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Our Turn: Nice to meet you, Dunbarton!

To the Dunbarton community:

In March Dunbarton voters will be making historic and important AREA agreement and SAU decisions at your annual school district meeting. In order for you to be informed about that choice, the Bow School Board and administrators of Bow have prepared this letter of welcome and information.

First, we are excited about this prospect. We have been pleased with the process and results of the SAU and AREA plan negotiations, and we are excited about a possible collaboration between the two towns. We would be happy to answer any individual questions you have. Please feel free to contact us.

Our philosophy at Bow is that the most important thing in education is the relationship between the student and the teacher. We do everything we can to support our staff so they can concentrate on doing their primary job: educating our students. We also believe that public schools belong to the public and that none of us is as smart as all of us. We are a fairly small SAU, and we are able to respond to individual concerns. Our goal is to return all phone calls or e-mails within a day, so our community is involved and informed.

The first place to gather information would be our district and school websites. The district website is bownet.org. Under the “School Board” heading is the link to the repository of all of our Dunbarton/Bow documents. The Nov. 13, 2012, PowerPoint and the FAQs 2.0 are starting points, but all the information including the detailed agreements is there as well. Each school also has a website, accessed off the district page, that has a wealth of information.

The Dunbarton School Board is planning a forum on Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Dunbarton Elementary School. Superintendent Cascadden will be in attendance and available to the public.

Bow has scheduled an open house at Bow Memorial School for Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. and one at Bow High School for Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. At each of these events, we plan to have a presentation on our program offerings, a time of questions and answers, and then a tour of the facilities led by students. We have invited staff to come, and we believe many will be in attendance. These open houses will be family-oriented, and we encourage community members, parents and students to attend together.

If those dates do not work, or if Dunbarton residents would like to see the schools in action during the day, we can schedule some school visits individually or in small groups. Please do that through Superintendent Cascadden. He will host those events, and will try to combine as many as possible so as not to overtax our administrators or interrupt the teaching in our schools.

Bow is a unique school system. The high school was formed more than a decade ago. The program is interdisciplinary and based on heterogeneous grouping. A good place to begin exploring this difference is the school profile and program of studies located on the “About Us” tab on the high school website.

Bow Memorial School has been a very traditional middle school with a focus on high academic standards, clear and consistent discipline, and student achievement. This has been a year of transition as a new principal and assistant principal have been brought on board and are looking at ways to continue the strengths of the school while at the same time looking at how the school can change, grow and improve.

I hope you are able to take some time and access the resources identified in this letter. Ultimately, I hope for you to get more a qualitative feel of our schools to understand them and make an informed decision. The Bow School District is well known for quality. We have high academic standards. We support an experienced and well-educated staff, and we endeavor to empower them to make significant decisions about how best to educate our students.

There are some questions you may have that we might not be able to answer immediately. For example, we have a well-delineated transition program in place for our Bow district, and if the Dunbarton proposals pass, we will support our staff in developing amendments to those plans for folding in our Dunbarton students. We also recognize that we will need to do long-term planning on how to align the two districts’ elementary school curriculum and programs. Our practice in these types of endeavors is to get the people involved together and to make decisions with them and not for them.

If we cannot answer your question directly, it may still be useful for us to hear your perspective so we can make better decisions as we move forward. We look forward to getting to know you and collaborating.

(Dean Cascadden is the Bow superintendent of schools. Robert Louf is the school board chairman. Duane Ford is the business administrator.)

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