Principal out after scores stay low
Federal law requires change at Pierce
PETERBOROUGH — Antrim Elementary School and Pierce Elementary School in Bennington will share a new principal next year, with the change being made after Pierce School failed to show improvement as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
At Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Dick Bergeron nominated Ann Allwarden, who is currently a literacy coach for the district, to be the supervisory principal for the two elementary schools. Pamela Campbell, who has been principal of the schools for the past two years, will become a second-grade teacher at Antrim Elementary School.
Pierce School has been listed as a School in Need of Improvement, based on student test scores, for five years.
“There is an accountability process built into No Child Left Behind,” Bergeron said on Wednesday. “We had created a school improvement plan, realigning staff support for students. We did not make the required improvement jumps for a SINI school. The next set of accountability standards calls for a change in leadership.”
Bergeron said Campbell was aware of how the process works and chose to resign as principal.
“We set forth to look for someone who can provide leadership to boost student achievement,” Bergeron said. “Ann has been our literacy coach and is highly respected in our district. She has the perfect resume to help the Bennington elementary school climb out of that SINI designation.”
Allwarden, a graduate of the University of Vermont, has a master’s degree in education and reading from the University of New Hampshire, and is working on a doctorate in educational leadership through Boston College. She was an elementary school teacher for about 15 years and has been a literacy coach in the ConVal district, working with elementary school students, for five years.
“I’m really excited,” Allwarden said on Wednesday about her new job. “I’m not brand new to the district. I know [the Pierce School] staff well. They are absolutely engaged and really do want to make a difference in children’s lives. I’m looking forward to addressing the challenges.”
Because Pierce Elementary is a Title I school identified as a School In Need of Improvement, parents of students have the option of sending their children to a different school in the district. Last year, at least 11 students from Bennington went elsewhere for elementary school, according to district officials.
“My belief is that leadership in a building can accomplish much” Bergeron said. “I fully expect Ann to lead [Pierce Elementary School] to significant student improvement. We’re hoping parents in Bennington will choose to stay. I think that would be a positive.”
ConVal High School and the two middle schools – Great Brook School in Antrim and South Meadow School in Peterborough – are also on the SINI list, but they have not reached the point where either staffing or leadership changes would be required, according to Bergeron.
“The other schools also have improvement plans,” he said. “You have to have two consecutive years of being identified as a school in need, and then have two years to make progress. It’s only after you’ve executed an improvement plan and you still don’t improve that you have to look at leadership and staffing.”
The Ledger-Transcript was unable to contact Campbell on Wednesday for comment on the changes.
At the Wednesday meeting, board members also discussed a proposal by board member Myron Steere of Greenfield, who in a letter to his fellow board members suggested that the board study whether the district should change its structure to give individual towns control over their local elementary schools, with the towns absorbing the operating costs for those schools. Steere suggested that special education costs should remain shared by the entire district, but said the change could give towns the options to consolidate with a neighboring town to save costs.
Any such change would require an amendment to the district’s Articles of Agreement.
Steere told his fellow board members that he was just trying to open a discussion.
“The idea is for each town to take care of its own elementary school,” he said. “It’s an idea to think about.
Board members questioned whether the idea is practical.
“The law requires equal opportunity access across the district,” said Matt Craig of Sharon. “That would be hard to comply with.”
Erik Thibault of Peterborough said people need to stop thinking of ConVal as nine separate towns. “I think this isolates the towns even more,” he said. “That’s a step in the other direction than I want to go.”
Board chair Butch Estey said he would discuss the letter with Crista Salamy, chair of the Education Committee, to determine the board’s next step.