Students protesting to “Make Conant Great Again”

  • A group of Conant High School students — including senior Mariah Chamberlain, left, freshman Kendall Chamberlain, junior Alexis Gallagher, and senior Kyle Gallagher — have been wearing "Make Conant Great Again" shirts and hats in protest of changes occurring throughout the district. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/14/2018 4:53:10 PM

A group of Conant High School students hope to “Make Conant Great Again" by protesting recent changes made at their school.

For the past few weeks, approximately 20 students have been wearing hats and shirts with the Donald Trump-inspired message on them – a showing of some students’ frustration and confusion with changes to the school’s grading system, among other issues. 

“I don’t know if there is a specific goal, but I guess it’s just to make the administration realize more that people are still upset,” Conant senior Mariah Chamberlain said. “I know there are some things they can’t change because we are too far into the school year. I’ll be gone next year so it won’t really affect me, but [my younger sister Kendall] will be here for the next three years.”

This year, Conant High School transitioned to a new grading model, one that separates work habits like preparedness and effort from a student’s academic proficiency. A students grade now reflects how well they are grasping a course’s material, with work habits being reported separately.

Since the start of the school year, many parents, students, and community members have voiced their frustration publicly with the changes, the implementation of the changes, and the overall communication from the district about the new system.

“We want to go back to the old grading system,” junior Alexis Gallagher said. “… there were so many changes at once and no one can really explain what’s expected of us, so we don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing.”

At least a few students have said they feel there is still confusion in the school among teachers and students, with teachers giving different explanations of how the system works.

“We came in senior year having the same grading structure the past three years and then getting a whole new one and not having any understanding of it all,” senior Kyle Gallagher said. “It’s frustrating to think that its your senior year and you have a new grading system that isn’t explained.”

There is also frustration among some students around the complete turnover in high school administration, a number of teachers leaving, and a general shift in culture.

“I think a lot of the time it can seem like the kids just don’t care because the majority of the kids who are unhappy are seniors who are used to things,” Chamberlain said.

Alexis and Chamberlain are among a group of students who have had discussions with district administration, including Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and Conant High School Principal Brett Blanchard, who is in his first year with the district.

Blanchard said it is a goal of his to create a culture within the school that promotes student voice.

“Any group that feels they have an important message… I need to make sure that gets connected,” Blanchard said. “These are opportunities. My goal is not just to make the school great, but make it the model for other schools in New Hampshire. It just takes time.”

Blanchard understands the “anxiousness” caused by the grading changes on the part of parents and students, but says the new system is more precise and better shows what the school wants students to do and know.

“You absolutely want to value tradition, but the last thing a school wants is to not progress along the lines of improvement,” Blanchard said.

While there is a contingent of students who are vocal in their opposition to change throughout the district, there are also those who support the changes.

Junior Hannah Lambert said this year’s shift has been “interesting,” but also for the better.

“The first couple weeks were a little rough, I think we all felt a little uncomfortable,” Lambert said. “It was a sudden shift – we knew there was going to be a new system but we didn’t know exactly what.”

Lambert said communication regarding the changes have improved over the past few months and that administrators are listening to students now more than ever.

A self-proclaimed poor test-taker, Lambert said the new grading system allows for more opportunities for her to show that she is understanding what she is learning.

“In previous years, if I got a bad grade on a test that could tank my grade,” Lambert said. “I think this system is definitely a better shift.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.

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