Goffstown school study shows parents, teachers concerned by administration
What the public won't find in the $35,500, 116-page study is participation by the school's principal, Jim Hunt.
According to the results of the study conducted by Learning Innovations at WestEd of Woburn, Mass., five administrators were invited to participate in individual interviews with representatives from the company, but Hunt did not respond to an email request to meet.
"Everyone but the principal, who was not at school the day of the first round of interviews, was interviewed," the study read. "A follow-up email was sent to him to schedule an alternate date to interview; there was no response."
Elizabeth Dubrulle, who was part of a parent and staff committee that met twice this summer, said she hopes personnel issues at the school will be addressed.
"In my opinion, the main issue at MVMS has always been primarily a personnel issue, and if anything, this report confirms that opinion, although you have to read between the lines to see it," Dubrulle said. "The real question is whether or not there are other problems at the school once the primary personnel issues are resolved. This report shows that there are, but that they are not as extensive as originally feared."
More than 20 students, 13 parents and nearly 30 staff members participated in focus groups led by WestEd staff.
Teachers stressed the need for high-quality professional development and for collaboration among team teachers, special educators and paraprofessionals.
While many teachers touted the school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program as a morale booster, some teachers expressed concern about how they are treated by school administration and fellow teachers.
"One concern related to how administrators treat and talk to staff members," the report stated. "In general, teachers described a sense of not feeling valued or respected by top-level administration at MVMS."
The parent focus group also expressed concerns about school administration.
In general, the study concluded, parents were hopeful about the future of MVMS, supportive of teachers and felt there had been recent improvements at the school.
They praised the PBIS program and such class offerings as music, world language and advanced math.
However, the report indicated that parents experienced difficulty being involved in school activities because they don't feel welcome by administration and have a sense that the administration does not support parent involvement.
"Related to concerns about parent involvement was a frustration over communication with the MVMS administration," the report read. "Multiple parents expressed negative experiences communicating with administrative staff. A couple said they were reticent to raise concerns or ask questions for fear of being labeled."
SAU 19 Superintendent Stacy Buckley said Hunt was not required to be interviewed during the study process.
"It would be no different than a parent or teacher not being interviewed," she said. "It wasn't about one individual - this was one data point out of thousands."
The report outlined the strengths of the middle school, which houses about 890 students from Goffstown, Dunbarton and New Boston, as well as recommendations for improvement.
The report states that MVMS has many dedicated children, parents and staff who are doing much to support learning, and that there were multiple areas of improvement the school can target.
Four key recommendations were highlighted: To continue investing and supporting the school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) plan; create a visioning committee to explore and clarify the school's mission; consider researching and conducting more classroom observations to determine future areas for professional development; develop a plan for celebrating student and staff success and publish that information.
Buckley said WestEd representatives offered to meet with the school board to answer any questions they have.
The study included data collection of student test scores from 2010 to 2012, which show students performed above national averages in math, reading and language use.
Parent, student, teacher and staff surveys and focus groups were also included in the study, as well as classroom observations.
Students weighed in with positive feelings about classes, their teachers, support for learning, school activities and recess, but also expressed concern over misbehavior by other students, including bullying, inconsistency in enforcing rules, a lack of activities that encourage school pride and lunch.
Other student concerns surrounded instruction and rigor, and the school building, notably bathrooms.
Buckley said the study was very well done, and was not surprised by its findings, adding that the details of the study will help the district focus on what needs to change.
Buckley has asked school staffs to review the report, and the process of how to implement the recommendations will begin at a later date.
"It's going to take some time," she said.
School Board Chairman Philip Pancoast said he could not immediately comment on the report as he had not yet read it in its entirety, but said the board will take some time to digest it and determine whether a meeting with WestEd would be beneficial.
The final paragraph of the study urged the MVMS community not to overlook what was described as "the wisdom of children."
"Throughout this study we were continuously impressed with the insight, hope and passion of the students," the report read. "What is also important to point out is that out of all the groups, the students were the most positive. They were the quickest to forgive. And interestingly, they focused on identifying practices or situations where they hoped for change or improvement."
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