Winnisquam schools face criticism during public forum


July 29, 2009
TILTON — Calling it an effort to reach out to the community, Winnisquam Regional School District Superintendent Tammy Davis came to the Tilton Board of Selectmen last week to invite discussion about the upcoming strategic plan process for 2010-2015, but wound up hearing complaints about the district's deficiencies.

"We have been making progress over the past four years," said Davis, who has been with the district for that long.

Davis supplied a few figures to the board to support her statement, including data that shows the dropout rate has decreased by 5 percent. Such data helps the administration set targets.

"We're definitely looking at benchmarks of how we're doing," Davis said.

The strategic planning committee will also be listening to the public before beginning to plan, Davis said. They've created a survey for the pulic to fill out, which will be online from Aug. 10 to Sept. 3. The results will be used by the strategic plan committee to set goals once it begins designing the plan on Sept. 26. Davis said they also wanted to use different community forums to get feedback from the public before kicking off the strategic planning.

"This will help the planning committee really focus," Davis said. "Tonight is our first shot at doing that. (We're) interested in hearing from you."

Board Chair Katherine Dawson asked whether Davis, in outlining some of the highlights of the strategic plan, was suggesting that each child would have an individual education plan. Davis said that would not be the case; rather, they are looking at the assessment scores for each child to find strengths and weaknesses and better tailor the curriculum based on those assessments. Dawson then asked whether the students who need extra help will be ostracized.

"How are you going to accomplish that without removing them from regular class?" she asked.

Davis said that the district uses flexible grouping to look at what groups of students have mastered and regroup as needed, allowing for better lesson plans.

Still, Dawson said that based on the brochure that Davis had handed out regarding the 2007-2010 strategic plan, she didn't see any changes.

"What you've described, we already have," Dawson said. "I don't mean to be a negative, I'm just not a satisfied customer of the school district. I think we have a school district in great need. In reading this, I don't see anything different or new."

Dawson also said that she thinks the district needs to stop punishing underachieving students by not letting them participate in extracurricular activities.

In response, Davis invited Dawson to walk around some classrooms with her, which Dawson said she would like to do once school starts back up. Davis also said she wanted to know what Dawson could do to help the district move forward.

Davis also invited Selectman Norm Boudreau, who mentioned that the biggest problem he sees is discipline. When his children were in school, Boudreau said, he felt that the faculty "felt helpless" in dealing with kids who had behavioral issues.

"We had to look at other options, and we sent them to Bishop Brady," Boudreau said of his kids.

Davis and the selectmen agreed that they would like to continue such conversations in a different forum.

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