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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

City and other teachers learn lessons on Election Day

NASHUA – As the wheels of democracy turn outside, teachers are in school today , attending professional development workshops on subjects ranging from data analysis to crisis prevention training.

There is no school in Nashua on Election Day. Nine of the city’s 17 schools are used as polling stations, and Associate Superintendent Althea Sheaff said it’s easier for the district to cancel school than to attempt to hold classes with the buzz of activity going on outside. Entrances to schools are typically surrounded by sign-holding supporters of candidates on both sides.

While students get to stay home, teachers will still be reporting for work, Sheaff said. As it has in the past, Election Day is being used as an in-service day, which means teachers will go to workshops and collaborate on what’s been working and what hasn’t. Teachers are paid for the day. The focus of the workshops depend on the school and the grade levels, Sheaff said.

“Each school submits their plans and proposals for the day,” she said. “Each principal works with their staff and looks at their building plan goals.”

For example, teachers at Amherst Street Elementary School are analyzing results of student assessments. At Birch Hill Elementary School, teachers are going over strategies for working with English Language Learners. Last year, 4.23 percent of Nashua students were identified as having limited English proficiency.

Special education staff are getting together to review the special education process and procedures, Sheaff said. At the middle school level, the language arts teachers and social studies are getting together with a supervisor to work on developing curriculum. Math and science teachers are doing the same.

And at the high schools, there are a variety of workshops going on, including one on Performance Tracker, a software system that allows teachers to keep tabs on how students are doing in academic performance, attendance and other areas. There is also a workshop on Crisis Prevention Institute training, which gives educators tips on how to intervene when students are acting out violently.

There also are specific workshops for music and physical education teachers, as well as speech and language pathologists.

“Every department has a specific program or workshop,” Sheaff said. “It gives them a chance to hear a common message and work together to implement their learning into the classrooms.”

Pennichuck Middle School Principal Paul Asbell said that while professional development may be the focus for the day, taking a day for teachers to come together and share different strategies always results in positive outcomes for the classroom.

“On the surface, they’ll be talking about curriculum,” Asbell said. “But what really happens when you have people who teach common subjects at common grade levels is they get into conversations that go way beyond curriculum.”

Locally, schools are also closed in Amherst, Bedford, Derry, Londonderry, Mont Vernon, the Souhegan Cooperative District and Windham.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or