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[if:token_value:'subpub'!=''][include:'1multpubmap.lasso'][decode_url:$multpubmap->(find:token_value:'subpub')] tracking [/if]Coos County Democrat section
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WMRSD plans to get off DINI-SINI list, address new challenges


September 08, 2011
WHITEFIELD — SAU 36 Interim Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom issued a call to action during the White Mountains Regional School District's first professional development day on Aug. 23.

The WMRSD is in a sense at the "clubhouse turn," said Fensom, explaining that this now-somewhat-obscure expression refers to the final turn in a thoroughbred horse race where horses and jockeys enter the home stretch and can see the finish line ahead.

"The flaw in this analogy, however, is that for us there really is no finish line; we continue to seek improvement and excellence," Fensom said. "So I would suggest an image of multiple or successive finish lines.

"And the immediate line that we will cross this year is the SINI-DINI line," he explained. SINI is stands for a School In Need of Improvement and DINI, a District in Need of Improvement.

"Come the opening day of school (yesterday), we need to hit the ground running and for the next five or six weeks do everything possible to prepare our students academically and emotionally" to do well on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests.

"We know how to do this," Fensom said reassuringly. "We did it last year, and we will do it again this year!

"The defamatory label of school or district in need of improvement is not us and it's not our students. We need to get off this list and never look back.

"In the future, high achievement levels on whatever state or federal assessment is adopted will be simply expected and natural by-products of our overall high-quality instructional program."

But, Fensom pointed out, "The next finish line is a bit further down the stretch and will be crossed when our students graduate with a firm grasp of the abilities necessary for success that will allow them to make choices instead of settling for what comes along — to influence their own destinies.

"We will be graduating students who are independent learners, critical thinkers, problem-solvers, collaborators and communicators," Fensom explained. The best possible graduation gift we can give our students is to instill them the belief that they can dream dreams and then chase those dreams, the superintendent said.

"We have started work on this piece this summer with the Critical Skills initiative, and we intend to continue it as a major focus of our professional development for the foreseeable future."

Dr. Fensom then challenged the District's teachers and staff to think about and consider what he termed a "third finish line or a final line that would complete the package of skills, abilities and attributes with which students leave us."

"I think we realize and agree that basic skills, test scores, and the necessary abilities for success are important and that it is critical that we give these to our students since they are essential to allowing them to have choices in life.

"But success requires decisions, and I believe that if we accept that we have an obligation to give students the ability to make choices then we also have to accept that we have the responsibility to give them strategies to make good decisions when faced with choices," Fensom said. "Let me be clear now; when I refer to good decisions, I'm not talking about decisions based on some morel or ethical values. I'm talking about decisions that are informed, reflective, and deliberate.

"We have had some preliminary discussion about this objective at the recent District Leadership Team meetings," Fensom continued. "We have no defined answers and probably not even all the questions. I am very interested in this issue and in opening a District-wide dialog to explore it. If you find this proposition interesting or exciting, please give it some thought. Following the completion of the NECAP testing, I will circulate a statement of my thoughts and solicit your responses, critiques and suggestions.

Dr. Fensom concluded his remarks by saying: "And when we gather in June — in addition to celebrating our removal from the SINI-DINI list and the passage of a budget and two (union) contracts —I hope to be able, based on our dialog and possibly some committee work, to be able to present the elements of a deliberate plan, kindergarten to grade 12, of developmentally appropriate lessons, experiences, activities, exposures, and exercises that will provide our students with the insights and tools to evaluate their decisions, options, and choices in life."

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