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The right school leader: Livingston, we presume

Mancheter has a new school superintendent who comes from just 80 miles up the road. Presumably Debra Livingston, currently the superintendent of the Fall Mountain Regional School District, has done her homework and knows what she is getting into when she assumes the reins of the state's largest school district.

Then again, one might have presumed that Superintendent Thomas Brennan, who came from the Kearsarge Regional School District just 42 miles away, also was prepared. The week he started as Manchester's superintendent in 2008, Brennan told this newspaper that he had heard the city's school board was not easy to work with. Word gets around in this small state. And Brennan had worked in Manchester eight years earlier as an assistant superintendent. Still, he often seemed ill-prepared, or at least ill-equipped, to thrive in the brutal political environment that is the Manchester School District.

Livingston comes to the job with some good experience and what appears to be the right attitude. Her public comments have been positive and forward-looking, and she specifically mentioned her desire to create a long-term strategic plan for the district. That is a challenge in any district, but especially in one in which the school board busies itself with micromanaging the district — when it is not using the district as a pawn in political battles with the mayor.

Manchester's schools face some daunting challenges. When Brennan took over, the district had been labled "in need of improvement" under the No Child Left Behind Act for five straight years. Brennan had high hopes, but political and financial realities made it difficult for him to realize his vision.

Livingston will face the same hard realities. Overcoming them will require both strategic vision and political skill. Here is to hoping that she has both, in spades.

Eric Church
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