MANCHESTER — Summer ends this week for more than 13,000 Manchester children, and a few new faces are ready to greet students across the district as they return to class on Wednesday.
Several new principals and a new superintendent will welcome a sea of students in new outfits and sneakers, with new pencils and folders, while trying to calm any new anxieties and excitement.
John Goldhardt has been on the job as Manchester’s superintendent of schools since July 1. Nicole Doherty has been hired as the new principal at Webster Elementary School and Katrina Esparza will lead the Beech Street Elementary School.
Additionally, Kelly Espinola has been hired as the new principal at Parker Varney Elementary School.
“We are pleased to welcome back our teachers, support staff and students,” Goldhardt said. “Crews have spent the summer deep-cleaning our buildings, painting and completing maintenance projects. The schools look great. However, our buildings don’t feel complete until they are filled with students. The students literally bring life to the buildings.”
Goldhardt asked drivers to be “more cautious” and follow the laws and procedures for speed limits in school zones while also stopping for buses when the flashing red lights are on.
He also highlighted changes to one local middle school.
“Parkside Middle School is ready to have 5th grade students join them for the first time,” Goldhardt said. “Sections of the building have been re-purposed to accommodate this change. Principal (Forrest) Ransdell and the Parkside team are prepared and excited to welcome them. In addition, all of our middle schools have added security features at the main entrances as a means to make them more safe.”
“I appreciate our professional staff, our supportive parents and our great students,” Goldhardt said. “I look forward to a year of learning and growth.”
Teachers in the Queen City are once again heading back to class without a new contract. The most recent agreement with the more than 1,100 members of the Manchester Education Association (MEA) expired on June 30, 2018. Months of negotiations have failed to produce a new contract.
MEA president Sue Hannan addressed the lack of a new deal before last week’s school board meeting.
“I want to welcome all of our educators and staff back to school,” Hannan said. “I do need to reiterate that we are starting school — at least the educators are starting school — for the second year without a contract. But I know teachers so well, and I know that they are already in school, working on their classrooms, working on their curricula, and they are dedicated people, and I just really want to express my hope that we can get these contracts completed and done in a respectful and worthwhile manner for both the city and the employees.”
According to numbers provided by the district staff, as of late last week 13,459 students were enrolled in Manchester schools for the 2019-20 school year. Of those, 4,216 are high school students, 3,188 are middle school students, and 6,055 will attend elementary schools.
Among the city’s high schools, Memorial has the largest number of students enrolled at 1,426, followed by Central with 1,325, and West with 766.
Mayor Joyce Craig thanked local teachers for the work they have put in getting ready for the coming school year.
“As we start another school year, I want to recognize all of our educators who have worked to ensure we have a smooth transition in welcoming students back into the classroom,” Craig said. “We all know the profound impact our schools play on the lives of our students. And with nearly 14,000 students across the district, there is a lot of planning that needs to be done. Our educators have done an incredible job in preparing for the 2019-20 school year and I want to thank them for their efforts. There’s always excitement at the beginning of the school year and I want to wish our students, parents, volunteers and educators a happy first day and best of luck in the upcoming year.”
Doherty, the new principal at Webster, is a graduate of Plymouth State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and a master’s in education. She also holds a curriculum administrator certification and principal certification.
Doherty comes to Webster with 13 years of classroom teaching experience and 10 years of administrative experience as a curriculum coordinator. During her tenure in Goffstown, Doherty also served as a substitute principal and co-principal.
“With a strong background in math, science, literacy and best practices in student achievement, Ms. Doherty brings a wealth of knowledge to Webster School,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Gillis.
“I am extremely excited to be joining the students, families, and staff at Webster School,” Doherty said in a statement. “I believe the heart of Webster School is focusing on what is best for all students. I am honored to be part of this dedicated and talented team.”
Former Webster principal Sarah Lynch was dismissed after committing “dishonest acts in the course of her employment,” according to attorneys for the Manchester school district. Lynch filed a lawsuit against the district claiming she was fired because she threatened to expose a “litany of illegal practices” in city schools.
Lynch was arrested in February and charged with concocting a story about being assaulted by an intruder in her North End home in January. Lynch reported she had been attacked by a daytime intruder who fought with her and at one point tried to strangle her with a USB cord.
In March, Hillsborough County Superior Court-North Judge Amy Messer granted, in part, a motion to dismiss Lynch’s complaint, dismissing her claims of wrongful termination and violation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act against the district.
Esparza graduated from Billerica (Mass.) High School and holds a doctorate in education from Northeastern University in K-12 Educational Leadership.
She also earned a master’s in education from Salem State University and her undergraduate degree in English from Fitchburg State University.
Esparza has served as an assistant principal the past seven years, most recently at Danvers (Mass.) High School. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher, driven by her love of literacy.
“I am excited to join the Beech St. School Community,” Esparza said in a statement. “Working with parents, students and staff, I am confident that we can build on the good work already underway and create new opportunities for our students.”
“We believe Ms. Esparza will be an excellent fit for Beech St. School,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Amy Allen. “We were particularly impressed by her many years of experience as an assistant principal and the excitement she has expressed at being part of the Beech St. community.”
Esparza succeeds Dr. Christine Martin, who was recently chosen as the next superintendent of the Mascenic Regional School District.
Espinola has a Bachelor of Science degree with a certification in elementary education and a Master of Education with a certification as a K-12 school principal.
Espinola has worked in the Manchester school district for the past 17 years at several schools. She was a classroom teacher at Northwest, McDonough and Wilson elementary schools, and worked on developing curriculum for grades 3-5 at Wilson Elementary School.
In 2014, Espinola became assistant principal at Beech Street Elementary, where she spent 3½ years before moving to Green Acres Elementary School.
“We could not be happier to have one of our experienced assistant principals moving into this role,” Allen said in a statement. “Ms. Espinola’s deep knowledge of our district will allow her to step into her new role with ease. She is a great fit for Parker Varney’s innovative model.”
“I look forward to giving back so much of what has been given to me,” Espinola, a product of the Manchester school district herself, said in a statement. “I am excited to get to know the students, families and staff of Parker Varney.”