MANCHESTER, N.H. – Members of the Board of School Committee (BOSC) praised two student representatives from Central High School on Monday for what they saw as insightful and nuanced communication on behalf of themselves and their fellow classmates.
Over approximately 45 minutes, Kellan Barbee and Lilly Tague-Bleau provided feedback and asked for guidance on three separate topics they believe are impacting their fellow Central students.
The first topic centered around modifying the schedule for mid-term and final exams, specifically extending the time frame for those exams from three days to four days to allow no more than two exams per day.
Barbee told the BOSC that several comparable school districts across New Hampshire had four-day schedules, with Hanover having five and Keene not having any days at all.
Tague-Bleau told the BOSC that the current schedule not only induced stress among students, but also encouraged poor study habits that could impact students down the road in life.
“Cramming is not learning, cramming is shoving information into your brain and letting it leave,” she said.
Superintendent John Goldhardt told the board that a full look at the process was warranted and that competency-based assessment could replace mid-term and final exams at some point in the future.
Currently, Manchester School of Technology has competency-based assessments according to Ward 3 BOSC Member Karen Soule.
The two students also asked the BOSC on how to proceed in regard to political activism off-campus during school hours.
Tague-Bleau noted that several teachers encouraged their students to become civically engaged, but felt that counting students leaving school as unexcused absences when they leave for political rallies such as a recent day of action on climate change, sent a mixed message. She added that one student was suspended in connection with a recent situation related to leaving campus during the day for political reasons.
Barbee agreed that civic engagement is important for students and quoted Martin Luther King in saying that “the creation of tension is part of the work of the non-violent resister,” but also noted that it was inappropriate for the school itself to actively support or oppose any political views, which could impact their perspective on this issue.
Members of the board appreciated the students’ comments on this matter, but only supported the idea of civic engagement by students when it did not interfere with the learning process or would not put students in danger.
Goldhardt reiterated that the Manchester School District is apolitical, but could excuse students for political activities off-campus if a parent or guardian arrived at the school and escorted them off-campus. Otherwise, Goldhardt voiced concerns about student safety regarding students leaving campus without alerting school officials, and that without parent intervention they would be considered truant.
The final question came from Tague-Bleau, who asked for guidance for student-athletes coming back from road games late at night, only to return to school early the next morning.
Ward 2 BOSC Member Kathleen Kelley-Arnold told the students that her experience as a student-athlete in situations they described helped her build time management skills that became useful later in life.
Ward 9 BOSC Member Arthur Beaudry hoped the two students could reach out even further to their colleagues for additional feedback in future meetings, and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig was impressed that the two students did not have perfectly aligned viewpoints, allowing them to provide what appeared to be a broad cross-section of the student body’s opinion on these topics.