By: Barry Brensinger, Manchester Proud Coordinator 

ONWARD! has become Manchester Proud’s call to action. The essentiality of our purpose and the growing groundswell of community support for our students and schools compel us to move forward. On December 2nd, with these inspirations in mind, our Champion’s Council met to begin the planning of Manchester Proud’s next initiatives.

The Council’s retreat opened with a reaffirmation of mission: “Manchester Proud is a community movement to engage everyone in Manchester in the making of exceptional public schools.”  All agreed that our public schools are the obvious and most opportune place to make change and build the best future for all of us – and that our dreams can and will be realized by the collective guidance and actions of citizens across the city.  Everyone who shares Manchester Proud’s vision of great public schools and our values of integrity, honesty, inclusion, equity, and excellence is encouraged to join in!

To prepare the Council for breakout group explorations of potential next initiatives, Superintendent Dr. Goldhardt and his team presented status reports on the state of the District’s strategic plan and emerging challenges and opportunities.  Progress on the implementation of “Our Community’s Plan for Manchester’s Future of Learning: Excellence and Equity for ALL Learners” is clear cause for celebration!  As noted by Assistant Superintendent, Amy Allen, “It was a joy to prepare the presentation because there is so much to celebrate – the progress of the past two years is extraordinary!” Consider just a few highlights – the tip of the iceberg:

  • District-wide adoption of Project Based Learning – a proven step toward student-centered, student-driven learning
  • Progress toward elimination of “Leveling”, beginning with middle schools and moving to high schools – enabling greater access and learning opportunities for all students
  • Launching of college and career readiness plan and programs
  • Adoption of the first comprehensive K-8 reading program in 15 years!
  • Creation of Professional Development Coordinator position, addition of three additional PD days, and five days of district-wide Kagan training for more effective instruction
  • Adding student voices to our Board of School Committee
  • Advancement of our Equity Imperative by assessing MSD infrastructure and systems through an equity lens, diversifying our teacher workforce, and empowering all students through academic, cultural, and leadership experiences

Next, the Council had an opportunity to imagine possibilities for Manchester Proud to further partner with the District in the years just ahead.  It was insightfully noted that the distinguishing attribute of Manchester Proud is its capacity to enable our District and community to focus on long term, most impactful, and lasting change – big picture work that is so important and might otherwise be deferred in the face of daily challenges.

Along with other observations of the Council, three directional initiatives were explored:

  • Next Tier of Plan Implementation – How best might Manchester Proud partner with the District to continue the realization of the goals of the strategic plan?
  • Develop Strategic Community Partnerships – Led by Aimee Kereage, Manchester Proud’s Community Partnership Coordinator, our Partnership Network Work Group will renew its work in 2022 to build school-community partnerships. What creative approaches might we take to optimize the alignment of community resources with the needs of our students, families, and schools?
  • Build a Robust Community Engagement Network – In spite of sincere efforts, we have not yet succeeded in engaging many in our community in this essential work. Cultural, language, and economic barriers prove difficult to overcome – not to mention the divisive nature of COVID. Should Manchester Proud take on a “Moon Shot” mission to build the first, authentic, city-wide network of engaged students and families?

Obviously, much good work lies ahead and the Council’s January meeting will begin the process of distilling options and establishing priorities.  Toward that end, your thoughts are most welcome.  Please share them with us at anytime through  Together, we will continue to step closer to our vision of exceptional public schools.