School Board Continues Process of Updating Policies

The Derry School Board held a first reading of three policies at its Nov. 12 meeting.
Superintendent Laura Nelson explained the policies, which will be voted on at the next School Board meeting. Other input came from members Dan McKenna and Neal Ochs, members of the Policy Committee.
Nelson said all the updated policies have been vetted not only through the Policy Committee, but through the New Hampshire School Boards Association.

The first policy discussed was Policy ABA, “Community Involvement in Decision Making.” It reads in part, “The School Board endorses the concept that community participation in the affairs of the schools is essential if the school system and the community are to maintain mutual confidence and respect and work together to improve the quality of education for students.”
It further states, “All citizens are encouraged to express ideas, concerns, and judgments about the schools to the school administration, the staff, to any appointed advisory board, and to the Board.”
It concludes, “The Board and the staff will give substantial weight to the advice they receive from individuals and community groups interested in the schools, especially those individuals and groups they have invited to advise them regarding specific problems, but will use their best judgment in arriving at decisions.”
McKenna said, “This policy affirms that we look to the community for getting feedback. We encourage them to express their ideas, to reach out to us.”
The second policy read, Policy ACE, is on “Procedural Safeguards: Non-discrimination on the Basis of Handicap/Disability.” The policy states that the district does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission or access to, or treatment of or employment in, its programs and activities.
The policy states that the district provides a grievance procedure “with appropriate due process rights.” A designated employee will be charged with coordinating efforts to comply with Section 504. The policy provides that parents/guardians of a student with a disability, or any disabled individual, may contact the designated employee with their complaint; that the employee will provide a written response within 10 days; that the parties will attempt to work out their differences; and that a written record of the complaint resolution will be made within 10 days, with both parties receiving a copy and the Superintendent keeping a copy on file. If the issue is not resolved, the complainant may request a hearing with the School Board.
Nelson said in addition to the Policy Committee and the School Boards Association, this update went through two more layers of review, by the Special Education Department and its director, Chris Kellan.
“This one needed to be changed, to bring us up to date with federal law,” McKenna said.
The third policy read, Policy AD, concerns the district’s “Educational Philosophy.” It hasn’t changed all that much, McKenna said, adding, “We took out the mission statement and incorporated it into the philosophy to reflect where we are now.”
The policy states that the board believes “education should be shaped by purposes rather than forces.” It further states that the educational system of the district, “while maintaining flexibility in adapting to an ever-changing society, will be dedicated to the total personal development of each student to the limits of his or her abilities and interests in a sequentially coordinated curriculum which allows for individual differences.”
The policy reads that the board believes “The ultimate goal of an education in district schools should be to prepare the student for a world of rapid change and unforeseeable demands.” To this end, it reads, “The Derry Cooperative School District’s mission for school-age children is to create a safe and successful learning environment for all students, one that fosters challenging situations, promotes self-worth, encourages learning as a lifelong activity, and produces healthy young adults who will contribute to society.”
The policy updates have been going on for several years, Nelson said, and are expected to take two more years. “We have a 3- to 4-inch thick binder,” she said. Some of the policies have not been updated since the 1990s, or even the ‘80s, and she said one of the needs is updating language.
“Dan and Neal and I chuckle at some of the verbiage,” she said.
The goal, Nelson said, is to keep the policies current and update them on an ongoing basis.