Last month was an exciting time for Manchester Proud! We spent most of the month (and considerable time before) preparing for  the State of the Manchester School District Community Forum and CelebratED 2023 Festival! Both of these events highlight the amazing things that are happening in Manchester’s public schools!

The second annual State of the Manchester School District 2023-2024 was on held September 21, 2023 at the REX Theatre. Produced in partnership by Manchester Proud, the District and Greater Manchester Chamber, the event was an evening where local business and community leaders  gathered with Manchester School District officials for an update on the District’s progress to-date and goals for the new school year. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jennifer Chmiel Gillis and her team impressed us all with their professionalism and passion for the success of Manchester’s students.

Here’s a sampling of some of the updates provided during State of the Manchester School District: 

  • The District’s communications with students, parents, staff and community will be enhanced by its new website and logo. Participating in school is the first step toward learning. A new “Show Up Manchester” program has been launched to boost attendance.
  • Our Bakersville Elementary School will become the first dual language immersion school in New Hampshire!
  • Student outcomes have improved, in part due to more standardization in curricula between schools. 

After hearing from the District’s Leadership Team, Dr. Gillis took questions from the audience as well as individuals online. There were over 30 questions submitted, which shows  passion and care for the success of our students and schools! Mayor Joyce Craig closed the program with remarks on how critical the success of our public schools is the future of all of Manchester. 

Riding the success and joy felt from the second annual State of the Manchester School District , CelebratED took place that very weekend. On September 23, 2023, Veteran’s Park was transformed into a festival to celebrate our public schools! This year our celebration of Manchester’s schools and community drew the biggest crowd to-date and filled Veteran’s Park with joyful students and families. (Since the event was open to the public, which came and went throughout the day, it is difficult to determine total attendance. However, a rough count indicated 5,000 attendees in the park at mid-day!)

The day began with welcoming remarks by our Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, and Manchester Proud’s Council Chair. Next came the induction of this year’s new City Year Corps Members, followed by non-stop entertainment and school celebrations from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Our Planning Team’s decision to include more student performances and fewer professional entertainers was another big step forward and attracted many enthusiastic students and parents.

Everyone in the park enjoyed options for multi-cultural food, free age-appropriate books for all students, and countless activities for kids of all ages.

Here’s a sampling of the festival’s success stories:

  • For the first time, all 21 Manchester public schools participated in the event, many with thoughtfully planned and rehearsed performances.
  • This year we added the “Music Café”, an off main stage venue for our high school and middle school students to provide solo performances.
  • Also new this year was the “Art Gallery in The Park”, an enclosed area with portal entrance to provide a more statured setting for displaying student art.  There were 200 linear feet of fence space covered on both sides with wonderful artwork!
  • Last year we were thrilled to report that 31 community organizations joined our event with booths and activities.  Remarkably, this year we had nearly 50!  This strong showing, in spite of questionable weather, is a clear indication that CelebratED is becoming a must-attend annual event.
  • Our “Game Changer” awards were added to the presentations, honoring 110 students, teachers, and staff from all 21 schools, who were chosen by their principals for going above and beyond to make their schools great.  This is the ultimate spirit of CelebratED!
  • We celebrated science education with a robotics competition and Manchester School of Technology’s student-built an airplane.
  • Manchester Police, Fire, and Health Departments all joined-in with horses, ponies, fire trucks and a dental care van.
  • 895 elementary school students participated in our “We Show Up” contest, won by the Smyth Road School. Smyth Road School will enjoy a party sponsored by SEE Science Center and the Puritan Backroom! 
  • 847 students left with books, book markers, and a boost to their interest in reading.

Once again, we fed thousands – all free!  We expanded our multi-cultured menu this year to include:  Greek pizza, Caribbean, Thai, and Mediterranean food, plus Kona Ice for all kids.

All of this was made possible by 23 business partners and our CEAG (City of Manchester Community Event & Activation Grant) funding (please see those partners in our Sponsor Highlight section of the newsletter) which enabled us to make the event free to all kids and families. Eliminating cost, communicating in multiple languages, providing an ASL interpreter for all on-stage performances, and offering free transportation are all part of our commitment to making CelebratED accessible to everyone in Manchester.

 Onward to planning State of Manchester School District 2024-2025 and CelebratED 2024!