Plymouth Leadership Academy session focuses on education

PLYMOUTH — On November 6th the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce held the third session of its Leadership Academy at Holderness School. The class gathered together in Livermore Hall to gear up for a day full of conversation around the topic of education in the State of New Hampshire and the local region.

The discussion of the day focused on public education through the lenses of leaders of Early Childhood education up through public university and college. Class co-facilitator Ty Gagne started off the first session of the morning by leading a panel of local public education leaders from the Plymouth region discussing roles and responsibilities in their respective positions, along with insight into their thoughts on how education has changed over the years. The panel was comprised of Mark Halloren, Superintendent of Schools, Michael O'Malley - SAU 48, Principal – Newfound Regional High School, Julie Flynn, Principal – Plymouth Elementary School and Karen Ferguson, Health and Safety Coordinator – Tri-County Head Start.

There was a discussion between the panelists and the Leadership Academy class around today's educational standards set by the State of New Hampshire and the Federal Government. The panelists gave an inward look into the challenges each of them face on a daily basis in public education, ranging from students who may be homeless, meeting the needs of each student in the classroom, ensuring that kids have a chance to eat healthy, and are receiving the medical attention they need that they may not necessarily get at home.

The second session of the day was led by Daniel Barrick, the Deputy Director of the NH Center for Public Policy. Barrick began his presentation by reviewing research data showing how education has been and is currently funded in the State. Discussions ensued regarding the path NH has chosen to fund public education.

Todd Leach, Chancellor of the University System of NH and Sara Jayne Steen, President of Plymouth State University were the two special guests who took part in the first afternoon session of the day. Chancellor Leach began with an overview of the four schools within the USNH system, and explained how the system is funded overall. President Steen reviewed what Plymouth State has to offer and what it does to fit into the community it resides in. She also discussed All Well Center project taking place across the river in Holderness.

The class actively discussed with the Chancellor and President how education has changed over the years in high education along with a great debate how the system is primarily funded on student tuition. During the discussion, the class was alarmed that NH is close to last in the country for state funding of public higher education and Pre-K through 12.  

The day concluded with a visit from Michelle Holt-Shannon, Associate Director of NH Listens. After a day of learning from various speakers and panelists about education in NH, Michelle took the opportunity to lead class in a discussion about what we learned from the speakers along with what their thoughts were on what needs immediate addressing in public education in NH. This facilitation gave the group a chance to have very open conversation and allowed them to start brainstorming how we as a group could make a difference in public education.