Derry School Board Gets ‘Board of the Year’ Honor

They see the results of their labor every day, in the multiple classrooms and activities in Derry’s seven public schools. Now they’ve been recognized by their peers.

The Derry School Board has been named School Board of the Year by the New Hampshire School Boards Association (NHSBA). Representatives of the NHSBA came to the April 14 meeting to present the award and to talk about what Derry is doing well.

Ted Comstock, executive director of the NHSBA, said the board will receive the Excellence in Education or Ed-ie award.

Comstock sketched the process behind the award. “We solicit nominations in January and February,” he said. “These can be from principals, superintendents, community members. There is an application process. We review the applicants carefully – it’s highly competitive.” The Executive Committee then names the final honoree, he said.

Criteria for the award include things the board has done to serve and be a “role model” for other boards, Comstock said, noting, “We want to showcase all your good work.”

The designation carries some responsibility, he said, as the Board of the Year is invited to the Delegates’ Assembly the following January to present a workshop.

Donald Austin, first vice-president of NHSBA, said the School Administrative Unit (SAU) 10 board has “demonstrated unparalleled leadership.” In particular, he said, the board has kept its policies up to date; maintains a comprehensive curriculum and technology program; and instituted a public charter school to meet the needs of nontraditional students.

The men presented Chairman Dan McKenna with a plaque noting the designation.

In his acceptance speech, McKenna acknowledged that “Last year was one of the more ‘exciting’ years.

“Every board at some point makes a decision that’s controversial,” he continued. In Derry’s case, that was the vote last summer to relocate the Next Charter School.

“There was a lot of feedback regarding that decision and we listened,” McKenna said, adding that the public input resulted in a Next study committee and the ongoing Facilities Committee to study long-term needs.

“We try to listen to everyone in Derry,” McKenna said.

McKenna concluded, “I am proud of how the board handled those decisions.”

Member Brenda Willis observed, “It’s nice to be recognized for the work we do and the hard decisions we make.” Willis said the board’s main focus is always the children.

Jennifer Lague, a board member until this past March, was also in the audience and was acknowledged.

A formal recognition of the Derry board and other Ed-ie winners will be held Saturday, June 6.