Hampton Union, Friday, April 17, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Shir Haberman photo]
Here it is a week after the Hampton School Board announced a massive restructuring of the Hampton Academy, and neither parents, nor teachers, nor students have much of an idea about how this came about and, more importantly, what it all means.
What we do know is there will be seven fewer teaching positions next year at the school that houses Grades 6 to 8, the hours of three other positions have been cut back and there has been a change in the school's leadership. Principal Chris Sousa announced his resignation just before what was to be an informational session on the changes on Tuesday night and former teacher Andrea Shepard has been promoted to a vice principal's position.
We also now know the board was dissatisfied with what has been called the "middle school model," which involves students being placed in teams, and now wants to go to the so-called "junior high school model." That appears to be more like what most of us went through, with levels within grades and a coordination of curriculum between grades.
That is just about all the citizens of this community know about the changes set for next year, despite Tuesday's board meeting that was attended by more than 100 people who had hoped to get some sort of rationale from board members about why this was necessary and what it would mean to the education of the town's children.
Board members have chosen to play it close to the vest when it comes to disseminating information. This, of course, has led to all kinds of speculation around town, and the rumor mill, always active in Hampton, has kicked into high gear.
We've heard that the switch to the junior high model has been in the works for more than six years, despite the fact that the middle school model was enacted in 2005. Our math isn't all that good, but this doesn't seem to add up to us.
We've also heard that Sousa was forced to resign or was fired. Neither he nor any board member would comment on that little tidbit.
It is safe to say the town is in a tizzy over this seemingly out-of-the-blue decision that impacts so many in the community. It is also clear that confidence in SAU 21 officials and the School Board, with its two new members, has been badly shaken by the unwillingness of the decision makers to be forthcoming.
On a more materialistic note, in these difficult economic times neither the superintendent's office nor School Board members will tell the voters who approved the almost $18.2 million school budget in March, what they intend to do with the savings that will result from this reduction in staff. We have been told that amount will be in the neighborhood of $780,000.
It is almost inconceivable that an elected board would be this unresponsive to the demands of their constituents, who just want to know why all this is happening. It is a sign of the kind of arrogance one would expect to see on Wall Street or in the board room of an automobile manufacturer.
Obviously, these people believe they are the only ones capable of making an informed decision about what the community's children need. We disagree.
We believe parents, teachers and other community members can contribute greatly to the debate and, potentially, to a solution as to why more of our children are not succeeding academically. Sadly, they were not given the chance to do so before this board of know-it-alls unilaterally decided it was the be-all and end-all of educational awareness in this town.
That, frankly, is unacceptable.