Q&A: Concord superintendent Forsten talks kindergarten, Edelblut, middle school

  • Concord schools Superintendent Terri Forsten sat down with the “Monitor’s” editorial board Thursday, July 13, 2017, for a summertime question-and-answer session. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, July 16, 2017

Concord schools Superintendent Terri Forsten sat down with the Monitor’s editorial board Thursday for a summertime question-and-answer session.

Below are her responses to selected topics.

Will the increased state money for full-day kindergarten affect Concord’s thinking on the subject?

I think it moves the needle for us, for sure.

Our school board really struggled with this conversation last year through the budget process, and in the end a couple of our board members clearly said that they were committed to bringing full-day kindergarten forward in the fall of 2018. That conversation continues.

How is the new education commissioner, former state representative Frank Edelblut, different from his predecessor?

The obvious is that he’s not an educator, so he comes into this conversation from a very different perspective. At first, similar to when Commissioner Barry came in from

higher ed, and those of us who are in a K-12 system sort of looked at her like, “What does she really know?” So I think Commissioner Edelblut had a similar reception. What does he really know?

But I think he has spent his first few months really trying to grow what he thought he knew, and I think he’s been open to some new learning. He visited the Concord School District for a full day – a very full day, started with us first thing in the morning and ended with the board at 6 o’clock in the evening – and when (board Chairman) Clint Cogswell said to him, “What was your greatest surprise during your day?”

He honestly said his greatest surprise was how great we were doing – the programs he saw in place, the teaching and learning that he saw, the personalization that he saw – he was really impressed by that.

Where is the plan for Rundlett Middle School headed – renovate or rebuild?

If you’ve been in Rundlett, you have a sense probably that we’re probably going to lean toward new. I could be wrong. I’m open to whatever the architects bring forward, but I think most people are talking about it’s time to really create a middle school and not try to modify what had been a junior high school.

Did the district get the emergency building aid it was seeking for the Concord Steam conversion in the final budget?

No, unfortunately that did not get put in. ... It was looking good. Initially, it was $3.3 million, and then they asked us whether we’d be okay with $2.2 (million), so we said, ‘Oh, okay,’ and then all of a sudden it fell off. We’d like to see if we can bring that back around at some point. I think just given the timing of it there was a sense we were all set because we had bonded.

What’s the biggest challenge ahead with the negotiations beginning on a new teachers contract this fall?

For us at this point one of the pieces is looking at health care and finding options there. We’ve done a good job moving our staff and all our teams into consumer-driven health care programs, and that has been well-received. So it’s sort of like, now what? What within that? Is it health savings accounts, is that the next frontier? And what does that look like? How does that come in under a benefit package and how does that defray costs?

Then certainly salaries overall. That’s always a big piece of the conversation.

What’s the latest regarding the parents who had concerns about the school’s restraint policy?

Bob Belmont, who is the director of student services, met with a small group of parents who had asked to take a look at that policy with him. They are also interested in looking at other policies, but they wanted to start with that one.

They took a look at that in June, and my understanding through a conversation I had with Bob is that they were impressed with the policy that we have in place. They saw that as reflective of what had been offered by state guidance, by New Hampshire School Boards Association guidance, that we have in place what most districts across the state have in place. So they were impressed by that. That was good to see, and there were no changes made.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at