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Lebanon School Board Reopens Door on Curriculum Changes

Lebanon — The School Board last week revisited the votes members took last month on controversial course changes for Lebanon High School so that the proposals could be reconsidered later this year.

In April, a narrowly divided board vote to “table” contentious proposals to mix students of differing abilities in certain classes. Concerns were raised after the vote, however, because tabling the proposals would preclude the School Board from debating them for a full year, meaning the changes wouldn’t have been able to be considered in the next round of curriculum discussions, according to Chairman Jeff Peavey.

Peavey said that the high school course changes likely would be discussed by the School Board’s Education Committee as early as November. So instead, the School Board voted 5-4 last week to reject the previously tabled proposals, which means the items could be brought back to the board at any time.

Last week’s vote will not have a significant effect on course registration or next year’s classes for Lebanon High School students.

Board members Christina Haidari, Suzan Louzier, Carissa Means, Doug Preston, and Hank Tenney voted to reject the proposals, with Peavey, Bob McCarthy, Lori Hibner and Kathleen Berger in support of them.

As curriculum policies were being debated through March and April, advocates of mixing students with varying academic abilities contended that the shift in curriculum would have raised expectations for all students, especially those who are struggling.

The school district held a public forum featuring a panel of educators from districts, such as the Kearsarge Regional School District, that have instituted the mixed classroom approach. At that forum, educators pitched the idea using the metaphor of a rising tide lifting all boats and underlined the ways in which mixed student populations would encourage innovation and collaboration.

But school officials received push-back from wary board members who felt the changes were being rushed through the deliberative process and not weighed carefully enough. Some teachers, too, said they were taken off guard by the proposals. Additionally, parents voiced concern that more advanced learners would be negatively impacted by the new policies.

Following just a few weeks of debate, the School Board on April 10 blocked out into numerous votes what Lebanon High School administrators had pitched as a comprehensive overhaul of course curriculum. Administrators responded at the meeting by warning of lopsided class sizes and scheduling conflicts next fall.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213