Academy Watchdog Group Wants Everything Back the Way it was

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Parents and teachers are pleased that the School Board reversed its decision last week and voted to reinstate the five teachers who were slated to be eliminated. However, they said the battle is not over yet.

"We are not done and we are not going away," said parent Robin Day. "We are stronger than ever. We reveled in our small victory, but recognized there is still work to be done."

Day was one of 200 parents and teachers who blasted school officials during a special School Board meeting that took place on April 23 over the board’s plan to restructure Hampton Academy.

The result of the meeting was that the board reversed its April 10 decision to reduce the hours of three teachers and to eliminate five others.

Day, who founded the "Hampton School Board Watch Dog Group" in response to the board’s cutbacks, said that while they are happy those positions were restored, they still have concerns about the other behind-closed-door decisions made by the board that have yet to be addressed.

Chief among those concerns are the two teaching positions that are still slated to be eliminated at the Academy next year. One is a seventh-grade math position that will be vacant due to retirement and the other is an eighth-grade science position that will be left vacant due to the promotion of Andrea Shepard to vice principal of the school.

Day said teachers at the Academy were given a directive on Friday to develop a new schedule without those two positions.

"There is no way a new schedule can be developed with the current teaming concept without those positions," Day said. "By asking (teachers) to develop a new schedule without those positions, it is setting them up to fail."

Other parents said they are concerned about the elimination of two of the three Target Assist teachers at Marston, who help students attain required levels in reading, and the decision to rotate the school nurses every three years.

The parents also expressed concerns about the shuffling of the administration within the school district.

Marston Principal Dave O’Connor is still moving to Hampton Academy, while Marston Assistant Principal Lois Costa is being promoted as principal.

Other changes to administration still in effect include Centre School Vice Principal Karen Reynolds moving to become the new part-time assistant principal of Marston.

"The School Board still thinks they have done nothing wrong," Day said. "Our contention is that we want open communication. We want to be part of decisions, and we want our teachers to be part of the decisions as well.

"We want everything back to the way it was," she said.

Previously, School Board officials explained the staff reductions at the Academy were the result of the need to eliminate excessive teacher planning periods. When those planning periods were cut out of the schedule it showed the Academy to be overstaffed.

The change from a "teaming" model to a "vertical" schedule was done to improve student performance. Parents and teachers decried the decision because they were not consulted during the decision making process.

Adding to the controversy was the resignation of Hampton Academy Principal Chris Sousa. While the board restored all five of the teachers that were given pink slips, they didn’t comment on what the schedule will look like next year.

What is known is that consumer science and technology education will now be back in the schedule because the teachers who taught those subject have been rehired.

The board didn’t address other changes to the schedule that were put in place as part of the restructuring. Those changes include making reading a core subject in Grade 6, and adding computer and library as unified arts.

At the special meeting, Assistant SAU 21 Superintendent Maureen Ward said the additional teachers will just make class size smaller. Currently, there is an average of 18 to 20 students per class.

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