Heidi Crumrine: There is so much good in Concord schools

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/14/2019 7:30:05 AM

This has not been an easy season for the Concord School District. As a community we are devastated and sickened by what transpired this spring, and it is easy to feel disillusioned and hopeless. There is a lot of anger and hurt, and a feeling of loss of trust.

I fear that some of those strong feelings are preventing us from remembering that there are several thousand children and several hundred teachers in our school district who have still done remarkable things this year; we should not lose sight of that. This is not an attempt to toss the bad aside, but in the midst of such anger, it is still okay to celebrate the good. And there is so much good.

The 2018-19 school year was the first year of full-day kindergarten in Concord. To say it was a success would be an understatement of epic proportions. To say that education visionaries should come and learn from Concord would be more accurate.

I know this because my youngest child was a kindergartner this year in Concord. Just today at lunch she delighted in spelling her name out using her green peppers. After asking her to not play with her food, we asked where she got the idea and with a huge smile she said, “Ms. Holliday and Ms. Shepherd!”

In September, our 5-year-olds arrived to school and they played. They dug in the dirt, they went to Beech Hill Farm for ice cream, they built towers with blocks, and they played with dolls in doll houses. They learned to count by exploring outside and gathering sticks and leaves, they learned to read by playing with letters (sometimes with green peppers, apparently), and they learned to be kind friends through listening to stories. They rested after lunch (and I’m sure their teachers did, too). Our now 6-year-olds have ended their year full of confidence and excitement for not only the first grade, but for school in a way that will transform the trajectory of their academic careers.

It’s not just kindergarten, though. There’s so much to celebrate in this district that it is almost impossible to capture it in several hundred words. But let me try.

In the final week of the school year, technology teachers Heather Drolet and Megan Pearl, the elementary math specialist, Chantel DeNapoli, and fifth-grade teachers Mike Pelletier, Becky Taylor and Casey Barnewall at Christa McAuliffe School brought students to Concord High School for a weeklong multi-disciplinary STEM exploration of Mars.

Through soil investigations, the use of coding robots, building landing gear for a rocket ship, creating rovers, and using virtual reality to explore and map the topography of Mars, they worked collaboratively to answer the question: “What do humans need to consider before landing and starting a colony on a new planet?” In the words of a few students who I overhead one day in the hallway, “This is the coolest thing we’ve ever done in school!”

Or the Mustang Bandits: The ADS Destination Imagination team of eight students who won two N.H. titles and attended the Global Finals in Kansas City, Mo. More than 150,000 students worldwide participated in DI competitions, and the Mustang Bandits were among 8,000 students representing 1,400 teams that qualified to attend the finals. They placed 36th out of 77 teams in their event, even placing ahead of teams from Mexico and China.

Or the Performing Arts department. The CAST Theatre Program, run by Klint Close, John Hatab, Gabe Cohen and Brin Cowette, produced The Addams Family, which celebrated four sold-out performances in May and had a pit that was primarily filled with students. Most other schools have to hire 50% or more of their instrumentalists. The March concerts at the Capitol Center for the Arts showcased over 1,000 performers in grades five through 12. There were 16 students accepted to participate in the All-State Musical Festival, with three students receiving top scores in trombone, bass voice and electric jazz bass.

Or the various programs offered at all of our schools for needy students and families that fill backpacks with food to last through the weekend. At Rundlett, for example, the Care Closet provides food and supplies to needy students and their families during the year, including vacations and long weekends. There are nearly 25 student volunteers who help to organize, pack meals, deliver and write thank-you notes to sponsors. The Care Closet, as well as other food pantries in the district, is open for three days this summer for needy families to come shop. Looking ahead, they hope to increase student volunteer opportunities by teaching community outreach techniques such as how to inform the public about the program and educate others on why it’s an important cause.

Or the parent, a teacher in a nearby school district, who told me she cried while attending the June community meeting at Broken Ground School and that she “was never more proud to be a member of this school district.” She loved seeing all of the teachers high-fiving students who had summer birthdays, and the celebrations of student success in reading, krypto and the production of Mary Poppins, Jr. Of particular note is the record number of English Language Learners who are now proficient in English and no longer in need of services: 18!

Or the student who just graduated from the Adult Education program after struggling with attendance for her entire high school career. She told her teacher, Jess Jordan, who had worked with her since she was in ninth grade: “You were the one constant in my life and you dragged me through the mud to get here. You never once made me feel like I couldn’t do it even when I knew the struggle was real. Thank you.”

I could go on. When I reached out and asked friends and colleagues in the community for positive stories and experiences, my inbox was flooded and I can’t begin to include everything. There is Dance Dismissal Friday at Abbot-Downing, the end-of-year family color run at Beaver Meadow and the community block party at Christa McAuliffe. There are students being discharged from special education services, principals who go skiing with their students at Pats Peak, and unified sports teams that pair special education students with non-special ed students to compete in events with other schools. There is so much good.

This has not been an easy season for the Concord School District, but we are still here. We will rise. We aren’t teachers in Concord because we are well paid, because of the access to technology or because it’s an easy commute. We are here because we believe in Concord. We believe in your children. And we believe in the potential of what we can all be when we work together.

We will be back in late August, refreshed, excited and ready to welcome your children into our hearts, our arms and our classrooms. Happy summer.

Need something to read this summer?

For older readers:

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

For middle grade readers:

Ungifted by Gordan Korman

I Funny series by James Patterson

The Trail by Meika Hashimoto (winner of the Great Stone Face Award)

For younger readers:

The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer

The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn and Robert McPhillips

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao

(Heidi Crumrine, the 2018 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, teaches English at Concord High School.)


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