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June 22. 2014 7:38PM

Monadnock Regional groups seeking more school district input

SWANZEY — Concerns about how the Monadnock Regional School District is run are set to come before the newly formed Education and Policy Committee next month.

More than 300 members of Monadnock United aired the concerns to the school board at a meeting Tuesday.

Monadnock United is made up of parents and teachers in the district, said member Michelle Colbert of Swanzey. “We’re trying to get everybody together for the common goal, which is to improve our school district,” she said Friday.

The group is calling for more collaboration throughout the district and for more transparency.

For instance the school board recently adopted a homework policy without consulting teachers in the district, Colbert said.

“They institute a homework policy and many of the teachers didn’t know anything about it. It was a district-wide homework policy and there was no input from the classroom teachers,” Colbert said.

Richard Thackston, chairman of the Monadnock Regional School District School Board, said Friday that he is happy that more people want to be more involved, but the transparency and collaboration Monadnock United is asking for is already available to district residents.

Although the group was not on the agenda, when so many people turned out for Tuesday’s regular school board meeting, Thackston opened up the floor for public comment, which went on for hours.

“Everybody there came with good intentions and I think it’s a good beginning of a conversation,” he said. “Some people were very emotional and that’s hard.”

When asked about the homework policy, Thackston said, it had been recommended to the school board by the administration after taking input from every school principal in the district presumably with input from teachers.

The policy was then discussed and eventually adopted, not behind closed doors, but at public meetings over a six month period, he said, adding, “We don’t necessarily take input every time we buy a box of pencils or buy a text book.”

Thackston said additionally, Monadnock United is asking for a certain level of access and participation in the board search for a new SAU superintendent when what school board policy allows for is “far more inclusive.”

“There are a lot of opportunities for public input,” he said.

The group also takes issue with some of the recent decisions by the district to reduce staff, cutting some teachers.

“The right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing. We’re just trying to form a really good collaboration between all the involved parties,” Colbert said.

Thackston said the school board and administration has worked hard in recent years to improve conditions throughout the district, making hard choices along the way.

Five years ago the high school was close to losing its accreditation.

This year the U.S. News of World Reports ranked Monadnock Regional High School 13th among New Hampshire high schools. “Last year it was number 18,” he said

“This administration has had to deal with reduced funding and at the same time they have had to improve the net results of our schools,” Thackston said.

The requests made by Monadnock United has been handed over to the new education and policy committee, which meets next on July 9.

mpierce@newstote.com


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