When: Thursday mornings at  8:20

Sponsor:  Straight A Academy & TBD


  • Mrs. Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Policy Research
  • Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Superintendent of Schools for the Manchester, NH School District
  • Mr. Felix Alvarado, Head Master, Straight A Academy
  • Mr. David Thibault, Superintendent of Schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester

Browse the “Is Our Children Learning?” segment archives.

About “Is Our Children Learning?” 

Yes, the phraseology is intentional, not a grammatical error!  In tis segment, we explore the state of our government school system in Manchester, it’s surrounding areas, the state of New Hampshire, the United States and around the world.  We examine organizational concepts and management, state and federal mandates, educational trends in curriculum, standards and assessment, home schooling, charter schools, school choice,  unions, alternative educational models, parental rights and responsibilities, the role of religion and OOOHHH sooo much more!  It’s a one of a kind discussion of the issues surrounding public education and it’s ONLY on Girard at Large!

About our anchors:

Ann Marie Banfield


Ann Marie  began volunteering as Cornerstone’s Education Liaison in 2009.  As an education researcher and activist, she took her decade long research on education to Concord to lobby on behalf of parental rights and literacy.  She also frequently appears before local school boards at the request of residents who are working to address a variety of school issues.  Working with experts in education from across the country, she offers valuable insight into problems and successes in education.  Ann Marie also has a way of asking questions the “educates” don’t much care to have asked.  She holds a B.A. in Business Management from Franklin University in Columbus, OH.  Ann Marie and her husband have three children and reside in Bedford, NH.

Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas


Bolgen is Manchester’s twentieth superintendent.  He came to the United States as a 17 year old immigrant from the Dominican Republic, settling in New York City.  He spoke no English.  Growing up, he had little more than two hours of education a day and received his middle school education from a radio program.  Despite entering high school in the United States without knowing any English, he graduated in three years and went on to the State University of New York at Brockport, earing a BA degree in International Studies in 1985.  From there, he obtained his MS in Educational Counseling in 1991, also from SUNY Brockport.  Finally, he obtained Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.  The title of his Doctoral Dissertation is Educational Success in the Face of Adversity as Measured by High School Graduation.  It was accepted with distinction.

In May 2011, he was appointed as Interim Superintendent of the Rochester City School District, an urban district with more than 30,000 students and a budget more than $800 million and 6,000 employees.  He successfully addressed a $76 million budget gap, brought a relentless focus on student achievement, drove the effective and efficient allocation of resources, and developed strong communication and collaboration with all stakeholders. Following a national search, he was appointed and served as superintendent from July, 2012 to December, 2015, where he addressed the structural budget deficit and was able to shift resources to expand vital services to students and to reinvest in art, music, sports, extracurricular activities, special education, English language learners, and career and technical education.

Prior to serving as Rochester, NY’s superintendent, Vargas worked as a guidance counselor in the Greece, NY Central School District from September, 1991 to May, 2011.  From January, 1996 to December, 2003, he was a member of the Rochester City School Board of Education.  He was elected by his peers to serve as President of the Board from 1998 to 2002.  He drew heavily from his experience both as an elected school board member and a superintendent to discuss how he would work with the Manchester Board of School Committee and help define the relationship between him and it during his interviews with the committee and the board.


Mr. Felix Alvarado

Ever since Felix Alvarado, Jr. graduated from the University of Michigan School of Education in 1986, he has endeavored to make a difference in the lives of his students and in the world of education in general.  Known by his students as “Mr. A” or “don Felix”, he has proudly worn the label of his Alma Mater’s publication, “The Innovator”, in the classroom, with curriculum development and with educational programs and initiatives.  
In 2007, Mr. A and his wife, Judee – Mrs. A, founded Straight “A” Academy as a tutoring center.  Since that time, they started a volunteer student tutoring program to work with underserved youth, launched a cutting-edge individualized private school, received a commendation from the Mayor of Manchester and developed the most successful test prep training program in the country.  Mr. A has become “America’s Favorite Test Prep Teacher”!
Where did the name Straight “A” come from? Well, there are a couple of factors.  1)  Mr. “A”s surname  – Alvarado –  both begins with an A and has three consecutive vowels that are a’s.  Most non-Spanish speakers over the years have misspelled his last name as either “Alverado” or “Alvardo”.  To clarify, he would tell them, “straight A’s.” 2)  The other factor is that Mr. “A”s older brother, his younger sister and he, all three earned straight A’s in high school, and were all three Valedictorians of their respective graduating classes.  Their parents were, needless to say, very proud of the accomplishment, especially given the fact that their mom only finished high school and their dad, Felix Alvarado, Sr., only finished 3rd grade in Mexico. When papa Alvarado emigrated to the U.S. at age 21, he didn’t speak a word of English, but he was a quick study. Ask the Alvarado children and they’ll tell you how smart their parents were, even though they didn’t earn a college degree.  And obviously, their parents placed a high value on education.  The rule in the Alvarado house was, “School First, Music Second, and Sports Third.”  Some of mama Alvarado’s most prized photos were of her children dressed in their sports uniforms, practicing their musical instruments before their games or they weren’t allowed to play!

Superintendent David Thibault


Dave Thibault has served as a teacher and administrator in both public and Catholic schools.  He previously served as the Executive Director of Camps Fatima and Bernadette and is a Catholic school parent.  As superintendent, he leads the mission, vision and strategic action for the twenty-one schools in the Diocese.  A resident of Newport, NH,  Dave enjoys fishing and spending time with his wife and nine children.