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NH News

A Year into Planning Process, Manchester Proud Unveils Possible Next Steps

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Sarah Gibson for NHPR
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The city of Manchester is nearing the final stages of a major strategic planning process for its 22 public schools. 

 

The process began over a year ago, when business and education leaders formed a group called Manchester Proud with the goal of improving the city’s public school system and making the district more attractive to young families. 

 

On Monday, Manchester Proud and 2Revolutions, a national education design non-profit, unveiled an array of draft plans to the school board, which is expected to make a final decision in February. The plans are a culmination of over 3,500 surveys of educators, students, and community members on the district’s strengths and its challenges. 

 

Adam Rubin, the founder of 2Revolutions, told board members that many people in Manchester were concerned about finances and board governance.

 

Despite a significant decline in enrollment and state revenue in the last decade, the number of teachers in the district has remained steady. And the ever-increasing number of students with special education plans has Manchester currently spending 25% of its annual education budget on special education.

2Revolutions also found high levels of distrust in the district and frustration with board governance. Rubin said that cities with larger student populations and high levels of need tend to have smaller boards than Manchester and tend to make decisions more effectively.

 

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Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR
School board members use sticky notes to indicate their preferred plan in the finance category.

 

The list of optional plans include: restructuring the school board by decreasing the number of members and removing the mayor from the board; developing magnet and bilingual schools; moving teachers around within the district to deal with shrinking enrollment; hiring a “director of community partnerships” to coordinate support services for students; and rethinking Manchester’s practice for identifying and providing services to special ed students.

 

Some board members have expressed skepticism that the plans would get sufficient support from the community, but school board member Sarah Ambrogi says Manchester is ready for a big change.

 

“There were some really fantastic ideas there. Many of them cost money and many will be difficult to achieve. But it gives us a sense of where we might go,” she said.

 

2Revolutions plans to present its draft plans at a dozen community feedback sessions next month. The Manchester Proud Community Working Group will then review responses and present a final plan to the board in February, which can then vote on whether to adopt it.