit at their desk in front of a blank computer screen for the duration. Ryan implied that having alternatives available for students who weren’t taking the test would be tantamount to the district granting an exemption, which they couldn’t do by law. He said it would be up to the principals to figure out what to do in each school.
Well, none of that went over well at all and in the end, Ambrogi’s motion to develop the letter, an action that hewed back to comments made by resident Jimmy Lehoux and Ward Ten Committeeman John Avard, was to assure that all principals would have alternative activites for non-takers outside the classroom. The letter will be sent to committee for approval approved before the next board meeting.
There’s soo much more, so check our live, real time blog of the event. We’ve linked to it for your convenience from this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
It was a tense, long debate, but last night the Manchester School of Technology got a new lease on life as the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to approve the bonding for phase one of the expansion needed to continue the school’s four year high school program that will enter it’s fourth year this fall. With only Ward One’s Joyce Craig, Ward Twelve’s Keith Hirschmann and at-Large alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur opposed on the first vote, the bond was one vote shy of the ten needed to pass. Ward Four Alderman Jim Roy was absent and the Ward Five seat, as we know, is vacant.
Craig continually questioned the money whether or not it was fiscally responsible and the best use of funds, despite the program’s merit, which she acknowledged. She reminded school officials that there was not supposed to be any cost for the program. Principal Karen White, who appeared for an interview on Girard at Large yesterday morning, agreed with Craig’s recollection of the no-cost assertion, but said nobody expected the program would be as popular as it has become and that they thought it would remain small enough to be contained within existing facilities. That’s not the reality now, she said, pressing the case that the program is succeeding, obviously popular and very necessary as an alternative to the traditional high schools its students just aren’t interested in.
The vote to bond did receive the necessary ten votes with Levasseur flipping on the question. As for phase two, which is nearly seven million dollars, well, that was sent back to the school board for further work given the funds won’t be needed for another two years. We’ve linked to the live, real time blog of the meeting from this newscast so you can get all of the details.
Finally, this morning, we offer our condolences to the family and friends of former Ward 11 School Board Member Lorraine Lamontagne, who passed away on Sunday. She was a spirited advocate for the ward and education during her six terms in office. She was unafraid to speak her mind or ruffle feathers when she thought it necessary and was tenacious in pursuit of what she thought was in the best interest of education. We’ve linked to her arrangements from this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is straight ahead!