hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

November 16, 2011

Parents: Schools must be kept in better shape

Need for new Hunking School at center of debate

Local education leaders say they want to improve Haverhill's schools and are seeking input from parents about what should be done.

School Committee members Paul Magliochetti and Raymond Serpina hosted the first strategic plan meeting last week to discuss their proposed improvement plan with parents and principals.

The 36-page plan outlines how the district can: Unite its 15 schools under a common set of standards, improve teacher skills, involve the School Committee more in day to day operations, and draw more money to schools through grants.

School Committee members and parents agreed the plan lacked three key items. They are: Creating a free all-day kindergarten program, introducing a middle school language program and better maintenance of school buildings.

The majority of parents who attended, some from the Haverhill Parents Saving our Schools organization, said the construction of a new Hunking Middle School and repairs to all Haverhill schools should be a top priority.

"It seems like we're hitting a brick wall when we talk about it," Rhonda Campbell, an organizer of HPSOS, said of efforts to gain support for money to build a new Hunking School.

Committee members said despite their agreement that a new school is needed, the odds of securing money for a new building through a tax increase would likely be impossible — unless supporters can convince voters to pass such an increase. In the past, Haverhill voters have opposed Proposition 2 1/2 overrides and debt exclusions for particular projects.

If Haverhill gets state money to build a new Hunking, the city would have to pay for a share of the project. Structural problems at the school, which is more than 50 years old, forced the city to move about 150 students out of the building a month ago.

Magliochetti said the City Council and Mayor James Fiorentini will likely support a tax increase only if Hunking parents manage to create citywide support for it.

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