Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Grant will fund innovation plan for West High School

West High School principal Rick Dichard; Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO Boys & Girls Club of Manchester;
Mike Skelton, president & CEO, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce;
Susan Huard, president, Manchester Community College; Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas;
Mayor Ted Gatsas; Alex Walker, Chief Operating Officer, Catholic Medical Center

Manchester School District (MSD) has received $300,000 from the Barr Foundation to support plans to transform West High School into a competency-based, student-centered learning model of education.

Based in Boston, the Barr Foundation directs its investments to nonprofit organizations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to connect all students to success in high school and beyond.

The funds from this grant will help MSD and its partners, including the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester and other local agencies and businesses, develop a plan to transform five key areas of the West High School experience: out of school learning; personalization; college and career preparation; student support and family engagement; and school culture. These components will provide all students the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for post-secondary success.

“Educators across the country recognize the need for new approaches to instruction in the 21st century,” said Dr. Bolgen Vargas, superintendent of schools. “We have seen the benefits of student-centered learning, and West High School provides us a great opportunity to replicate that success, for the first time, on a large scale school-wide.”

This initiative will engage every West student by enhancing existing programs, such as STEAM Ahead NH, access to college courses, and internships for extended learning opportunities beyond the traditional classroom.  Because of early discussions about applying for the Barr Foundation grant, teachers and students are actively pursuing a career-shadowing collaboration with Catholic Medical Center.

As the primary community partner, the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester will coordinate all local partnership activities through a Community Advisory group.

Redesigning an educational model takes careful planning, time, and resources. MSD will be working with two widely recognized organizations, Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) and Big Picture Learning (BPL), to support this planning phase. Both have significant experience in facilitating the kind of transformation Manchester hopes to accomplish.

CCE and BPL will bring their collective resources and assistance to every aspect of the planning phase, including coordinating design and solution team meetings, conducting focus groups, and helping to write the redesign implementation plan.  Their advisement will provide the school district with the guidance and capacity to successfully achieve its vision for West High School.

Manchester School District anticipates completing the plan by the end of December 2018 and will devote the subsequent six months to piloting select redesign components. Full redesign implementation will take place in September 2019.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A message from Dr. Vargas on the decision to close school

Dear Manchester School District families and staff,

We recognize that the timing of this morning’s announcement to close Manchester public schools was inconvenient for many families who were on their way to school or work.  The results of last night’s storm and the time to collect and assess information complicated some of the coordination that takes place when we decide to close or delay school.

Unlike during a winter storm when the impact on the city is sometimes easier to evaluate all at once, reports about power outages at several schools today came in at different times. The outage at Beech Street Elementary School had the most serious effect, because that is where all of the meals for 13 out of 14 elementary school are prepared. The decision to cancel school came when we determined the district-wide impact.

We understand that some students were waiting at bus stops or had already been picked up. Manchester Transportation Authority successfully implemented our emergency plan to ensure students’ safety in a situation like this. Every child was returned home and never in danger of being left alone. For high school students whose bus cards were punched today, tomorrow morning’s ride to school will be free of charge.

As we always do after an emergency situation, our administrative team will review internal procedures and look at ways we can improve.

Dr. Bolgen Vargas
Superintendent of Schools

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amy Allen named assistant superintendent of elementary education & innovation

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has named Amy Allen as the new Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education & Innovation in Manchester. The Board of School Committee approved the appointment at Monday night’s meeting.

Allen began working in the district in 2009. She was assistant principal of student services at Hillside Middle School before moving to her most recent position of principal at Parker-Varney Elementary School in 2013.  During her time at Parker-Varney, Allen focused on raising achievement for all students, closing the achievement gap, preparing students for college and career, and providing supports for her faculty and staff to accomplish those goals.

Parker-Varney received the 2015 Elementary School of Excellence EDie Award from the New Hampshire Excellence in Education committee. In 2016, the school was recognized by the National Principals Leadership Institute with the School Innovation and Change Award. Parker-Varney has received national attention this year for establishing multi-grade classrooms for effective instruction.

“Ms. Allen has an excellent reputation for collaboration and for using innovative and transformative approaches to education to help students succeed,” said Dr. Vargas. “That’s the kind of 21st century leadership we want in Manchester to continue the progress we’re making. With community-wide support, she will help us to achieve our goal of becoming the best urban district in New England and the nation.”

As the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education & Innovation, Allen will work to help all of Manchester’s grades K-12 schools enhance project-based, personalized learning.

“My passion is working with people, especially those who are committed to educating children,” said Allen. “I am excited for the opportunity to use my strengths in the areas of innovation and deeper learning to benefit students across the district.”

Parker-Varney’s assistant principal will serve as acting principal of the school until a permanent principal is named.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Applications for family assistance from the Salvation Army

Manchester paraprofessional nominated as a "life changer"

Longtime paraprofessional Gail Dubois of Highland-Goffe's Fall's Elementary School has been nominated by principal Susan Matthews to receive a LifeChanger of the Year award.

LifeChanger of the Year, sponsored and organized by National Life Group and the National Life Group Foundation, is an annual program recognizing K-12 educators and school employees across the country. The program celebrates those who are making a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.

We first met Mrs. Dubois when we visited Highland last winter to meet her therapy dog, Remington.

Mrs. Dubois has done amazing things for her students. Read the full nomination online.

Manchester has many life changers. In 2016, Parker-Varney Elementary School social worker Ginger Drechsel was nominated for the same award. Good luck, Mrs. Dubois!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Operation Warm underway

Manchester Firefighters for Operation Warm are on a mission to provide brand-new, USA-made coats to children in need in our city. Hundreds of them are students in Manchester's schools.

Since 2012, IAFF Firefighters have provided more than 200,000 coats nationwide to children who need them the most, providing a gift of warmth in the communities our firefighters protect.

This is not a coat drive, but rather a fundraising effort to allow the firefighters to purchase the coats.

Can you help? Click HERE to donate.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dr. Martin first-ever recipient of Partner in Education award

The Manchester Education Association has named assistant superintendent Dr. Christine Martin the recipient of its new Partner in Education Award, as voted on unanimously by the MEA executive board.

Dr. Martin was honored for always making students her highest priority -- as a teacher, principal, and administrator.

In presenting Dr. Martin with the award, MEA president Sue Hannan said, "Chris has always preferred to collaborate rather than argue, and looks for creative ways to solve problems. She is that rare gem who attended school in the Manchester School District, and followed her calling to succeed at every level of educator in the district where she learned to love school."

Dr. Martin will celebrate 30 years in the Manchester School District in 2018.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

WZID's first-ever Teacher of the Month is one of ours

Congratulations to Mrs. Whitney, fifth grade teacher at Green Acres Elementary School, who was named WZID's Teacher of the Month for September! She was nominated by the parent of a former student. Marga and Neil surprised Mrs. Whitney with the apple trophy at school. Thank you, WZID, for recognizing hard-working and dedicated educators!

Lights On Afterschool celebration: October 25 and 26

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Principal Brennan named deputy commissioner of education

Beech Street Elementary School principal Christine Brennan will be sworn in as New Hampshire’s deputy commissioner of education. Her nomination by Governor Chris Sununu was confirmed unanimously by the Executive Council.

Brennan is in her 31st year in the Manchester School District, beginning when she was hired in 1987 to teach first grade at Wilson Elementary School. She was in that role for 20 years, then worked as a literacy specialist there from 2007 until 2010. As an administrator, Brennan served as assistant principal at Wilson and Jewett Street elementary schools before arriving at Beech Street in the same position in 2012. She has been principal of Beech Street since March of 2014.

“Christine has worked with some of our most challenged students with the singular focus of helping them thrive,” said N.H. Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. “I and everyone at the DOE look forward to working with her to create more opportunities for our students that meet their individual learning styles and help them reach high levels of achievement.”

Brennan’s time at Beech Street is highlighted by technology improvements, renovations that included putting up walls to close off the open concept classrooms of generations ago, and moving students and faculty into the so-called “academy model” of instruction -- creating small schools within the larger school to enhance personalized learning and relationships.

“As educators, we play a critical part in children’s lives, and all of the dedicated, hard-working professionals in the Manchester School District do a wonderful job of putting kids first,” said Brennan. “Now I have an opportunity to make sure children across the state receive a quality education.”

“We thank Ms. Brennan for her three decades of service to our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas. “She will be a great asset to the Department of Education, and we look forward to working with her in a different capacity to serve our students.”

Brennan received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Bridgewater State College, a master’s in reading and writing from Plymouth State University, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in educational leadership, also from Plymouth State University.

Brennan will begin her duties in Concord this month.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Professional learning: Advancing STEM education

Led by The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) and partnering with Granite State College and the NH Dept. of Education, a project called “School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning” (SLASL) is in its third year of creating curriculum that supports standards-aligned STEM resources, learning, and literacy standards.

Memorial High School science teacher Caitlin Gately and library media specialist Linda Hedrick are participating in the project with other New Hampshire school librarians and STEM teacher fellows. The focus of the project is to support STEM resources and learning by developing curriculum on standards-aligned STEM inquiry and literacy standards.

Caitlin and Linda collaborated to create a unit of lessons titled "Recombinant DNA in Genetically Modified Organisms" using open educational resources that focused on text-based inquiry in STEM, science literacy skills, and library research. They also created an interactive electronic notebook that each student received containing the unit. The students worked in small groups to complete the lessons and then prepared presentations on their chosen topics.

The unit will soon be published in ISKME’s digital library of high quality, open and freely available lessons created by educators. Supporting many curriculum areas, teachers are encouraged to go to the OER Commons website to find and use lessons that may be adapted for use.

Manchester selected as model of education reform

Educators from Brazil are looking to New Hampshire for help reforming their home country’s system of education to better serve students. The World Affairs Council of New Hampshire has arranged for the group to tour Manchester School of Technology, where they will learn how competency-based classes support students’ mastery of knowledge and skills.

The delegation from Brazil is part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional development exchange administered by the U.S. Department of State. A recent article in Christian Science Monitor caught the eye of State Department officials, who wanted to select the right location in the U.S. for their Brazilian visitors to focus on. The tour of MST is scheduled for October 5.

“They are very interested in how Manchester School of Technology is reinventing the idea of what high school can provide to students,” said Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Superintendent of Schools. “We look forward to sharing what we do in Manchester that could drive change on an international scale.”

Reminder about dropping off and picking up your children from school

We are asking for your help in keeping our children safe during school arrival and dismissal times. Each school has drop-off and pick-up procedures for those who drive their children to and from school. Parents and guardians who are unsure of the proper procedures are encouraged to ask their schools for clarification. Please abide by those rules and obey the posted signs that indicate where cars are not allowed to stop or park on the street.

Many students walk to school, and the procedures are intended to keep traffic around our school buildings flowing in a safe and organized way.

The Manchester Police Department is aware of the challenges some schools face in enforcing drop-off and pick-up procedures. You might see officers providing assistance with directing drivers to their designated areas.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and continued cooperation on this important student safety issue.