By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 21, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The Hampton School Board has called a special meeting for Thursday night to reconsider its decision to eliminate seven teaching positions as part of a plan to restructure Hampton Academy.
SAU 21 Assistant Superintendent Maureen Ward said the meeting will take place at 7 p.m., in the cafeteria at the Marston School.
The special meeting comes at a time when parents and teachers have blasted the board for changes that were made in several non-public sessions regarding the renomination of staff.
At 6:30 p.m., just prior to the meeting, parents and teachers will rally outside the school to state their opposition to the changes that include going to "vertical schedule" at the Academy, as well the elimination of the consumer science and technology education programs.
School Board officials previously explained that the changes were the result of the need to eliminate excessive planning periods that teachers had outside of the classroom during the school day.
The board directed Ward to develop a schedule without multiple planning periods that was more focused on improving academic skills. The result showed the Academy was overstaffed and there needed to be a reduction in the number of teachers employed there.
The staff reductions were based on seniority, as agreed to in the contract the board has with the teachers union.
Officials said the change to vertical scheduling does not mean the school is reverting back to a junior-high philosophy. The new schedule has the same characteristics as a middle school, but without all the excess planning times.
Class size will remain the same, and reading will now be taught as a core subject in Grade 6, those officials said. Students will also now have library, computer literacy and unified arts programs to better prepare them for high school, those officials noted.
Numerous parents criticized the changes, stating they were outraged the decisions were made without any input from teachers or the community. Adding to the controversy was the resignation of Hampton Academy Principal Chris Sousa and that one of the teachers cut was Christina Hamilton, a candidate for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.
The parents have been bombarding school officials with requests for a special meeting and also recently formed a group calling themselves the "Hampton School Board Watchdog Group." The group has also established a blog.
The teachers union has formally asked the board to reconsider its decision.