Resident Returns to Upcoming Results of School Space Needs Study

At the Oct. 28 School Board meeting, members of the Board and administration had firm words for community members concerned about the upcoming Space Needs study.

The district commissioned a Facilities Study earlier this year to determine which schools are crowded, which are under capacity, and where to put the many district programs and its tenant, the Next Charter School. In her Superintendent’s Report Laura Nelson told the board and television audience that the report is expected to be completed on time, at the end of October.

Community members concerned about the move of Next to West Running Brook Middle School and the reassignment of the DEEP – Derry Early Education Program – preschool to Next’s earlier quarters at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School prior to the start of this school year continued to press for an answer as to whether and when Next would be moved again and when the results of the study would be released.

Community member Glen Potvin took the microphone in the Delegations and Individuals portion of the meeting to say he was glad the study was completed on time. “How will it be ‘rolled out’ publicly?” he asked.

Chairman Neal Ochs said, “You ask the same question every meeting and I give you the same answer. We need to read the report and digest it before we move forward.”

 Potvin responded, “I have been in senior management, and I know you don’t have to ‘read and digest’ a report in order to take action.”

Potvin has been critical of the Next move and said, “If I had been one of you, given the level of community concern and involvement, that decision would have given me pause.”

Potvin added, “Has there been any effort to speak with the stakeholders?”

Nelson said she receives regular updates from Leslie Saucier, principal of West Running Brook, and Next co-directors Joe Crawford and Justin Krieger. “At this point things are moving ahead educationally just as we expected them to,” Nelson said.

“I understand you have regular channels of communication,” Potvin responded. “But one-down communication isn’t that effective.”

Saucier, Crawford and Krieger would be positive because “their jobs are at risk,” Potvin said.

Potvin suggested an anonymous survey using Survey Monkey or another software program.

Nelson said, “We sit here week after week and discuss this. This study is a research-based project. After it’s completed and given to us, the board will move forward. Involving the community will be part of the process as we move forward.”

Ochs said that Next will stay in West Running Brook for this school year. “We will digest the report and talk about what to do,” he said. He added that continuing to discuss the matter was “regurgitating” at this point, and did not further the process.

“Everybody makes a bad decision once in a while,” Potvin countered. “The difference is, you don’t seem to be interested in reversing your bad decision.”

“If the program is working, why move it?” Ochs said. “I haven’t heard any feedback that it isn’t.”

Member Ken Linehan said while the board hasn’t done any formal survey of the Next or West Running Brook families, he’s talked to several people around town. “We have not made a formal request for feedback. Obviously you seem disappointed by that,” he told Potvin.

Parent Karen Blandford-Anderson also spoke, saying that many parents are concerned and interested in seeing the results of the study.