Taking a hard look at Nashua schools

NASHUA – The board was littered with colorful notes.

“Who owns that?” asked school board member Scott Cote, pointing to a note detailing a perceived area of improvement.

He was working with a dozen other Board of Education members and top administrators in the Nashua School District, who gathered Saturday in a classroom overlooking the library at Nashua High School South to begin looking at the way the district does business.

The meeting comes after an independent report examined the school district earlier this year. While the report was generally positive, one of the findings noted how the nine-member Board of Education is overly involved in the district, at times overstepping its bounds as policy makers.

The SchoolMatch report counted 71 committee meetings in a six-month period last year. That total did not include full board meetings and it occurred during the summer, when the board’s schedule is usually lightest.

The three-hour meeting Saturday was the first of a pair of brainstorming sessions.

Board President Kim Shaw said once the board does its preliminary work, the process would be open for the wider community to review. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22.

On the classroom board, written on dozens of notes, were items considered done well and others that needed to be improved.

On the good side, nearly everyone agreed that a crisis brings out the best in the school system, from the Board of Education right through to the students. Others said the district is forward-looking, not reacting to events. And others saluted the value the community places on education. Teachers and staff workers are top-quality, others noted.

There also were some consistent themes among the notes touching on areas in need of improvement.

One was communication.

It wasn’t done well, according to Shaw. Superintendent Joseph Giuliano acknowledged that area is a weakness, as well. He said the district is looking at a communication audit to improve things.

Jack Kelley, a board member, said there needs to be a commitment to communicate to different segments of Nashua, from education leaders to aldermen to community members.

Another item that needed work was the level of trust between board members and administration.

Board member Edwina Kwan said it is almost as if a board member needs to ask the right question to get certain information from the administration.