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My Turn: Ardinger didn’t oppose full-day kindergarten

I would like to clarify an issue concerning Kass Ardinger’s support for full-day kindergarten.

I am compelled to write to correct misstatements made by Dan Feltes, Ardinger’s opponent in the state Senate primary race in District 15, who said Ardinger voted against full-day kindergarten.

As a member of the Concord School Board alongside Kass, I was involved in the discussions concerning how the space in the new schools should be structured to best achieve multiple educational priorities, all in the face of uncertain projections concerning future enrollments.

These priorities included lowering class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and providing sufficient space to allow future boards the flexibility of making decisions concerning programming changes such as full-day kindergarten.

During this process of weighing priorities, the board carefully considered national studies that showed, among other things, that lowering class sizes in the early grades of kindergarten through third grades had marked long-term positive impacts on children’s learning, especially for those in lower socioeconomic groups who are at high risk of failure in school.

The board’s decision to build a certain amount of classroom space dedicated to kindergarten was predicated upon several factors: 1) that we were going to get a “bigger bang for our buck” by committing to lowering class sizes in our K-3 grades; 2) that continued decline in enrollments meant there was some uncertainty about the amount of kindergarten classroom space that should be built while still allowing future boards the flexibility to make program changes; 3) that we would keep at least one of the old schools in the district’s inventory in the event we would, in the future, adopt full-day kindergarten and need the space; and, most important, 4) the school district was held to strict specifications about size and function of space by the New Hampshire Department of Education if we were to receive our 40 percent share of state building aid.

The state aid would not cover added costs that were specifically associated with a full-day kindergarten program, which would have meant that local Concord taxpayers would have had to foot the total cost of adding any such specifically designated classroom space.

The school board’s promise to the community in building the new schools was that we would achieve our goal of providing equal educational opportunities across the city within reasonable financial terms so that local taxpayers would not be overburdened. Those goals were achieved.

The new schools, along with Beaver Meadow and Broken Ground, now provide parity of facilities within the district, and they were built without a negative impact on the tax rate.

Adding new programming such as full-day kindergarten remains a possibility, but that is a discussion that should be had on its own merits, with the benefit of specific studies, and input from parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers.

Just as the decision to build the new schools involved open and transparent consensus building, so should any specific decision to adopt a full-day kindergarten program involve open and focused discussion among all interested parties.

Ardinger’s tenure on the school board has been leadership to achieve successful and sustainable policies that involve broad support across the entire community.

Sustainable policies, such as a commitment on the merits of full-day kindergarten, can only be achieved through hard work, meeting with stakeholders, and leading with caring and collaboration, not slick sound bites.

Kass Ardinger helped us reach the right decision for our community on building the new schools, and any suggestion that she opposed full-day kindergarten is inaccurate.

(Clint Cogswell is president of the Concord School Board.)

As always, actual decision-making on behalf of the public is a considered balancing of multiple (often conflicting) interests; and NOT subject to throwaway tag-lines designed to push people's political buttons. I sure wish everybody could finally figure that out and take it to heart.

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