Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Unanswered questions about Winchester students at Keene High

Sentinel Editorial
Sometimes what’s ideal isn’t what’s feasible. And sometimes, what seems to make sense somehow just doesn’t work.
A decade after Winchester started sending its high school students to Keene, there is still a palpable tension over the arrangement.

The latest issue has been one of information: Winchester school officials say they’ve repeatedly asked for data on how their teens are doing at Keene High School, but that information hasn’t materialized.
At a meeting earlier this month in Winchester, parents and board members alike said they feel their kids are looked down upon in Keene. This despite Keene High Principal Lynda Wagner’s proclamation that “You’re part of us.”
That message was certainly better received than when a previous Keene official said five years ago that Winchester students were dragging down the high school’s test scores.
Wagner was in Winchester to present a report that theoretically would satisfy the town’s demand for information. What she provided was, she said, the same information the district gives each Unit 29 town on the students it tuitions into Keene.
It wasn’t enough. For each number, the Winchester board had questions. And some of the data — such as that Winchester’s students have a grade-point average of 2.49 compared to Keene High’s overall 2.92 — begged for context that simply wasn’t to be had at that meeting.
Now, Winchester School Board members want more: They want to know how their kids feel about being at Keene High School.
That — and conversely, how Keene students and staff feel about the Winchester students being there — is the million-dollar question. More likely, a multimillion-dollar question.
The question revolves around whether Keene High is a good fit for the Winchester students, and if not, what the town can do about it.
Winchester is 10 years into a 20-year deal to send its students to Keene. Officials say they’re not looking to get out, but they have also formed a withdrawal committee to study that very possibility.
The issue is, then, what? Conversations with Hinsdale about sending Winchester’s students to Hinsdale High School were friendly, but Hinsdale says it can’t take that many more students.
The current arrangement came about because Winchester’s Thayer High School building had become so run down it no longer was accredited. The school is still used for some middle school and other programs, but would require an expensive overhaul to become fit to be a high school again.
Keene officials say they’re committed to all the high school’s students, including Winchester’s. But after a decade of uneasiness, some may conclude Keene simply isn’t a good fit for Winchester’s students. That’s what the town’s school board wants to determine.
At the time, Keene was the best option for Winchester’s teenagers, and whether a perfect fit or not, it still may be.
Winchester pays Keene about $13,000 per student, more for special education students. With about 200 students tuitioning in, that’s a minimum of $2.6 million the town is paying out to educate its teenagers in Keene.
For that amount, Winchester is certainly due whatever information it reasonably wants. It’s looking out for its kids. It’s plausible some of the answers Winchester officials hope to get simply can’t be gleaned from available data. But to the extent it can, the Keene district should make every effort to accommodate the request.


Anonymous said...

I applaud the efforts of this group. It's essential that we discover the root issues affecting our children and their educational needs - from K to 12

Anonymous said...

You only need to drive around town and keep your eyes open, almost everything you see is a good explanation of what's going wrong with our kids. Hard to blame a school, any school, for the environment the kids are growing up in. Go ahead and get upset at me, but these are just some cold hard facts.