Category Archives: Superintendent
As you likely know, we’ve had an unusually high number of school closings this winter due to weather and road conditions here in Pittsfield. (I’m hoping that we’ve seen the last of snow for a long while!) In fact, we closed school for seven days this winter. These closings would delay the final day of school until the last week in June: Monday, June 26.
Because of this lateness, our Pittsfield School Board has shortened the school year. The last day of school for the 2016-2017 school year will be Tuesday, June 20, which will be a half day for students. The last day for preschool students will be Thursday, June 15.
Our School Board is authorized to shorten the school year through a count of hours of instruction required by the New Hampshire Department of Education rules. Although our school year will fall four days short of the traditional count of days, our hours of instruction easily exceed the state’s requirements. Our Department of Education allows school districts to choose either the count of days or the count of hours in determining the official school year.
Parents, guardians, and family members may be interested to know that special events during our final week are now scheduled as follows:
- High school baccalaureate: Thursday, June 15
- High school awards ceremony: Friday, June 16
- High school graduation ceremony: Saturday, June 17
- Eighth grade promotion ceremony: Monday, June 19
Our school calendar for our 2017-2018 school year has also been approved by our School Board. You’ll see that our first day of school for students is scheduled for Tuesday, August 29. In the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for fewer school closings next school year.
This year’s Pittsfield Budget Committee hearing on the school district and town budgets will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8 (snow date: February 9), in the PMHS lecture hall, and Pittsfield’s annual School District Meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, in the PES gym. As always, all Pittsfield voters are strongly encouraged to participate in these meetings, which will determine the budget for the district’s schools for the 2017-2018 school year. This budget will provide the basis for the school portion of Pittsfield’s tax rate.
As many residents know, the Pittsfield Schools have been engaged in very important work to personalize learning for all our students. This transformation is based on new knowledge about how people learn as well as changing workplace demands for our graduates. Importantly, these changes also respond to the community’s demand for stronger outcomes for Pittsfield’s youth.
Thanks to the hard work of students, school staff, and community members, Pittsfield’s schools have emerged as models of personalizing instruction in recent years. Visitors from across the nation – approximately twenty groups or teams have visited the schools per year over the past five years – to learn from us better ways to help children learn. While most of these visitors have learned from PMHS, we’re very pleased that we are now also hosting visitors to PES.
While we don’t believe that we have finished our schools’ transition, we are heartened to see the data that indicate improvement across a range of indicators. For example, in 2012, 66% of our graduates were accepted by post-secondary educational institutions; in 2016, 83% of our graduates were accepted. In 2013, the average per student scholarship award for our graduates from all sources amounted to $8675, while in 2016, that average had jumped to $14,514 per student.
Understanding The Impact In Pittsfield
Since August, the Pittsfield School District School Board, administration, and faculty have been preparing the district’s 2017-2018 proposed budget for presentation to the voters of the district in March 2017. While the balance between the district’s tax rate and the obligation to provide an education to the children and youth of Pittsfield creates an annual tension, this year’s budget development is presenting a greater challenge than usual. This has occurred for several reasons, and this article is the first of several that will review this process and challenges for Pittsfield voters.
A critical aspect of budget planning is consideration of revenue sources to support the schools. Schools in New Hampshire are funded from two main sources: (1) the state, through its “adequacy grant” and (2) the local school district, through an annual district assessment. This school year – 2016-2017 – the state is estimated to contribute $4,256,824.22 to the operation of Pittsfield’s schools, while local Pittsfield taxpayers are estimated to contribute $3,908,583.00. Lesser amounts of funding are available from other sources, including federal and competitive grants.
The state’s contribution has been the subject of much discussion and several lawsuits claiming that the education of children and youth is a state responsibility; this issue has been raised in many states over the past fifty years. The most famous of these lawsuits in New Hampshire is known as the “Claremont Decision” and centered on the argument of five towns – including Pittsfield – that the state’s system of funding was unconstitutional, disadvantaging children and youth property-poor towns.
The second annual White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools took place on Monday, September 12, in Washington, D.C. About two hundred district and state education leaders from across the United States, along with leaders from other government agencies, foundations, and research entities participated in the one-day event.
The Summit was designed to be a part of a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve all students and to catalyze new thinking on the challenges and opportunities for … making progress, especially at the state and district level. New Hampshire was represented by seven educational leaders; I was honored to be invited and participate in the Summit.
In addition to remarks and statements by leaders from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Science Foundation and others, our U.S. Secretary of Education John King also spoke to the group. Dr. King advocated for a “leadership environment that supports innovation” while he celebrated progress made that has resulted in the highest high school graduation rate in our nation’s history.
Dr. King encouraged participants to continue to “rethink high schools” to better prepare students for success in life, to help students find their passions, to support students in developing strong relationships with adults, and to engage young people in creating a “vision of their future” by rethinking “what students experience in their classrooms,” developing critical new skills – both academic and non-academic, and expanding “opportunities for kids.”
At the 2015 Spirit of New Hampshire Awards event held on November 10 at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, Clayton Wood was recognized for his long-time volunteer service to the Pittsfield School District. Clayton has volunteered with the district since 2008 and continues to provide his important voluntary service to the district.
Clayton was nominated for recognition by the district for his support of technology in the district, specifically for his work to develop and maintain the district and school websites, as well as provide ongoing training and support of district personnel in their use of the district and school websites.
Beginning in 2008, Clayton completely redesigned the district and school websites to ensure greater public access to district and school information. Since then, Clayton has worked with the district’s technology team to continually update and upgrade the websites in the interest of good communications within the Pittsfield community.
Over this span of more than seven years of service, Clayton has also trained and supported district personnel to allow for independent management of the websites. While doing so, Clayton has remained readily available and has been extremely responsive for trouble-shooting and consultations.
The district has enjoyed the benefits of Clayton’s expertise and generosity with his time and knowledge. He has saved the district money while providing the community with an effective medium for communication; his work is much appreciated and most worthy of this public recognition.
Volunteer New Hampshire, sponsor of the annual Spirit of New Hampshire Awards program, is a non-profit organization with the mission to promote the tradition of service in New Hampshire.
It is sometimes said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then the Pittsfield NH School District has much to feel flattered by in recent months. Since the beginning of the school year, the District has been host to visitors from across the country, all of them eager to know more about Pittsfield’s work.
According to Tobi Chassie, Project Manager for the Pittsfield Redesign, the phone calls started coming in before Thanksgiving. The first inquiry came from a group of schools in northern Vermont exploring student ownership of learning, one of the hallmarks of the District’s change work.
The next callers were other Nellie-Mae funded districts in northern New England. In early November, the Pittsfield team had presented to its New England colleagues at the Nellie Mae Cross-Site Learning Summit. The focus was the District’s work in the area of “position analysis,” a methodical and collaborative process for defining the role of each staff position in the organization. The work is based on research from the field of organizational development revealing that position clarity is the number one predictor of job satisfaction and productivity.
Four school districts—Portland and Sanford in Maine, and Burlington and Winooski in Vermont—inquired about coming to see a position analysis session in real-time. Their wish was granted. “We were glad to have them join us,” said Chassie. “They provided us with great food for thought.”
In January 2014, Governor Maggie Hassan visited Pittsfield, just in time to include PMHS in her State of the State as a school that is “innovating and working to find better ways to educate our children.”
I thought you would be interested in the complimentary comments that Governor Hassan made about our Pittsfield schools in her state-of-the-state address delivered at the State House in Concord on Thursday, February 6, which are excerpted from her speech below. Thank you for your ongoing support of our students and school.
John J. Freeman, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
… New Hampshire’s public schools are often ranked among the nation’s best in graduation rates, in reading pro-ficiency and in math proficiency. And many of our schools are innovating and working to find better ways to edu-cate our students. Pittsfield Middle High School, for example, has brought businesses, parents and the entire community together to develop a student-centered learning program. Educators are working collaboratively with students to identify what they need to learn and what they are having trouble learning. Then together they build plans, including opportunities outside the classroom, that help each student thrive. Pittsfield students are seeing the results in their test scores, with the number of 11th-graders testing proficient in math nearly doubling since the program began. Pittsfield is seeing improvements because they were willing to look at education differently. And that is what we need to do across our state. We may be doing better than most states, but we have heard from our businesses that we still have work to do to ensure that we have a workforce that can compete in the future. That is why, across New Hampshire, local school districts are pursuing college- and career-readiness standards that include the Common Core, an effort that has the support of educators and businesses, of Republicans and Democrats. States came together to develop these robust standards in order to provide a consistent, clear under-standing of what students are expected to learn, so that they can develop the skills they need and the ability to think critically – helping our young people succeed in their careers, in higher education and in life. Local school districts continue to have the flexibility to determine whether and how to implement these standards — and they should be implemented. For our students to succeed, we must work together to ensure that communities are able to implement college- and career-readiness standards effectively, through collaboration with parents, students and educators. These standards are an important step forward, but we must build upon them and make sure that students have access to a strong curriculum in a full range of subjects, from English – to math – to the arts. And to help young people fill the jobs that growing businesses are creating here in New Hampshire, we need to come together as a state to ask tough questions about how we can best educate our young people, especially in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Is it acceptable in today’s economy to only require two years of math from our high school students? Should we be requiring computer science as well as biology? How can we better integrate engineering and technology into our classrooms? For New Hampshire to lead the way in building a workforce that is prepared for the high-tech jobs of today and tomorrow, our schools need to provide an even more rigorous STEM education that our businesses believe in, our educators believe in, and our students and families believe in. That is why I will be creating a STEM Education Task Force made up of diverse stake-holders who will make recommendations for modernizing STEM education in our schools. Strengthening educa-tion in the STEM fields is just one part of the equation. New Hampshire’s high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies are struggling to fill job openings, even for jobs with wages over 25 percent higher than average. We need to reach our students at a young age and help them understand that they can stay in New Hampshire, find jobs here that are interesting and exciting, and build careers that will allow them to support their families and climb the ladder of opportunity…