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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nashua education officials OK farm-to-school program

By TINA FORBES

Staff Writer

NASHUA – At its last meeting, the Nashua Board of Education endorsed the Farm to School program, received feedback from Mount Pleasant Elementary on much-needed ventilation repairs and heard the superintendent’s plan for the new year.

After hearing a brief presentation on program goals, board members praised the spirit and goals of the NH Farm to School program, which gets parents, students, cafeteria workers, teachers and staff involved in sustainability and healthy eating projects to bring more healthy local food into schools and community. ...

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NASHUA – At its last meeting, the Nashua Board of Education endorsed the Farm to School program, received feedback from Mount Pleasant Elementary on much-needed ventilation repairs and heard the superintendent’s plan for the new year.

After hearing a brief presentation on program goals, board members praised the spirit and goals of the NH Farm to School program, which gets parents, students, cafeteria workers, teachers and staff involved in sustainability and healthy eating projects to bring more healthy local food into schools and community.

Farm to School member Steve Amrol told the board there is no cost to the district.

“So far, we’re able to fund all our initiatives with a current grant from Farm to School,” Amrol said, adding that Whole Foods and Home Depot have helped as well.

“Why are we presenting to you? Just give us your support,” he said. “Any endorsement you provide as this organization grows would be greatly appreciated,” he said, adding leverage through their network is helpful too, and spreading the word.

“It’s a great idea,” said Sandra Ziehm, president of the Board of Education, “It is wonderful what you’re doing, thank you for climbing this mountain.”

Member David Murotake asked if they had considered offering student internships for credit.

“We’d love to,” Amrol said, adding that the group wanted the approval of the board first.

Murotake said they can take the item to the Curriculum and Evaluation Committee to make it an item for credit.

“I just want to thank all of you. I think this is a great program, and I fully support it,” said school board member Dorothy Oden. “I went to Elm Street for the exposition last year, and what struck me was the enthusiasm of the students.”

Member Bill Mosher said he’s happy with the price tag, and said he agrees the program will teach an important lesson.

“So many of the kids and the adults today grow up and they don’t understand where their food comes from,” he said.

A group from Mount Pleasant Elementary School, including PTO president Danielle St. Hilaire, PTO vice president Holly Bleau and Principal Patricia Snow, addressed the recent upgrades to the school approved by the school board last spring.

“We’re just basically here to just thank you for the improvements that have been made prior to the opening of the school year. I know we came to you in April and we were frustrated and concerned, and we truly appreciate your reaction to our advocacy,” said St. Hilaire.

After Mount Pleasant teachers and parents asked the school board to address ventilation issues at the school in April, the board approved funding for AC units in second and third-floor classrooms.

“As a result, our students have sent thank you notes to all of you,” St. Hilaire said.

She also presented board member Howard Coffman with a golden pitchfork since he called them the “pitchfork moms” at a previous meeting.

Oden also thanked the Mount Pleasant parents for working so hard to improve the climate in the school saying, “It’s often hard for teachers to speak up, but your teachers came out.”

Coffman thanked the community at Mount Pleasant, too.

“It was long overdue repairs, and I’m so happy we were able to make that happen.”

Speaking at her first full board of education meeting, Nashua’s new Superintendent of Schools, Connie Brown, discussed her plans for the new academic year, starting with building relationships with the board, union, district staff and city officials.

Brown said she would like to have individual interviews with each of them to consider their goals for moving forward.

“I would encourage you to think beyond this school year with the ‘plan to plan,’ ” she said.

Brown came on board in mid-August, immediately after two new assistant superintendents were hired to lead the district along with her.

“One of the things that was made clear to me when I interviewed was the need to bring stability to central office, and I think we hit a home run,” Brown said, noting her team, including assistant superintendents Mike Fredericksen and Roland Boucher, have been working well together.

She requested to be a part of the ad hoc committee that will consider future locations for the Nashua Program at Brentwood, an alternative high school for students with intensive needs, currently located on the Merrimack High School campus. Overall, she encouraged members to consider the district’s path forward over the next several years.

“I think you need to think of the 2016-17 year as the year to plan,” Brown said.

After Brown’s comments, member Elizabeth Van Twuyver welcomed her saying, “I was very impressed with your implementation plan, and I look forward to having one-on-one time with you soon.”

Ziehm said Nashua staff seem to be adjusting well to the change in leadership.

“I think the district is more optimistic than I have seen it in a long time,” Brown said.