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September 03. 2013 12:57AM

Pep talk, then time for school to begin

MANCHESTER — Manchester School Superintendent Debra Livingston will urge teachers today to learn to understand students’ aspirations — a pep talk before about 15,000 public school students return to their classrooms Wednesday.

This marks the first new school year in Manchester for Livingston since she was chosen in June to lead the state’s largest school district.

Her message to teachers?

“To focus on students and understand their aspirations,” said Livingston, a former superintendent of the Fall Mountain Regional School District.

Come Wednesday, buses will roll through city neighborhoods to collect students and drop them off at one of nearly two dozen city schools.

“I’m going to hopefully visit every single school (Wednesday),” the superintendant said.

“There are no holidays better than the first day of school,” she said. “It should be a national holiday as far as I’m concerned.”

Teachers and students “are just so energized and happy and smiles on their faces. You can’t help but smile yourself.”

The biggest change for students will be going to school more hours during the year, but attending five fewer days.

“The savings comes in because we have lengthened the school days, which adds minutes to every school day,” she said.

Students will receive 50 to 60 hours more instruction over the school year, depending on what grade they are attending.

“Our goal is within 10 minutes of the bell, students are learning,” Livingston said.This year’s school calendar calls for the first day on Wednesday with the last day slated for June 12. Last year’s calendar had the first day of school on Aug. 29, with the last day scheduled for June 13.

Benjamin Dick, president of the Manchester Education Association, said he expects the superintendent will outline her educational goals during her 8 a.m. address today at Manchester High School Central.

“She has a real opportunity to help move us forward and that’s her plan,” said Dick, an English teacher at Memorial High School.

Dick said the two big changes this year are the modified school schedule and the inclusion of more Common Core standards, which are nationwide standards that are included in lesson plans.Livingston said the district has 1,153 full- and part-time teachers under contract, about 10 more than last year.Meanwhile, Livingston plans around mid-January to begin “to plan, looking at scheduling and all those things, push back as much of this and plan early and be pro-active” looking toward next September.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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