hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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April 18, 2012

Editorial: Tilton School deserves chance to try something different

(Continued)

If teachers OK the plan, the School Committee is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposal next month.

If all systems are go, the school will receive another grant, up to $75,000, to implement the plan.

Tilton Principal Mary Beth Maranto said an informal poll showed the great majority of teachers support the plan, which calls for having teachers work intensely with small groups of students on subjects they are struggling to master. Uniforms might be required to identify the Tilton "community."

But School Committee members are skeptical of the plan, though they agree change is needed. School Committee Chairman and Mayor James Fiorentini said he has "grave concerns" the innovation plan doesn't go far enough and urged school planners to give more thought to a longer school day and shorter summer break to increase learning time.

School Superintendent James Scully asked the committee to give Tilton a chance to work out the details before the public hearing next month. School Committee President Susan Danehy suggested committee members communicate any changes they'd like to see before the hearing.

It would be a tragedy to see the plan derailed at this point — or to see a plan imposed by the School Committee that won't be embraced by teachers as their own.

The parents and kids of Tilton deserve better, and teachers deserve a chance to show what they can do with more freedom.

We think Erin Barnard, a third-grade teacher and innovation planning committee member, had it exactly right when she spoke in favor of change.

"We would finally have the autonomy to make the kinds of changes so many of us want to make," she told the School Committee. "This is crucial. We have to make changes as what we've been doing isn't working."

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