DeLangie:  Come again?

DeLangie: Come again?

Last night’s meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee wasn’t a pleasant or short affair that got off to a rocky start as two non-renewed teachers came forward to protest their termination.  Both wanted to know why their contracts weren’t renewed and complained that neither the system nor the people involved would provide them with any feedback.

Avard:  He remembers

Avard: He remembers

From there, there was an hour and a half discussion regarding the Aspen student-parent portal and grading system that I just don’t know how to quantify.  District I T and company officials did their best to explain why the system failed following a software upgrade, but what slipped out was really an admission that nobody prepared the teachers for what was coming and how to address it.  District I T Director Jeff DeLangie blamed the failure to communicate the changes on insufficient staff resources, saying they had to prioritize doing the work over communicating to the teachers about what they were doing.  That, as you would imagine, had several board members aghast, and wondering if, as more changes were announced for September, teachers would know what to expect and how to deal with it when they returned to school.  District officials pledged, to a skeptical and frustrated board, that things would be simpler in September saying they would have a standardized version of the software that had greater functionality than the city’s customized.

Gatsas:  Hammers all parties over performance

Gatsas: Not amused 

District and company officials explained it was the city’s desire for a customized program that was the genesis of the problem, with DeLangie saying the district wasn’t prepared to handle such customization.  Ward Ten Committeeman John Avard said it was Aspen that sold the city on customization, not the other way around.  He said they’d been sold a bill of goods.

Mayor Ted Gatsas was none too pleased with the lack of parental participation.  He recalled that it was the major reason behind the push to install it.  He also hammered not just the initial three million dollar cost, but the ongoing one hundred eighty thousand dollar fee the district pays.  He said the fee was that high because Aspen said all these parents would be using the system, but their not.  Company officials conceded they could do more to entice parents to use the system.  In the end, Gatsas won a motion to terminate the automatic renewal clause in the contract and as the board directed DeLangie to see what he could work out with Aspen to resolve the outstanding issues before the board decided to issue an R F P for a new system and provider.

Dick: Tells tales of technology woe

What sealed that course of action was testimony from M E A President Benjamin Dick who recounted what can only be described as a totally messed up series of events that had teachers pulling their proverbial hair out as they had to adjust to unannounced change after unannounced change.  Of course, what also became clear is that the district, while making training on how to use the system the teachers were required to enter their grades available, did not require teachers or principals to attend the training.  Some did, some didn’t and that left us all wondering just what the…who runs things this way and expects to get anything other than chaos?

Be sure to get the details in our Live Blog Forum of the meeting.  We’ve linked to it.

News from our own backyard continues after this.

Hannan:  The new prez.

Hannan: The new prez.

New Leadership is coming to the Manchester Education Association.  As members of this audience might know, M E A President Ben Dick announced he would not seek another term.  The elections have been had and Hillside Middle School English teacher Sue Ellen Hannan was elected in a close election over Memorial High science teacher Sonja Witkowski.  In the not to distant past, Hannan hasn’t been shy about expressing her displeasure with policy makers over funding levels.  She regularly appeared before the boards of School Committee and Mayor and Aldermen to argue for increased funding and plead the case of the unappreciated teacher.  She has also been quoted in pro-Common Core blogs as a staunch supporter of the national standards.  Elected Vice President in an uncontested race was Maxine Mosley, a guidance counselor from McLaughlin Middle School.  Mosely has been active in the union for years, including having served on several negotiations committees.  The newly elected will take office on September first.  Dick will be our guest on a week from today in the six o’clock hour.

MEA to vote on contract this week.

MEA to vote on contract this week.

And, while we’re on the topic of the union, their ratification vote on the proposed contract will take place on Wednesday after a general meeting of the membership and Thursday.  We should  be able to tell you Friday morning whether or not white smoke has emerged from the chimney.

Candia Police:  Crime under control?

Candia Police: Crime under control?

And now, we have the latest form Candia and its now infamous Crime Wave.  Last month, the Candia Police Department issued one hundred ninety two motor vehicle warnings and sixteen motor vehicle summons.  They also had five arrests on charges ranging from Disobeying an Officer, to Failure to Appear, to Issuing Bad Checks.  One of the arrests was to take a really drunk guy into protective custody.  All of this makes us wonder:  Has the little hamlet a couple of exits East of Manchester on Route one oh one turned the crime corner?  Is it on the road to recovery?  Tune in next month for the updates! Same GAL Time!  Same GALChannel!  Well, almost the same.

That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is right now!