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Left - Sherri Wilson of the Center for Active Family Engagement is working closely with Manchester officials including Scott Ratchford, director of the Office of Family and Community Partnership. Right - Consultant David Cormier has been working with "instructional coaches" throughout Manchester, work that dovetails with the efforts of Vonetta Romeo-Rivers, the district's director of Performance, Evaluation & Talent Development.

Administrators Gather For Professional Development

 A group of administrators including principals and Central Office personnel from throughout the Manchester school district gathered Monday for a day of professional development that included work focusing on family engagement and teacher development.
"We are one system, not 15 separate franchises, and we need to be sure that everything we are doing is properly coordinated and done in the best interests of our students -- all of them," Superintendent Matt Geary said as he welcomed the group for what essentially represented the unofficial "first day" of work for the 2015-16 academic year.

Geary's presentation included a discussion of what he called "systemness" -- which he described as coherence that ensures that all of the district's initiatives and resources are aligned with its mission of preparing all students to be "lifelong learners and contributing members of society."

Sherri Wilson of the Center for Active Family Engagement gave a presentation that focused on the myriad ways that schools can interact with children's "adult caregivers" so they can "effectively support learning and healthy development."

Wilson and other members of the CAFE staff are planning to visit Manchester schools in the fall to perform a "family engagement analysis." She said it would include a campus visit, a review of each school's website and other communication platforms, stakeholder surveys and even a secret "shopper" activity. That's when someone from CAFE calls a school, saying they are thinking of moving to town and then documenting the response when they seek information about the school.

Wilson said CAFE will assemble and analyze all of its information and make recommendations for improvement.

The other presentation was made by consultant David Cormier, who worked with the district last year on its "instructional coaching" initiative. Some of the district's most effective teachers are working as coaches exclusively with their colleagues, helping even veteran instructors improve their craft so that students will be better served by being exposed to more rigorous, relevant lessons.

"We have to move from what was for years and years and years a "gotcha" model to a "growth" model," Cormier said, alluding to the past practice that had administrators consumed with documenting poor teaching rather than helping even competent and effective teachers improve.  

"We're getting there," he said, "where people are really welcoming feedback."

District leaders are scheduled to continue with professional development on Tuesday, with attention turning to orientation for new teachers starting Wednesday.

Classes begin on Thursday, Aug. 27 for all students except those in grades 8, 10, 11 and 12 -- who start classes on Friday, Aug. 28.

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