Bonnie Breithaupt, director of LEEP (Londonderry Early Education Program) and the Moose Hill Kindergarten programs, chalked up Opening Day 2016 as successful. “We had only two children in tears, one in the morning and one in the afternoon session,” she told the Londonderry School Board.
Breithaupt and the administrators of the other five schools reported on Opening Day at the Aug. 30 School Board meeting. It was as smooth as it could be, the administrators said, with even the buses running on time. With enrollment up in most schools, they are keeping a close eye on class size while continuing to deliver the best education they can (see related story page 1).
Part of the reason for the lack of tears at Moose Hill, Breithaupt said, is an innovative program where parents ride the bus with their children for an abbreviated first day. “It helps both child and parent feel comfortable,” Breithaupt explained.
She and her staff welcomed 282 kindergarteners, 148 in the morning and 134 in the afternoon session, she said. She was expecting 110 for LEEP, the early education program mixing special needs and inclusion students, but warned that that number could change because LEEP has a rolling enrollment, with children eligible as soon as they turn 3.
The 18.5 and 19 students, respectively, are straining the recommended class sizes, according to Board Chair Nancy Hendricks, and she asked if Breithaupt had been in discussion with Superintendent Nate Greenberg. Breithaupt said she and Greenberg had communicated. Greenberg said, “We added half a teaching position. We are in good shape.”
Sharon Putney, principal of Matthew Thornton Elementary School, had a successful first-grade orientation the previous Friday, with the students wearing color-coordinated wristbands to show what class they belonged in.
“We had all hands on deck Monday at 8:30 (a.m.), and everybody was all smiles,” Putney reported.
Attendance is up at Matthew Thornton, with 541 enrolled as of Aug. 29. It’s the same number they had in 2015-16, she said, and more than the 501 that had been projected for this year. The average class size is 21.6, Putney said.
Putney said this year she will continue to focus on “POP culture,” Perseverance, Ownership and Practice. “We will stay the course while adjusting it for the skills each individual needs,” Putney said.
And while a couple of exhausted first-graders fell asleep over their lunches, one fifth- grader told her his first day was “amazing,” Putney said.
South Elementary School Principal Linda Boyd welcomed 444 students, 21 more than projected. That includes 40 new students, she said. She thanked the School Board for allowing her to add a fifth grade and to lower class sizes, and thanked the parents of incoming fifth-graders for their understanding at the change.
North Elementary School Principal Paul Dutton said he had a “great” opening with 465 students. A new student and first grade orientation the previous Friday helped relieve anxiety, Dutton said.
His professional staff went back to school themselves, learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED (automated External defibrillator) skills over the summer, he said.
Dutton said he is looking forward to building on the skills children acquired last year through the POP program.
Of his 465 charges, 29 percent are first-graders, Dutton said. On Opening Day, 22 of the 29 came in on the same bus. It was comical, he observed, to see all the little ones file out at the same time.
Londonderry Middle School Principal Richard Zacchilli thanked the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), which provided all staff with a “bag breakfast” the previous Friday, as they prepped for Monday.
LMS had a modified schedule for the first two days, Zacchilli said, while students worked on organizational procedures. “We want them to have positive relationships with all the adults in the building,” he said.
He welcomes 1,010 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Nine students on the rolls were absent, and he said staff would be checking to see if they got a late start, were in charter schools, or had moved.
A “perk” for some students was meeting U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, who stopped by the school to congratulate Ann Gaffney, winner of the Presidential Award for Math and Science Teaching, and who took a tour and spoke to two eighth-grade Social Studies classes, as previously reported in the Londonderry Times.
Zacchilli’s enrollment is up over the 997 he had last year. His class sizes hover around the 22 to 23 number, he said.
Zacchilli is proud of his almost-adults, noting that on the second day they had an evacuation drill. That went well, he said, with children and staff filing out to take their appointed places. “But six minutes after we were back inside, a fire alarm went off,” he said. The children were on their feet and filing out before teachers had a chance to tell them what to do, and they went quietly to their spots, Zacchilli said.
The fire alarm turned out to be one from the kitchen area that was inadvertently tripped, Zacchilli said.
Principal Jason Parent welcomed 1,533 students to Londonderry High School, he said. LHS saw a successful Freshman Orientation, where the ninth-graders were introduced to the Life of a Lancer program, in which they learn to make healthy choices and to follow the LHS code of conduct. On the other end of the spectrum, the Class of 2017 had their group photo taken on the athletic field, Parent said.
Summer interns from the LHS computer classes completed installing Windows 10 on 1,300 machines and “rolled it out,” Parent said. The school has improved WiFi access.
The first home football game, against Manchester Central High School, is Sept. 9 and 262 members of the marching band and color guard will present a medley of Billy Joel songs, Parent said.
Several of the principals used the term “learner” instead of “students,” and Hendricks asked Greenberg to comment on that. Greenberg said it’s part of the “growth mindset” promoted by POP and other programs.
“It struck me,” he said, “that we’re always talking about ‘lifelong learners.’ I looked up the words. ‘Student’ refers to ‘one who attends school.’” But “learner,” Greenberg said, means “one who learns.”
The word “learner” represents what LHS stands for, according to Greenberg. “We want our children to use prior knowledge for analysis, employ problem-solving and creativity, and use mistakes and failure as opportunities to learn,” he said. “The use of a word can help sustain an attitude or focus. “Words,” he said, “are powerful.”
Back to Work
The Lancer Spirit Squad was on the sidelines at the season-opening game for the Londonderry High School football team on Saturday in Goffstown. See game details and preview in the sports section, page 11. Pictured, Meghan Evangelista comes down from a basket toss.
Photo by Chris Paul