Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2019-08-02T13:30:55-05:00

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 outreach@manchesterproud.org!

Our goal is to engage our entire community in a process to develop a new aspirational and achievable strategic plan for the Manchester School District– one that is created by and for the people of Manchester. The Manchester Proud process to build a strategic plan looks 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 is starting with the community: we’re hearing directly from residents, staff members, families, students, and business leaders first before creating the strategic plan. We aim for this initiative to invigorate our community’s connection to our schools.

Here is what we have done to date:

  • We held two town halls that were open to all who live and work in Manchester.
  • We have visited almost 2000 residences, covering all 12 wards of the city. We have had hundreds of one-on-one conversations with families who send their children to Manchester Public Schools and those who have chosen to send their children outside the district for various reasons. We have spoken with residents who do not have children, and those that no longer have children in the home. We have connected with folks who work here, and those who are retired. Canvass dates and locations have been posted on our website and shared through our social media channels. All folks are welcome and strongly encouraged to participate!
  • We have a community survey to hear from people who have not been available for other in-person opportunities, or from people who wanted more time to consider how they are feeling about Manchester and its schools. To date, 660 people have shared their experiences, needs, and hopes for Manchester and its schools through this survey. We are eager to hear from even more voices. The survey is also available in Spanish and Arabic, and will be available in other languages soon. The survey will be open until the end of January.
  • Over the next three months, we will hold over 100 listening sessions for families, students, educators, staff, those who work and live in Manchester. Among those sessions will be conversations with families who have chosen to educate their students outside of Manchester Public Schools.

We will also be hosting community listening sessions to ensure that all experiences, needs and wants are heard as part of this process. The schedule for these sessions will be posted in mid- to late-November, with information on how to participate.

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.

Late 2017

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. 

March 2018

  • 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.  

May 2018

  • 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.”

June 2018 

  • 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.

August 2018

  • 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.

September 2018 

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.

October 2018

  • 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.”

November 2018

  • 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.

December 2018

  • 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.

January 2019 

  • 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.

February 2019

  • 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.

March 2019 

  • 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.

April 2019

  • 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. 

May 2019

  • 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.

June 2019:

  • 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. 

July 2019

  • 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.

Looking ahead

August 2019 – October 2019

  • The Inclusivity and Equity Committee will assemble a group of Manchester residents who represent the full range of diversity in the city, including cultural, ethnic, linguistic, religious, ability/disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and other types of diversity.
  • We will meet with school leaders, including the Board of School Committee, school administrators, and teachers to share our work and get their thoughts on a plan for our future schools. 
  • The Community Planning Group will continue drafting and finalizing a plan that incorporates community input. 

November 2019 to December 2019

  • Community Planning Group members will continue their work on the creation of a plan for the future of our schools.  Elements of the emerging plan will be shared with the community for feedback. 
  • The initial draft of the plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of December, 2019.

January 2019 to March 2019

  • Manchester Proud, including its Council, Community Planning Group, and many supporters, will begin the new year with a comprehensive program to share the story of the new plan with the community, seeking further guidance and validation.
  • Manchester Proud will present a final plan to the Board of School Committee.

Most strategic plans are created by small groups of technical experts. Typically there is relatively limited community engagement. Manchester Proud is flipping the model and making community engagement as the foundation for the plan. We believe that in order for a plan to succeed, it needs to reflect the priorities, concerns, and aspirations of the Manchester community as a whole.

We also recognize that there is a wealth of information out there, including the Curriculum Audit of 2013 and the Manchester’s Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy, and we will make the most of all such resources as we build the Manchester Proud strategic plan.

Manchester Proud does not have a predetermined outcome for the plan. The strategic plan will reflect what the people of Manchester say they hope to see in our schools, what they are concerned about, and what will best position our students, families, and educators to thrive – as decided by folks across our community.

The strategic plan will encompass 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. Manchester Proud will begin building the strategic plan after it has completed the Discovery Phase of our community engagement process. And as Manchester Proud builds the plan it will continue to directly involve the community in order to ensure the final product is truly by and for the people of Manchester.

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.

No. And here’s why: we haven’t finished our community engagement Discovery phase yet – we are still at the beginning of hearing from the community. Until this process is complete, and until we have a rich and diverse representation of the Manchester community, we will not build or advocate for any “next steps” or recommendations. This is an intentional part of our process. If we were advocating for a specific approach, we would not be true to our mission to use the voices and perspectives of the community to shape the strategic plan.

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.