Draft plan shared with school board, community

Manchester Proud delivered a draft of our community’s plan for the future of our schools to the Board of School Committee Monday night, Jan. 27, 2020, to allow board members time to review the plan and seek additional information before Manchester Proud asks the board to adopt a final plan at a Feb. 20, 2020 school board meeting.

Manchester Proud posted the draft plan on its website, manchesterproud.org, early the next morning for the community to read. There is an accompanying form on the website for community members to submit their questions and thoughts about the plan.

Manchester Proud will do its best to answer questions from the community that are received by February 12. Answers will be posted on Manchester Proud’s website.

Manchester Proud’s Community Planning Group will evaluate all additional feedback as it finalizes the plan for the Feb. 20 presentation to the school board, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Memorial High School. Community members are encouraged to attend that meeting and can RSVP by visiting https://rsvp.manchesterproud.org. An RSVP is not required but will be helpful to plan food and refreshments. 

After receiving a copy of the draft plan Monday evening, Mayor Joyce Craig thanked Manchester Proud for its work. “We appreciate the time and effort that has gone into this and in getting our community together,” she said. “We could not have done it without you. This is an exciting time in Manchester.”

Arthur Sullivan, co-owner of Brady Sullivan Properties in Manchester and a member of the Manchester Proud Champions Council, told the board that Manchester Proud shares their commitment to lifting our schools to a new level of excellence. “Schools can reach their full potential only if the board, district leaders, teachers, staff, and residents share a vision of what we want our schools to be,” he said. “The community’s plan for our future schools is a guide to achieving that vision.” 

Liz Kirwan, a teacher in the school district and a member of Manchester Proud’s Community Planning Group (CPG), told school board members that she and the other 28 members of the CPG worked for nearly a year to create the plan. She said the diverse group of parents, students, teachers, business and community leaders, and school administrators researched and debated nearly 100 ideas and chose those they believed would be the most impactful and address equity, trust, inclusion, engagement, action, and accountability.

Barry Brensinger, coordinator of Manchester Proud, told board members he has experienced a new sense of hope for our schools throughout the community. “We believe this just might be the moment when all of the stars are aligned, and we can work together to make our schools great,” he said. 

Work on this plan began two years ago with intensive community engagement led by our local partner, Reaching Higher NH that sought to identify what strengths and opportunities the people of Manchester saw in the city’s school district. That work included a community survey; door-to-door canvassing in all 12 city wards; 23 community-based listening sessions; and 39-school based listening sessions with teachers, families, school support staff, and students. 

 Our national educational planning partner, 2Revolutions, helped us identify what the people of Manchester believe graduates need to know and be able to do to be successful. The resulting “Portrait of a Graduate” became the foundation of our plan; each recommendation seeks to provide all students the supports and opportunities they need to be successful.  

The plan we present to the Board of School Committee reflects the culmination of two years of research and deep community conversation from thousands of people in Manchester, including parents; students; seniors; school, and business, and community leaders.

The ideas represented in the plan are the  product of that community input and prioritized by our Community Planning Group of teachers, parents, students, educators, and community members from Manchester, who met monthly for nearly a year. Before finalizing its list of ideas, the group asked for community feedback on the ideas through several community forums in November and December, as well as online voting. 

In the past two  years, Manchester Proud has grown from a conversation between a few people passionate about supporting our schools to a community-wide movement with more than 300 volunteers and thousands of supporters committed to our schools, students, and city. Our mission has always been and continues to be two-fold: 

  1. Create a plan that elevates our schools to create opportunities for success for all students
  2. Foster a deeper and ongoing collaboration between our community and schools that recognizes an entire city thrives when its school thrive.