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September Newsletter from Superintendent Holden

posted Sep 23, 2014, 6:12 AM by Jonathan Reed   [ updated Sep 29, 2014, 10:14 AM ]

-- As we enter the 2014-2015 school year, we look forward to the continued success of our students, teachers and schools. One of the unique characteristics of working in public education is that each year we have a distinct beginning, middle and end. Each year a new group of students gets to experience their particular grade or school for the first time, and we, as educators, benefit from the wonder and excitement that each new year brings.

I strongly believe in public education as the best hope for the future:  the hope that comes from providing equal opportunities for children, regardless of their family circumstances, the promise of developing disciplined yet creative minds to tackle the increasingly complex problems of the world, the reassurance of instilling civic and personal responsibility, and yes, the importance of developing character.  

It is important to say, however, that the mission of schools has changed.  It used to be enough to give students an equal opportunity.  It was more or less up to each student as to the degree to which they were successful in school.  Those who were successful learners continued in school, those who were not had many opportunities to still be productive and successful in jobs that did not require high skills and sophisticated literacy.  The mission of schools today is to provide not only equal opportunity but also equity of result.  Low skills jobs have either been replaced by technology or moved to developing countries.  The mission today is for all students to learn to high standards and to be ready for college or careers where knowledge and skills are an entry requirement.  It is not enough for the majority of students to be well prepared.  The task is for all students to be well prepared.  One thing that No Child Left Behind has done is to force us to look at the achievement of all of our students, not just the average. Our scores, as a whole, are above average for the State of New Hampshire, and the State of New Hampshire is above average for the country, so we are doing really well overall.  But remember, the mission has changed.  It is now all students who need to achieve to high levels.  We need to do better for those students who are not finding the success that they will need to be well prepared for careers or further schooling.

So what are the forces that are driving this need for change?  There are four specific drivers that inform the goals and plans for our schools as they describe the larger context:

  1. Resources for schools are decreasing or remaining the same.  The days of infusion of money through grants, federal and state funding are behind us.  Schools need to find ways to do more with the resources that we have.

  2. Demographics are changing.  There is a decrease in the percentage of school age children relative to the general population.  The population of the Northeast, including New Hampshire, is aging.  More people have no direct connection with our schools.  Our schools have experienced an increase in the number of students who come from lower socio-economic groups as evidenced by the percentage of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

  3. Competition for students.  This is a new factor that is increasing because of virtual schools, charter schools and private schools, and this creates the potential for school choice.   

  4. Competition globally – I have already referenced the fact that all students need to learn to high levels of achievement in order to be competitive globally.  Part of this global connection is that students need to learn to competently and confidently be able to function in the context of different cultures.

A new education ranking was released this week. The ranking, from the personal finance site Wallethub, outlines the best and worst states for K-12 education, given the connection between one's education and future earning potential. The ranking was based on 12 factors, including student dropout rate, pupil/teacher ratio, test scores, rates of bullying and school safety measures. The top scorers were New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and then Kansas. The site dubbed the areas with the worst school systems as Nevada, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and, lastly, the District of Columbia.  Check out the entire report at:


As a district, one of our focus points has been trying to better communicate with the community.  We currently are using our web site, emails and new releases, teacher web pages, phone alert communication and weekly letters (K-5). We are working to establishing a way to push information out to the community. We feel that the use of a social network like Twitter can and will help us push information to our community. We are also developing an email notification process where anyone can sign up to receive information from the district. This would be very general information and not necessarily student specific. Please check our web page over the next few weeks for more information.