This is a list of my top education issues in the Manchester School District and it’s how I plan to get the gears moving again. If you have questions or concerns about these or any other MSD issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Standards & Curriculum
Problem: The district’s adoption of common core (via the Manchester Academic Standards) was rushed and lacked due diligence on the part of the BOSC and administration. The standards are developmentally inappropriate for lower grades, lack rigor in the higher grades, and deemphasize knowledge and literacy. The district’s curriculum is a mess. In fact, it has no formal math curriculum.
Solution: Stop experimenting on our kids. Look at what is working and has worked in other districts and adopt those programs. I will insist on proof before and accountability after all decisions.
Problem: MSD has serious overcrowding issues at the elementary schools and sporadic problems in the middle and high schools. This is not happening in the elementary schools due to a lack of space. Rather, it’s because programs like pre-k and English Language Learning have been added without regard for the ability to resource those programs. In the middle and high schools, the problem is due to declining enrollment that is spreading resources too thinly across the city.
Solution: The district currently has spare capacity for at least 5,000 more students than it currently services and the student/teacher ratio is lower today than it was 11 years ago. Classroom sizes can be drastically reduced by deploying resources more appropriately and redistricting. I will strongly support Superintendent Vargas’s initiative to “right-size” the district within its current spending constraints.
Problem: Parents are increasingly being treated by school administrators and board members as annoyances and impediments to enacting their agendas. We’ve seen this play out with issues like the head lice non-notification policy and bake sale suppression. Many parents are unaware of the increasing volume of highly personal, psychological data being collected on their children.
Solution: The district needs to treat parents as partners in the process and welcome their input and involvement. There will not be a stronger advocate of parental notification and involvement on the BOSC than I will be.
Problem: MSD has seen special education costs skyrocket by 56% over the past 10 years. A huge component of that cost increase is the transportation cost of getting students to the services they need. Manchester is sending kids as far away as Tilton to receive services.
Solution: Why is the state’s largest district with the most resources sending so many students out of the city? Manchester should expand its in-house special education capabilities with the objective of becoming a magnet for those services. The reduction in transportation costs combined with tuition revenue would be a net-savings for the district. I will support an entrepreneurial approach to providing higher quality special education at a net savings to the taxpayers.
Problem: The BOSC and administration have created problems by implementing programs without proper foresight. Rather than planning to around the resources they have, they’ve consistently assumed (and demanded) that the aldermen simply fund any shortfalls that occur. The result is that we have overcrowded elementary schools at a time when the district’s overall usable space sits 30% empty.
Redistricting has been on the BOSC radar for well over a decade but it has failed to take any action. Instead, they’ve engaged in can-kicking, navel-gazing, and fear-mongering.
Solution: The district needs to move kids and programs from places where there are too few resources to places where there are too many. Parents are understandably concerned about changing feeder patterns and migrating boundary lines. I will be a strong and blunt voice for restoring balance and maximizing efficiency in the district.
Problem: The previous administration was impotent in most cases, incompetent in many, and even devious in a few. Thankfully, under new leadership, this is starting to change. However, we still have board members who ignore data, abdicate their responsibilities, fixate on hidden agendas, and occasionally disrupt proceedings with emotional and childish behavior.
Solution: We need to elect board members who will make decisions based on facts and data (not hopes and emotions), embrace their leadership responsibilities (not abdicate to educrats or special interests), be truthful with their constituents (not ignore them), and behave with respect, professionalism, and decorum (not throw tantrums when they disagree).