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June 10. 2014 8:17PM

Central's fate now lies with accreditation commission

MANCHESTER — Budget cuts and layoffs have created several of the educational problems highlighted in a report that will soon determine whether Manchester High School Central retains its accreditation, the outgoing Central principal said Tuesday.

Principal John Rist said many of the critiques of the school could be resolved if the school could get more technology, as well as another assistant principal and a second librarian.

“Throwing money at things doesn’t always do it, but let’s try it one time and see if it works,” said Rist, who led Central for 10 years before retiring in 2011. He was called back in January following the abrupt resignation of Ronald Mailhot.

Last month, Central received a 71-page report from the accreditation agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). It covers topics as broad as faculty support of the core values of the school to as narrow as how quickly maintenance issues are addressed.

The school district posted it on its website, www.mansd.org.

It now goes to a NEASC commission, which will decide whether to accredit the school or not.

Overall, Rist said, he is pleased with the report. It contains 48 commendations for efforts such as a weekly advisory program, work on the part of individual teachers to improve their curriculum, and a $2.8 million district-wide technology upgrade.

Rist said about 30 of the 39 critiques about Central are beyond his control. They are the result of the city budget, previous cutbacks, the teacher contract, and the district’s overall grading and evaluation system, he said.

The report found staffing levels, instructional materials, technology and buildings “insufficient to fully implement the curriculum.”

It noted:

• The library closes two modules of the day so the single librarian can take a lunch.

• The school has lost nine teachers, a librarian and four other staff over the last five years.

• Graduation requirements have been reduced.

• A “severe lack of computers and other technology.”

• Some classrooms with tight quarters, poor acoustics and temperature fluctuations.

• Little time for teachers to improve curriculum.

• Little money gets spent on professional development and curriculum review.

Rist said some of the criticisms in the report have been addressed.

For example, Central now has a faculty leader for its English language learner program. And the school has WiFi, which it did not have when the accreditation committee visited last October.

Rist said the nine lost teachers don’t need to be replaced because of declining enrollments. But he wants Central to maintain the staff numbers it now has.

The school achieved accreditation in 2003, but was put on probation status in the early 1990s.

mhayward@unionleader.com



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