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School board discusses Race to the Top program

Clerk of the Works hired for Kingswood project

September 17, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Cuddy-Egbert presented the Governor Wentworth Regional School District board with an overview of President Barack Obama's educational initiative, deemed "Race to the Top," at the board's regular meeting last Monday, Sept. 14.

Already backed by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Virginia M. Barry, Ph.D., the program's "criteria stands to dramatically change the face of education," explained Cuddy-Egbert.

Based on four pillars, Standards and Assessment, Effective Teachers and Leaders, Struggling Schools, and Data Systems, the plan adds major provisions to the current standards. Goals outlined on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site (www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop) include "achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring that students are prepared for success in college and careers."

The driving factor of this program, as pointed out by Superintendant Jack Robertson, is the $4.35 billion which the U.S. Department of Education anticipates awarding to the nation's school districts, making it the largest funded educational project in history. Robertson added that as of now only about 20 states are in a position to apply for this funding, New Hampshire being one. Due to its efforts to utilize common assessment tools with other states, such as NECAP testing, New Hampshire becomes one of the few states eligible.

Some Race To the Top objectives include developing national standards and assessments, providing alternate pathways for aspiring teachers and principals, implementing statewide longitudinal data systems and making the system accessible to key stakeholders, such as parents, and intervening in the lowest performance schools and districts. NHDOE Commissioner Barry already has many plans in place on how New Hampshire might best prepare for these changes, and she hopes to enlist statewide support. Objectives include raising statewide achievement, enhancing leadership support, creating better dropout prevention programs, and incorporating a multi-year new educator mentorship and evaluation pilot program.

Opponents of Race To the Top believe, "federal intrusion into schools is growing and growing… and that it should remain a state function," noted Robertson. Though with the major funding attached to the plan, its criteria must carefully be considered.

For now, the NHDOE will be meeting with stakeholder groups to determine if New Hampshire would meet all requirements. District applications for funding will be accepted as soon as winter 2010.

In other news Chair James Rines noted that the district has hired Tom Beaudette of Hopkinton as the Clerk of the Works for the expansion and renovation project. Beaudette, who has much experience in the field, working for Moultonborough Academy and Bishop Guertin High School, among others, will begin Oct. 1.

The Clerk of the Works acts as the eyes and ears for the owner in regard to the building project and makes sure things are getting done as agreed. CMK Architects has prior experience working with Beaudette.

Flu season preparations

Robertson spoke of preparations for the H1N1 virus. After recently attending a presentation on how the pandemic may impact New Hampshire, Robertson reassured listeners that H1N1 is reported to be no more severe than the seasonal flu. Robertson learned that within the next several months New Hampshire is expected to receive 190,000 doses of the vaccine that will be distributed in tiers based on priority. The first to receive the vaccine will be pregnant women, children six months of age to five years with medical conditions, and health care workers. Next will be children five to 18 years of age with medical conditions and people who have regular contact with children less than six months old. After the first batch, the state is expected to receive 80,000 doses per month. Concerns brought up at the meeting attended by Robertson revolved around the logistics of setting up clinics in an effort to vaccinate people in order of priority. The state is currently working on a plan.

If students and teachers display flu systems, they are encouraged to stay home until at least 24 hours after flu symptoms disappear. Minimizing bodily contact with others, washing hands often, and sneezing/coughing into an elbow are some ways to minimize the spread of the flu. The extent of the pandemic is yet to be known; therefore, the state is working with information as it comes forward and will be making decisions regarding schools and how they will be affected when the time comes.

Student Representative Tim Campbell attended his first board meeting and gave his first report of the school year. Along with his good news that, "staff and students survived going back [to school] two weeks early," Campbell noted that an amazing 253 out of 868 students are currently participating in a fall sport. Combined with students engaged in other after-school groups, such as drama, student activity participation rates are high.

Campbell also encouraged folks to come to the school's Back To School Night this evening, Sept. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Board member Charlene Seibel added that the event is for the community as a whole, not just for parents. Back To School Night is a great opportunity to meet the staff and tour the building's classrooms, she said.

In a letter sent home to parents, Robertson notified families of the district's decision not to "interrupt instruction" in order to view President Obama's address to students. While some faculty may have "determined it was consistent with instructional objectives," the choice was left up to each teacher's discretion. Robertson did, however, encourage parents to watch Wednesday's speech at home with their children, making note of the educational themes such as, "doing well in school, staying in school, setting goals, finding your strengths, and perseverance." A link to the speech has been made available on the district's Web site www.govwentworth.k12.nh.us.

The school board will meet again Monday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Vocational Education building, following the new staff reception at 4 p.m.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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