Contracts, goals and special ed on tap at school board meeting

MANCHESTER - Monday night, after nearly an hour of executive session, the members of the Manchester School Board decided to extend the contract of Manchester Elementary and Middle School (MEMS) principal, Sarah Merrill, for two years. She will receive a three per-cent salary increase each year starting July 2013.

The extension came up in last month's meeting of the school board, but they had chosen to defer the action until they had received information on three related additional items. Those included a description of the currently-empty assistant principal position and a vision statement, both from Merrill, along with data concerning salaries of other Vermont school principals.

"When we're asked to make decisions...It is incumbent upon us to feel like we have enough information to make an informed decision," the school board's chairwoman, Katy McNabb, said. "Last month, we felt like we didn't have enough information, and now we feel like we do." The description of the assistant principal position focused on what Merrill considered to be five key areas of the position: management, staffing, programming, the students, and personal relations.

Spanning just about four pages, it lists the numerous duties and responsibilities of the position. Those include managing the state-licensed After School Program, supervising the department heads as well as the EST and 504 services, contributing to the annual report, and providing information to the community as needed.

McNabb said that she hoped the position will be filled by July. That will depend on when Merrill chooses a candidate and the board votes on their contract.

Merrill said that her overall goal was to get MEMS to embody academic, social and personal achievement. To accomplish this, she outlined plans to encourage "explicit goal setting," and "a meaningful disposition towards learning."

One main point that she included was the usage of e-portfolios, where students can keep all of their work online throughout their nine years at MEMS. "That's where we are really going to start to document student learning and student achievement," she said. "Students are going to start thinking about how are they meeting [the academic, social and personal] standards by documenting it in their e-portfolio."

The implementation of the portfolios have already started in some grades, but Merrill hopes to have it utilized in all grades soon.

Prior to addressing the extension of the contract, the board heard a presentation by resident Christina Rainville on Burr and Burton Academy's (BBA) Special Education Program and its funding, about which she had "grave concerns."

Rainville said she found what she believed to be figures that showed the academy receiving more revenue for their special education programs than their expenses. She urged changes be made to "remove the incentive to misuse money in the special education program."

Rainville had first raised her concerns with the school board during March Town Meeting.


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