It is often said that change is not easy. Genuine, enduring change, change that is inspired and advanced by an entire community, is even harder. Manchester Proud has recognized this since its founding. We also believe that to succeed, the process of change must be authentic – it needs to welcome and thoughtfully consider all voices and opinions – even those opposed to our very purpose and principles.
The Mission of Manchester Proud is simple and clear. There is no subtext or hidden meaning. We are engaging our entire community in a process to develop a new aspirational and achievable strategic plan for the Manchester School District – one that is created by and for the people of Manchester. We aim to enable every single one of the thousands of wonderful children in our community to discover the joy of learning, choose their life’s course with passion, and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive contributors to Manchester’s future.
Our core principles require that we remain inclusive, non-partisan, objective, and respectful. We live by these principles every day. In fact, we have stipulated as an operating norm that politics and personal agenda cannot be brought to any of our discussions. Of course, our founders and supporters cover the full spectrum of points-of-view, from liberal to conservative. Among them are educators and business leaders, who fully appreciate the essential role that all of our schools play in the current and future vitality of our community.
What all Manchester Proud supporters share in common is the determination to work together cooperatively to support and improve our public schools. We have come together because we recognize that challenges exist. We choose to set aside our differences, to deny divisiveness, and instead focus on the issues and opportunities facing our schools – ones we believe can only be met by the collective will of our community.
Now, there are a few, who speculate that the composition of our Council’s membership and/or our choice of consulting partners will inevitably lead to Manchester Proud promoting a plan of our own liking, our own agenda. However, this speculation is being put forth by those who have chosen not to engage in our work, to attend our events, to experience first-hand the sincerity and integrity of our work.
So, let us clarify a few points:
- Every consulting partner that has or will be selected by Manchester Proud is chosen through a rigorous selection process, including multiple candidates. They are chosen to perform specific tasks, such as coordinate community engagement or perform an assessment of our District’s current operations. They are selected based on qualifications and commitment to our Mission. They have no authority to direct our work or make any decisions on behalf of our community. And anyone among us, whether Council members or our volunteer Coordinator,
who has any relationship with any proposed vendor, has been entirely recused from the selection process. Our high standards of ethics and propriety are never compromised.
- To ensure that our work is broadly representative, we have held town hall meetings, received more than 660 responses to our online surveys, and canvassed nearly 2,000 homes. We are also in the process of scheduling nearly 100 listening sessions with teachers, school staff, students, and parents – including parents who have chosen to opt out of our public schools. We want to address their concerns and bring them
- Never, during our now hundreds of meetings, has Manchester Proud mentioned or discussed educational policies and we offer no related opinions. Our current work is all about gathering information from and with our community in order to guide the actual planning
- Manchester Proud’s goals and purpose have intentionally been highly public. Our work and
decision-making processes are firmly rooted in our community.
- Our work is shared publicly for all to see. Our interim and final reports will be posted and shared with the Board of School Committee, as was our RFP for consulting services.
- Most importantly, we are well aware that Manchester Proud has no authority to implement anything we propose. That responsibility lies solely with the Board of School Committee. Respecting their authority is precisely why we keep them informed of our progress and encourage their participation in our work. We intend to craft a final plan by and for Manchester; a plan that is broadly supported by our community – including by our City’s elected
The opening of Manchester Proud’s very first public statement, an op-ed that was published locally in May, began by saying that our “City is at a vital crossroads”. Our reference then was to the need to value and support our public schools. Perhaps we now stand at another crossroads. We must choose between working together respectfully to objectively and constructively address the challenges we face
– or being distracted and divided and missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move forward together as a community.
This time, let’s rise above the negativity that has held us down for years. Let’s listen to each other, let’s
learn together, and move forward to realize our greatest potential – for our kids, for all of us.
Together, let’s be Manchester Proud!