Way to go, Great Brook community

Last week’s announcement that Great Brook School had been chosen as New Hampshire’s Middle School of the Year is a perfect example of the truth of the oft-cited African adage, “It takes a village to raise to a child.”

But in this case, there are four villages involved — Antrim, Bennington, Hancock and Francestown. In recent years, students and parents from those towns have really come together to build a school they can be proud of. Their support of the school’s excellent staff and its dedicated principal, Jim Elder, have helped return Great Brook, which also won the EDie in 1999, to the forefront of New Hampshire’s middle schools.

The turnaround was already well under way in the spring of 2013, when Great Brook was targeted for closure in a petition article that appeared on the ConVal School District warrant. With the district facing concerns about rising costs and declining enrollment, a group of residents suggested that having just one middle school, in Peterborough, could save money and offer more opportunities for all middle schoolers.

The four Great Brook communities rallied to save their middle school — an effort that wouldn’t have happened if most of the voters, many of whom have no kids in the school, did not have confidence in the quality of the education that the children in their towns were getting. In Antrim, just 7 percent were in favor of closing the school. The proposal fell well short of a majority in the other three Great Brook towns and it also failed in Dublin and Peterborough.

Now Great Brook, with its distinctive buddy program to help incoming students adjust, an advisory program that keeps students with the same teacher as an advisor for all four years, and a culture of respect among both students and teachers, stands out as the state’s best school. And don’t forget that South Meadow School in Peterborough won the same award just two years ago.

ConVal is clearly facing some difficult challenges. The district’s budget proposal was turned down in March. A new teacher’s contract is being negotiated, and the School Board will be making every effort to come up with an agreement that will garner voter support while also enabling the district to attract and retain excellent teachers. And the declining enrollment conundrum won’t be going away.

So it’s great to be reminded, when Great Brook captures such a prestigious honor, that the students, parents, teachers and administrators at the school — and the entire ConVal district — are doing something right. Congratulations to them all.

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