Manchester Proud is committed to bringing the city together to create a collective vision for our schools. Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more about the organization, our mission, and what we do every day. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Our goal was and continues to be is to engage our entire community in a process to develop and support the implementation of a new aspirational and achievable strategic plan for the Manchester School District– one that is created by and for the people of Manchester. The Board of School Committe received and accepted that plan on Feb. 20, 2020 before an audience of 470 Manchester residents, community leaders, business owners, and educators.
The Manchester Proud process to build the plan plan looked different than other districts or past plans; typically, a strategic plan is built by top officials in a district office, and then given to the schools and community. Manchester Proud started with the community: we heard directly from residents, staff members, families, students, and business leaders first before creating the strategic plan. We aimed for this initiative to invigorate our community’s connection to our schools and are now committed to fostering that engagment going foward.
Manchester Proud has worked hard to reach as many Manchester people and groups as possible because we believe a plan to guide future decisions about our schools is meaningful only if it is written by the community. Below is a detailed list of what we’ve done since we formed in 2017. You’ll also see what we’ve got planned.
- Manchester real estate developer and landlord Arthur Sullivan learns a major tenant is considering moving its operations out of Manchester, citing concerns with the city’s schools.
Sullivan and other local civic and business leaders begin meeting to explore ways to support the city’s schools. They learn that the city’s five-year strategic plan that guides the Board of School Committee is set to expire in June 2018.
The group’s conversations become the genesis of Manchester Proud, a grassroots, nonpartisan public school reform organization dedicated to creating a new five-year strategic plan with educational goals written by the people of Manchester, for the people of Manchester.
- Manchester Proud forms a Champions Council to create the legal authority needed to contract with consultants. But the real work of Manchester Proud is and will always be undertaken by work groups and individual volunteers.
- The Board of School Committee votes unanimously to support Manchester Proud’s proposal to create a strategic plan for the future of the city’s schools that is written by the people of Manchester, for the people of Manchester.
- We receive the support of the Greater Manchester Chamber, Granite United Way, and the Manchester School District.
- Manchester Proud hires Reaching Higher New Hampshire to project manage our initiative and lead our community engagement work. The nonpartisan 501c3’s mission is to provide all New Hampshire children with the opportunity to prepare for college, for immediate careers, and for the challenges and opportunities of life in the 21st century NH by serving as a public education policy and community engagement resource for New Hampshire families, educators, and elected officials.
- The Union Leader editorial board praises the work of Manchester Proud, saying:
“We applaud those giving their time and passion to this campaign. Tapping into their expertise could bring new energy and disruptive ideas into a public school system too often stuck in the status quo.”
- Manchester Proud’s Fundraising Committee launches a campaign with a goal of raising $500,000 – $600,000. This money will be raised exclusively from local businesses, community supporters, and foundations.
- Manchester Proud meets with school leaders at each of the city’s 22 schools to explain our work and hear their unique perspectives.
- We make a special presentation on Manchester Proud to the school district’s five bargaining units.
- Committed to writing a plan from the community up – and not from the top down – we create small work groups of local leaders to support communications, planning consultant selection, and community celebrations. Group members have an expertise in their subject areas.
- We launch an online Community Survey to gauge the city’s perception of Manchester and, in particular, the city’s school district. We translate it into six languages to make it accessible to our immigrant and refugee communities.
- We present our mission to over 900 Manchester educators and tell them about upcoming opportunities to participate in community engagement events.
- The Consultant Selection Work Group issues a request for proposals for a planning partner that will use the information collected through community engagement work and its own review of the district to draft a plan for the future of the city’s schools. The planning partner will work with the to-be-formed Community Planning Group, which will revise and finalize a plan before it is given to the Board of School Committee.
- We begin a six-day canvass of all 12 of the city’s wards, knocking on 2,000 doors to learn what residents like most about their city and schools and where they see opportunity for change.
Our purpose is simple: talk to people at their door, regardless of how connected they feel to the school district, because every Manchester voice matters in creating schools where all students can succeed. We do not target a specific group of people, which often happens in political canvasses, but instead focus on communities near the city’s elementary schools.
- We gather more than 65 Manchester organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Manchester Police Department, YMCA, United Way, Manchester Health Department, and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, for a Community Resource Mapping workshop. Attendees worked collaboratively to explore opportunities for school-to-community partnerships.
- We host the first of our 39 listening sessions with people directly connected to the schools such as school administrators, teachers, support staff, families, and students.
- We visit Open Houses, Parent Teacher Groups, and other school-based activities to introduce ourselves and extend an invitation to school-based listening sessions.
- The Manchester Young Professionals Network endorses Manchester Proud, telling members, “Now is the time for us to come together and be a voice for young people building their lives in Manchester by lifting our public schools to greater excellence.”
- We host the first of 23 community-based listening for individuals who may not have been reflected in our other community engagement activities. We train facilitators to lead their own sessions for staff and/or individuals their organizations support.
- Our Consultant Selection Work Group unanimously chooses 2Revolutions, an education design firm, as its planning partner. We review applications from nine consulting firms and interview four firms. 2Revolutions knows the city’s school district well. It led the design of the Manchester School of Technology and Parker-Varney’s project-based learning.
- Manchester Proud closes its online Community Survey. We received 983 complete responses, most of them from people who currently live in the city (824) or used to live in the city (104).
- Manchester Proud seeks applicants for a new Community Planning Group made up of leaders from the school district office and school administrators as well as teachers, parents, students, the City of Manchester, and business and not-for-profit communities. Ninety people apply and with help from an independent selection committee, nearly 30 are brought on to support the planning process.
- We conclude our community-based listening sessions. Participants included students, families who have opted out of the Manchester School District to send their children to charter or private schools, individuals with experience and expertise with special education, higher education staff, individuals who have immigrated to Manchester, and people from the business community.
- We conclude our school-based listening sessions, which included 14 sessions for teachers,12 for support staff, 8 for families, and 5 for students.
- The 29-member Community Planning Group begins to meet monthly to explore the community engagement findings and other school district data. Group members will use this information and their own insights to draft a plan for the city’s future schools.
- We post meeting minutes on our website to keep the public up-to-date on our work.
- Manchester Proud creates two new exploratory groups to more deeply study the finances of the school district and how it is governed within and by the city. We recruit professionals from those fields and ask them to use what they learn to identify creative opportunities for change.
- Members include leaders at Elliot Health Systems, Community College System of New Hampshire, the Manchester School District, St. Anselm College, Bellwether Community Credit Union, Manchester Airport, the NH Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs, Catholic Charities of New Hampshire, and the Charitable Trusts Unit at the state Attorney General’s Office.
- The Board of School Committee accepts Manchester Proud’s offer to pay the $30,000 fee to join the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 70 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems working toward the improvement of education for children in inner cities. Among the benefits to joining the coalition is access to a network for school districts to exchange information and possible solutions for their shared common problems.
- The Manchester Proud Council unanimously approves a recommendation that an independent committee, the Manchester Inclusivity and Equity Committee, be formed to engage a broader group of people from diverse racial/ethnic, linguistic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds in advancing the work of Manchester Proud.
- The Granite United Way names Manchester Proud the winner of its “Advocate of the Year” Award.
- Manchester Proud and 2Revolutions host our first Visioning Sessions where community members are invited to share their ideas for improving educational success for all students and potential barriers to getting there. With a goal of including all communities within the city, Manchester Proud provides interpreters for several languages and childcare. Nearly 100 people attend the sessions, sharing their aspirations for the future schools and students.
- NH Business Review presents Manchester Proud its “Best Opportunity to Improve Manchester Schools” business award.
- Manchester Proud surpasses its fundraising goal of $500,000 to $600,000. It has received $790,015 in private donations. This additional funding will support our extended timeline, needed for deeper work by our Community Planning Group and formation of the Inclusivity and Equity Committee.
- Manchester Proud welcomes the city’s new superintendent, Dr. John Goldhardt, as a member of the Manchester Proud Council and the Community Planning Group.
- Manchester Proud hosts additional Visioning Sessions at Manchester’s International Institute of New England for the city’s refugees and immigrants.
- We host a “Future of Learning” forum at the Greater Manchester Chamber breakfast to hear what business and civic leaders want future students to know and be able to do.
- Our Community Planning Group shares its preliminary ideas as it works on a plan we hope will guide decisions about our future schools.
- The Inclusivity and Equity Committee, led by three members of the Manchester Proud Council, ramped up its exploration of engaging a broader group of people with diverse racial/ethnic, linguistic, socioeconomic, ability, educational needs, and cultural backgrounds in our work. The committee will collaborate with the Manchester School District and members of our Community Planning Group.
- Manchester Proud updates the school district’s principals and vice principals on our progress. They are among the first people in the city to take our 2-question survey that asks what students need to know and be able to do to be successful.
- Business NH Magazine includes Manchester Proud in its story about Manchester’s renewal, alongside the city’s top-notch health care providers, innovative business start-ups, vibrant downtown, arts scene, and 11 colleges, universities, and trade schools.
- Members of Manchester Proud’s Community Planning Group attend Open Houses at several of our city schools to talk with parents about our work and their hopes for our schools and students.
- Every educator and parent in the Manchester School District receives our 2-question survey about preparing students for success. The survey is available in seven languages to ensure as many people in Manchester can participate as possible. We also begin promoting the survey on our website and social media pages.
- Manchester Proud and 2Revolutions meet with employees of 14 afterschool providers to ask how schools and the city’s youth-serving organizations can better partner in support of students. There is unanimous support for a stronger partnership and innovative ideas for making it happen.
- The Manchester Chamber’s Board of Directors reaffirms it support of Manchester Proud following an update on our work and a summary of early responses to our survey.
- Members of our Community Planning Group update the Board of School Committee on our work at its board meeting.
- The Community Planning Group begins narrowing a long list of potential ideas for remodeling education in the city to more closely align with the hopes and expectations of city residents. Group members spend much of the two-hour session discussing and debating the options before and after voting on their top five choices.
- Manchester Proud and our partners, Reaching Higher NH and 2Revolutions, hold a three-hour public workshop with the Board of School Committee to share findings from our partners’ community engagement activities and school district research. We post our presentation materials on our website to ensure the public has access to our work.
- The session is a valuable opportunity for Manchester Proud to partner with board members as we create a plan to remodel our schools to ensure they have the supports to ready our students, and therefore our city, for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
- We continue reaching out to diverse communities in Manchester to hear how they believe schools can best prepare students for success in school and after graduation. These sessions include a presentation to a Manchester senior group and New Americans.
- The Community Planning Group closes in on its recommendations for the plan that we will present to the Board of School Committee in February. Group members have spent months considering and discussing dozens of potential ideas across five categories: Teaching and Learning, Finance, Governance, Organizational Effectiveness, and Community Partnerships.
- Members of Manchester Proud’s Community Planning Group share the developing plan with New Americans and ask what attendees want their children to know and be able to do when they graduate. The group echoes what we have consistently heard from other community members. They’d like our schools to encourage creativity and experiential learning and teach students how to adapt to an ever-changing world.
- Shortly after city elections, Manchester Proud meets with existing and newly elected Board of School Committee members to share a short list of 50 potential ideas being considered for the plan. Board members are asked to vote on those they like best. “It was inspiring to see our school board members collaborating and prioritizing essential needs to better the Manchester School District,” said Kimiya Parker-Hill, a senior at Manchester West High School and a member of our Community Planning Group. “Their input is crucial to the success of the community’s final plan.”
- With the support of Manchester Public Television, we begin weekly television and radio appearances featuring members of our Champions Council and Community Planning Group. Our goal is to explain or work and introduce the community members who are creating the plan.
- We post links to each appearance on our website.
- Manchester Proud posts the 50 potential ideas on its website and social media pages and asks community members, parents, and educators to weigh in. With the school district’s help, a link to the voting form is shared with families and school staff.
- Manchester Proud schedules three public forums for community members to learn more about the short list of ideas, ask questions, and vote on top choices. The forums are widely publicized online and in the schools to encourage community feedback. Interprets in six languages will be available to make the plan as accessible as possible.
- Those who missed the public forums are able to watch all three via links we post on our website.
- After nearly two years of work and with input from hundreds of community members, Manchester Proud releases a draft of the plan and asks for community feedback. We include an accompanying form for community members to submit questions.
February -March 2020
- We host a public meeting with the Board of School Committee to answer their questions about the plan’s ideas.
- We collaborate with 2Revolutions, Reaching Higher NH, and the school district leadership to answer the dozen of questions received from the community. We post the answers on our website.
- On Feb. 20, 2020, Manchester Proud’s Champions Council and the CPG formally present the plan to the Board of School Committee. The board accepts the plan “with gratitude.” Manchester Proud’s 2+ year effort to foster community engagement with the schools is successful. Nearly 470 people pack Manchester’s Memorial High School’s auditorium for the presentation and erupt in cheer when the board votes.
- Manchester Proud immediately begins a new phase of work focused on seeing the plan implemented by the school district. Several members of the Champions Council and the Community Planning Group regroup to form a new Champions Council.
- Manchester Proud continues to publish and share monthly newsletters to remain transparent about its work.
- While the COVID-19 crisis and transition to remote learning prompts Manchester Proud to rethink its next steps, the crisis also presents opportunities for Manchester Proud to support the city’s students, schools, and families:
- Assisting the district’s effort to close the digital equity gap. The school district loans 3,700 Chromebooks and provides internet access to Manchester students who have neither and would otherwise be unable to participate in remote learning. Manchester Proud collaborates with National Collaborative for Digital Equity to pursue funding for digital devices for Manchester students.
- Removing barriers to learning. The Inclusivity and Equity Committee continues working with Manchester’s marginalized communities – New Americans, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students – to identify and address challenges to remote learning. The committee connects students and families with resources for food, childcare, educational support, and other basic needs.
- Manchester Proud joins a newly organized community partnership workgroup that meets by phone weekly to identify student needs and how stakeholders can work together without duplicating services and missing large groups of students. Strengthening the school-to-community partnership is a key component of the strategic plan.
- Manchester Proud collaborates with the school district to write and promote positive stories from the schools. Initial stories focus on the district’s efforts to keep students fed and maintaining a connection to students during remote learning. March 2020
- The new Champion Council will continue to meet monthly to identify opportunities to support our students, schools, educators, and the implementation of the plan.
- We introduce our new Champions Council and its officers. The new Council members are past members of the original Champions Council and the Community Planning Group.
- The Board of School Committee votes unanimously to approve a new teachers contract. Teachers have been working without a contract since 2018. Manchester Proud is fortunate to have several teachers on our Champions Council.
- We share a “remote learning” success story in a Manchester Ink Link article as part of a new communications partnership with the district.
- Manchester Proud receives the 2020 Champion Award from the New England Secondary School Consortium for our emphasis on community engagement with our schools.
- We support Superintendent Dr. John Goldhard’s call for equity in education in his statement on the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis.
- Manchester Proud Coordinator Barry Brensinger shares the story and mission of Manchester Proud in a Tedx Talk. He emphasizes the importance of our public schools to our collective future.
- An anonymous donor supports a key piece of the Plan with a $120,000 grant. The money will allow Manchester Proud to support the creation of a robust and enduring School-Community Partnership Network. We will collaborate with the district and community to identify valuable resources in each of our schools as well as gaps of support. The initiative’s goal is ensuring equitable availability of resources across the district.
- Manchester Proud testifies before the state’s Commission to Study School Funding. Citing the community’s deep engagement with our schools, we ask the state to provide all schools reliable and equitable support.
How is this different than the Curriculum Audit in 2013? Or other 'strategic plans' that have been developed in the past?
Most strategic plans are created by small groups of technical experts. Typically there is relatively limited community engagement. Manchester Proud flipped the model and made community engagement the foundation for the plan. We believe that in order for a plan to succeed, it needed to reflect the priorities, concerns, and aspirations of the Manchester community as a whole.
We also recognized that there is a wealth of information out there, including the Curriculum Audit of 2013 and the Manchester’s Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy. We made the most of all such resources to build the Manchester Proud strategic plan.
Manchester Proud did not have a predetermined outcome for the plan, which was accepted by the Board of School Committee on Feb. 20, 2020. The strategic plan reflects what the people of Manchester said they hope to see in our schools, what they are concerned about, and what they believe will best position our students, families, and educators to thrive.
The strategic plan encompasses both important operational considerations – the nuts and bolts of effectively managing a large urban school district – and aspirational goals for the educational experiences Manchester will offer its students and families.
A strategic plan provides a clear way for Manchester to know whether it is setting up its students, families, and educators for success. It lays out a framework for deciding where Manchester will focus its time and resources to help maximize student learning. And the plan will provide clear benchmarks, goals, and systems to ensure that public funds are being used wisely, with transparency and accountability to the taxpayers.
Manchester Proud believes that a strong, community-driven strategic plan will lead to great outcomes for our community, while also making the best possible use of taxpayer dollars.
Manchester’s schools are a vital part of our city and they impact every single resident. Manchester Proud wants your input on the planning process as you will be a critical part of ensuring the plan is successful.
Your voice matters because:
- Manchester’s schools directly affect our city’s quality of life, our ability to attract and retain new businesses, and the strength of our neighborhoods.
- Decisions made about our schools can impact students and communities for a lifetime.
- Decisions should not be made in isolation, but instead, with input from all community members.
- The reputation of our city’s educational system impacts everyone who lives and works here.
We believe it is critical that Manchester Proud hear from all of our residents.
Every consulting partner that has or will be selected by Manchester Proud is chosen through a rigorous selection process, that includes multiple candidates. They are chosen to perform specific tasks, such as coordinate community engagement or perform an assessment of our District’s current operations. They are selected based on qualifications and commitment to upholding our Mission. They have no authority to direct our work or make any decisions on behalf of our community. And anyone among us, whether Council members or our volunteer Coordinator, who has any relationship with the proposed vendor, has been entirely recused from the selection process. Our high standards of ethics and propriety are never compromised.
In April 2018, Manchester Proud contracted with Reaching Higher NH to provide project management services and oversee the community engagement efforts.
Reaching Higher New Hampshire is a New Hampshire-based, nonpartisan 501c3, whose mission is to promote the success of our state’s public schools. RHNH has deep experience in facilitating workshops and town hall-type events, organizing community events to gather feedback around education issues. They assist Manchester Proud as project managers and community engagement coordinators.
In October 2018, Manchester Proud received the approval of the Board of School Committee to support the membership of Manchester School District in the Council of the Great City Schools. Manchester School District applied for membership and will hear back from the Council of the Great City Schools later in 2018.
The Council of the Great City Schools is a school district membership association consisting of the largest urban school district from each state and the largest urban school districts in the country overall. Its membership can be viewed here. The Council of the Great City Schools provides its members with expert technical advice and consultation on important operational issues involved in running large school systems. For example, each year it produces a comprehensive report analyzing performance among its member districts on metrics such as:
- Payroll staff – overtime hours per FTE
- Procurement costs per purchasing order
- Workers compensation per employee
- Cost per meal
- Custodial costs per square foot
- Utility costs per square foot
- Health/Safety violations per site
- Safety and security expenditures per 1,000 students
- Cost per mile operated (transportation)
- Bus usage – daily runs per bus
- Teacher retention
- Exit interview completion rate
- HR cost per district FTE
- IT spending per student
As the small sampling above shows, these metrics are critical towards maximizing the efficient use of taxpayer dollars irrespective of the educational strategies Manchester adopts. The Council of the Great City Schools focuses on these types of nuts-and-bolts considerations so that its members can improve their performance and deliver better outcomes per dollar of taxpayer support.
Manchester Proud anticipates bringing on additional partners to provide specific expertise. Manchester Proud wants to ensure the planning process involves national experts so that we can learn about best practices and ideas that have proven successful in other cities in comparable situations.
Manchester Proud will hold all partners accountable in order to ensure all efforts remain rooted in our community-centric vision for Manchester’s schools.
Manchester Proud has transparency embedded in all of its work. The work is done by members of the Manchester community, with Work Groups and hundreds of volunteers helping knock on doors, workshopping key issues, providing in-kind services, and gathering and analyzing data.
Manchester Proud publishes its events on its website, social media, and through a network of partners such as the Manchester School District, the Chamber of Commerce and Boys & Girls Club. We encourage members of the community to RSVP and attend events, volunteer, and otherwise get involved with the work directly.
Manchester Proud has raised all of its funds from the private sector within the community of Manchester. Donors include local businesses, foundations, and individuals.
Our funds are spent exclusively on the creation of a plan for the future of our public schools and related community engagement. All of Manchester Proud’s Champions are unpaid volunteers.
All of the funds Manchester Proud raises go directly to support the development of a community-driven strategic plan. Manchester Proud has no paid staff or overhead and many Manchester businesses have generously provided in-kind services to support Manchester Proud, so that we can focus our funds on the planning effort.
The funds go to support canvassing, town halls, listening sessions, and other critical aspects of community engagement. Manchester Proud has already held dozens of public events and these will grow to number in the hundreds over the next few months.
In the near future, Manchester Proud will dedicate the majority of its funds to bring in national experts to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the school district and to help craft the strategic plan.
No. Manchester Proud has no affiliations, political or otherwise. We believe in the strength of working together, equitably, inclusively, and collaboratively with all political parties and with all people.