Change requires voice and vision

There were many progressive and visionary ideas voiced at the Community Conversations: Changing Education forum held on June 10 at the Monadnock Center’s Bass Hall in Peterborough. A business incubator at ConVal High School; daycare facilities at Pierce School or another of ConVal’s elementary schools; more student interaction with the community; outdoor learning opportunities; and intercultural and international exchanges were among them.

Brian Pickering, ConVal High School principal, was in attendance, and said he agreed with all of the suggestions, noting that the ConVal School District is thinking progressively, looking at ways to improve education. He cautioned people not to look for big change, but instead subtle shifts.

Pickering pointed to the personalized education approach, TASC, or Teams and Academic Support Center, that ConVal implemented three years ago and is now teaching to other schools in New Hampshire. It’s been lauded as revolutionary by educators throughout New England as a way to reach students where they are at.

We commend the district for its success with TASC and hope it will continue to improve the daily lives of students and others in the school community. But mapping out a long-term way forward for school districts in the Monadnock region that make financial sense requires a bigger vision, with communication and leadership to see it through.

Peterborough resident and ConVal School Board member Tom Ferenc, an award-winning principal at Green Mountain Union High School in Chester, Vt., told the group that the shrinking student population seen in our neck of the woods is all too familiar to those at his school. “We’re running out of kids. We’re a graying state, Vermont, as is Maine and New Hampshire,” he said.

As one of the forum’s presenters, Ferenc talked about how technology is revolutionizing they way students enrolled at Green Mountain are learning, and how students taking online college courses has allowed the school to broaden its offerings. This and other efficiencies are helping the school, he said, “to do more with less, because we can’t keep asking people to give more.”

Ferenc’s wasn’t the only voice of inspiration, and we hope talks like this one will continue.

Education is one of the most important things we can offer to young people, it’s an investment in their future and ours. Creative thinking and solutions to perennial problems associated with our schools is a shared responsibility. The work of our district administrators to improve school culture is vital, but so is community involvement and dialogue.

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