By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — From field trips to guest speakers to job shadows, the city school district is implementing a three-year plan that will make education at all levels relevant to the community and make the community relevant to education, said a team of administrators at Tuesday's School Board meeting.
Community Based Education, said board member Mike Persson, who headed the three-month planning process, "is the leveraging of the resources of the district and the community to produce favorable outcomes for all."
There are three goals the district has set for itself. The first is by the start of the 2017-2018 school year, all of the classes in the district will offer at least one field trip experience that incorporates the current curriculum with some component of the community.
For example, a fourth-grade science class could visit one of the area maple sugar producers and learn how certain trees produce sap during certain times of the season. As part of their experience, each student will write a letter of thanks as a writing project and then complete some kind of written and scientific study in coordination with their current curriculum.
Another example is extended learning opportunities where students in the upper grades can create a thesis-type project consistent with their current curriculum that can be presented to a panel of administrators and teachers for credit. ELOs are often considered as part of that student's portfolio that accompanies college, job or military applications.
Internships, guest speakers, community service and other similar events are included as projects that would satisfy this goal.
The intent, said Persson, is to use the community as a classroom, to help students at all ages understand why they are learning what they are learning and to apply it directly to their own community both now and in the future.
"We also want the community to see all of the good things that are going on in our schools," Persson said, noting that the community should see the city schools and their students and employees as a resource.
The second goal of the Community Based Education program is to train the teachers to enhance their abilities to use community resources for their at-risk students. This professional development arm will take three years to implement completely.
He said it allows the school district to proactively identify and address issues that put students at risk of academic, emotional or physical harm and to engage already existing community resources to avoid duplications of effort.
The third goal is to better align the curriculum with the needs of the community by the end of the 2017-2018 school year and measure that progress by the the number of community groups advising the district on curriculum.
Ongoing examples are many, if not most, of the programs at the Huot Technical Center.
Persson said this will ensure the schools are providing through their curriculum local business and industry with the skills they need. It opens a dialogue with local employers about workforce development and the school district and creates a mechanism for promoting mutually beneficial partnerships between the two.
He said yesterday that while there are state and federal education standards that must be met, the reason there is local control by locally elected school boards is to allow the schools to meets the education needs of the local community.
"We offer an excellent education to Laconia students," said Persson, "And we want people to know that there are really good kids in our schools."
Incorporated into the action plan is examining budgets to see that the above three goals are being met and adding some money for transportation to get the students out into the community.
"We are pleased to hear that we are assessing (community) relationships that are mutually beneficial," said Superintendent Phil McCormack. "We are asking people what we can do to be more helpful."
Members of the task force that prepared the plan were Persson, Asst. Middle School Principal Jim Corkum, Huot Technical Center Director Dave Warrander, Student Services Coordinator Amy Cammack-Hinds, Project Extra Coordinator Beth Vachon, Adult Education Director Peggy Selig, and School Business Administrator Ed Emond.