Community Planning Group Minutes, July 24, 2019

Location: SNHU, Gustafson Center

Community Planning Group members present: Dr. John Goldhardt, Deo Mwano, Rev. Eric Jackson, CJ Chretien, Joede Brown, Mike Delaney, Grace Puninu, Abby Gemme, Nicole Lora, Jennifer Gillis, Amy Allen, Forrest Ransdell, Christina Bui, Amanda Egan, Katie Labranche, Hunter Churchill, Diane Fitzgerald, Kimiya Parker-Hill, Lizabeth MacDonald, Meredith Young, Dr. Trinidad Tellez, Anna Thomas, Liz Kirwin 

Community Planning Group members not present: Mike Skelton, Donna Crook, Norma Gonzalez, Patty Lynott, Will Kanteres, Anthony Poore

Also present: Pawn Nitichan, Talmira Hill, Kathy Cook of the Manchester Proud Council and Inclusivity and Equity Committee; Barry Brensinger of Manchester Proud, Adam Rubin of 2Revolutions; Evelyn Aissa and Annmarie Timmins of Reaching Higher NH.

The meeting was called to order at 5:15 p.m.

Manchester Proud Updates

James O’Connell told the CPG that he was stepping down as a member because he is running for the Board of School Committee. Everyone thanked Jim for his commitment to Manchester Proud. He left the meeting following his remarks.

The CPG welcomed three new members: Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt and students Grace Puninu, who attends Central High School, and Hunter Churchill, who attends the Manchester School of Technology.

Subgroup Report-outs

The five subgroups for Teaching and Learning, Community Partnerships, Governance, Finance, and Organizational Effectiveness shared takeaways from their small group conversations. These are preliminary ideas and will be added to our growing list of “Hunches”  for further exploration. 

Teaching and Learning Subgroup

  • The school district needs a shared vision. 
  • The “portrait of a Manchester graduate” must adjust over time to stay up to date.
  • Adopt a culturally sustaining pedagogy.
  • Would a new system of curriculum coordination be more valuable than having a single curriculum coordinator?
  • Rethink special education identification to avoid over identifying students. Minority students in particular are over-identified. 
  • Should the district dismantle leveling in the lower grades? Should it consider moving to competency-based education or a block schedule system?

Community Partnerships Subgroup

  • Improve data collection and hire a data coordinator to understand the needs of students and families and connect students and families to appropriate community supports.
  • Put a list of community partners and their contact information on each school website. This information should be presented in multiple languages.
  • Strengthen the district’s connection to the many colleges in Manchester.

Finance Subgroup

  • The forecasted  budget shortfall is the top priority. 
  • Increasing revenue by expanding tuition programs or creating magnet schools will require upfront spending.
  • Explore student-based budgeting that allots money based on the existing student need, not on the prior year’s budget.
  • How can we help the community understand that good schools benefit everyone, not just students, families, and educators?

Governance Subgroup

  • To improve the school and community culture, we need a community-wide shift in mindset.
  • Make Board of School Committee meetings more efficient.
  • Consider staggering board elections and make the chair someone other than the mayor.
  • Adopt a kids-first policy.
  • Consider creating a non-elected advisory group for the superintendent.

Organizational Effectiveness Subgroup

  • Address the culture of distrust head on. 
  • Develop a needs-based organizational chart. We don’t have capacity in our system to do much of the work being discussed.
  • Become a learning organization at all levels.
  • Create a task force to ensure that equity and inclusivity are top priorities with all staff, in all areas. Create a Senior Officer for Equity.
  • Update job descriptions and the evaluation of employee competencies.

Manchester Equity and Inclusivity Committee Presentation

Talmira Hill of Manchester Proud explains the vision of a new committee focused on inclusivity and equity to the Community Planning Group.

Pawn Nitichan, Talmira Hill, and Kathy Cook, all members of the Manchester Proud Council, presented on the new Inclusivity and Equity Committee (IEC). 

The IEC is being formed to better engage a wider diversity of communities in Manchester Proud’s effort to reimagine the city’s future schools.

The Manchester Proud Council has endorsed the creation of the IEC and its intention to bring underrepresented voices to Manchester Proud’s work.

The IEC would consist primarily of parents and young people in Manchester schools who are from underrepresented communities. The committee would also include members of the Community Planning Group, the Manchester Proud Council, and other groups working on equity issues, but the perspectives of the families and young people would carry the most weight.

Recruiting and connecting with this population will likely look different than Manchester Proud’s school-based and community-based engagement activities. For example, this will require us going to these populations in their trusted places (churches, community centers) rather than asking them to come to us and an unfamiliar place.

The IEC recognizes that there are other groups and organizations such as the Manchester Equity Review Team working on equity issues in the city. The IEC intends to continue working with them. The committee’s proposed structure and approach have been built with feedback from and collaboration with these groups.

Discussion of IEC

The IEC will not produce a separate plan. Its input will be included in the strategic plan being drafted by the Community Planning Group.

We have to look at our internal biases.

Although we have tried to make the Community Planning Group representative of Manchester, there are communities that are not represented. In order to be inclusive, we have to go out of our way to connect with diverse groups.

Can the Community Planning Group expand to include these voices as members? These communities are representative of some of the schools with the biggest challenges.

The Community Planning Group is not fully representative of different faiths, gender identities, sexual orientations, or abilities/disabilities. There needs to be assurance that we are committing to this inclusion as a whole community.

The proposal to create an IEC has short-term and long-term aspirations. The short-term goal is to ensure these communities are deeply involved in writing this plan. Long-term, the hope is that members of this group can grow their voices over time and have additional power. 

The IEC’s proposed budget includes a dedicated person to be on the ground, engaging with these groups.

There is a concern that if we talk about having voting and non-voting members on the IEC that some will feel left behind.

There are Manchester Proud critics who feel we are all liberal. We need to be as inclusive as possible to have the community’s support.

Do we have to create a new group or committee to lift up these underrepresented voices? Or, can we connect with them in the ways they already engage with schools, such as Family Fun Nights at the schools?

We need to go to these groups rather than ask them to come to us. The Latino center and senior centers are locations we should consider.

It is critical that someone from school district be a part of this work. 

The IEC would like a few Community Planning Group members to join its committee.

Adam Rubin of 2Rev presented an updated CPG timeline:

Discussion of new timeline and methods of future community engagement

CPG members shared ideas for expanding Manchester Proud’s ongoing community engagement events:

  • Consider listening sessions with students in their classes.
  • Hold Visioning Sessions led by CPG members. These could be simple and short or longer and include a slide presentation. 2Rev would provide training. The purpose would be to learn what the people of Manchester want students to know and be able to do when they graduate.
  • Should we use a short survey offered in multiple languages and provided in paper-form and online. Could it be included in the paperwork schools sent home to parents at the start of the year? 
  • How can we use Open Houses or Parent Nights at our schools to connect with more families? We don’t want to take over these events, but would a short survey and handout work? We would need to have a presence at all 22 schools. The principals could help coordinate this.
  • Can we work with AARP and/or senior centers to engage the older population?

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.