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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hollis Brookline High avoids NEASC probation for now

HOLLIS – Hollis Brookline High School remains on warning of probation pending progress on several improvements approved the by the Cooperative School Board last month.

Among the upgrades unanimously approved by the board on June 18 were buying rectangular cafeteria tables to increase seating capacity, returning the mini-cafeteria to full-time use as a classroom and relocating the FIRST Robotics program to the middle school. ...

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HOLLIS – Hollis Brookline High School remains on warning of probation pending progress on several improvements approved the by the Cooperative School Board last month.

Among the upgrades unanimously approved by the board on June 18 were buying rectangular cafeteria tables to increase seating capacity, returning the mini-cafeteria to full-time use as a classroom and relocating the FIRST Robotics program to the middle school.

In addition, theater classes will be held in the auditorium, and the current theater classroom will be used for storage. Space will be better used by making changes to the library and administrative offices configurations.

The food service account will be used to cover the $67,200 cost of the new tables and cafeteria doorway. The Fire Department must approve increasing the cafeteria capacity from 200 to 300.

The school has been under the threat of probation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges since 2011. Its most often cited deficiencies are cafeteria overcrowding, overuse of classroom space, a lack of planning rooms, and teachers sharing classrooms or using mobile carts.

A $5.5 million bond to address these concerns, which combined $3 million for building an addition at the school and $2.5 million for a new athletic field, was rejected by voters.

Former Interim Superintendent John Moody wrote several show-cause letters to the NEASC explaining the school’s challenges during his one-year term, which ended Monday.

“SAU41 has experienced a
significant turnover in key leadership positions over the past year,” Moody wrote on Sept. 10. “The loss of both the superintendent and assistant superintendent, the subsequent failed attempt to hire a new superintendent and assistant superintendent, and the hiring of a 32 hours per week interim superintendent have severely hamstrung the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District in its efforts to address the serious issue of potential ‘probationary’ status as defined by the NEASC.

“The demanding priorities of leadership in a time of transition have delayed action on the report by the superintendent’s office; consequently, the ability of the board to address the findings in the report has been significantly impacted.”

In response, the NEASC granted the district an extension to address the school’s deficiencies.

Moody wrote the NEASC on May 6 to underscore the historically high academic performance of HBHS students, and how the commitment to offering such a comprehensive academic program contributed to the problem of meeting building space needs.

As progress, he pointed out that Andrew Corey was hired to be the superintendent as of July 1, Cindy Matte was named assistant superintendent and Richard Barnes was hired as principal.

The school is up for accreditation review in 2015 as part of the routine 10-year self-assessment cycle.

“Inasmuch as our staff administrators are currently preparing for the next NEASC accreditation cycle, I would urge the NEASC to delay any negative action relative to the Hollis Brookline High School,” Moody wrote.

NEASC Director Janet Allison wrote Moody on June 26 that immediate action wouldn’t be taken against the school. It remains on warning until September, when a progress review will determine whether the changes approved by the board have been carried out.

For more information, including the text of the NEASC letters and the facilities studies, visit www.sau41.org.

Irene Labombarde can be reached at 471-1867 or ilabombarde@nashuatelegraph.com.