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Claremont Looks to Better Teaching With More Training

Claremont — The SAU 6 School Board, comprised of Claremont, Cornish and Unity members, appears to be supportive of a proposal to add four administrative positions in the SAU budget to assist teachers with professional development training.

Some board members did express concern with the $200,000 price tag, though.

After hearing a proposal Wednesday night from Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin and Assistant Superintendent Elaine Arbour, Claremont School Board member John Napsey asked whether the administration could cut some of the professional development days for teachers, if they are going to receive similar training from math and reading specialists in the classroom.

“Can we lower the professional development days to offset some of the expenses,” Napsey asked.

Arbour said there are five teacher training days scheduled during the year, which are group-centered trainings. The expertise the specialists would offer, Arbour said, is more one-on-one interaction in the classroom.

“It is much more targeted support,” she said.

McGoodwin told the board he would examine the possibility of making the new hires “cost neutral” and report back when the board meets again on Dec. 18.

Though he understood the “sticker shock” of the proposed SAU budget of $2 million, up nearly 30 percent from this year, McGoodwin said the proposal is part of the multi-year instructional plan for the district.

“Our objective is to develop a plan that best tells us where we are going as measured by student achievement,” McGoodwin said, referring to the entry plan he developed when he was hired by the SAU in 2011.

The math and reading specialists, a school improvement coordinator and professional development director, make up about $200,000 of the SAU budget increase.

“We are not insensitive to the financial challenge but we see areas to improve,” he said. “The professional support for the faculty does make a difference. ... More money does not mean a better education. It is what you do with the money. We feel this is a wise investment.”

Arbour explained that the specialists for grades K-12 would provide instructional support in the classroom and in that way better monitor changes in teaching.

“The way we are doing business now, coaches are needed now more than ever,” Arbour said. “We can hone in on what they are teaching and how it is being assessed.”

Cornish Board member Kathleen Maslan suggested a more incremental approach with perhaps one specialist this year and another next year.

The board did not reject the proposal but did not fully embrace it either. Claremont School Board member Heather Irish said she was not convinced the need “was there” and Claremont member Kristen Kenniston said she wanted to hear opinions from teaching staff.

Brian Rapp, also a Claremont board member, was more supportive. “No doubt this is a positive for teachers. They need to engage with a peer to improve skills,” he said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.