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Another View -- Erika Connors: Manchester schools need re-envisioning, not just redistricting

October 15. 2017 9:11PM

For as far back as I can remember, our school district and elected officials have been working on plans to redistrict our city schools. The need for redistricting is evident when you examine the population density across our existing city schools and programs.

Our elementary students face crowded classrooms with limited resources, while our high school students continue to lose out on academic, athletic, and extracurricular opportunities due to declining enrollment.

Over the years, we have re-examined our enrollment numbers, evaluated our school and classroom sizes, and established committees on redistricting. Our district has surveyed the community, brainstormed ideas, and presented plans that would redraw our school boundaries and/or move the student population among our buildings. Each time, however, the result has been the same.

Our plans for redistricting have failed, and the problems are pushed along to another day, another board, another administrative team.

So why do we continue to go about the process in the same way when the results year after year are the same? We cannot simply develop another plan because redistricting alone is not the solution. We cannot just redraw the lines within our elementary schools because all of our elementary schools have large class sizes. We cannot move students between our high schools because all of our high schools have seen a decline in enrollment.

Over the past few years, the Manchester School District has made strides with small pockets of innovation, but these gains are not widespread. The successes of our school board over the last two years has been unremarkable, and we have not seen significant improvements in student achievement. School board meetings are riddled with tension, and the focus of board meetings has been on making accusations, placing blame, and punishing one another. What our school board meetings have lacked are the essential discussions focused on our educational system and on improving student achievement.

The Manchester School District needs to change focus; not to re-examining redistricting, but to looking at the big picture and re-envisioning our school district. As members of this community, we need to ask ourselves: Do we want to maintain our current, outdated system in which students move along the same path that their parents and grandparents did? If so, then we will continue to repeat the redistricting process, achievement will be stagnant, and we will continue to see the same results. If we are ready for significant change, however, then we need to ask ourselves: What do we want the Manchester School District to look like? Do we want a new model of innovative schools with programs that follow our district’s mission to “inspire and empower all learners with the knowledge, skills, and experiences essential for them to reach their greatest potential”?

The focus of the Manchester School District cannot simply be on moving the boundary lines between our schools as they exist today.

Our focus must be on re-envisioning our district for today’s learners, with innovative centers focused on improving student achievement.

Erika Connors is seeking reelection to the Manchester Board of School Committee from Ward 8.

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