Academy No Longer a 'Middle School'

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Board Votes to Change Designation with the State

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, August 12, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The Hampton Academy is a public school located at
29 Academy Avenue in Hampton.
[Rich Beauchesne courtesy photo]

HAMPTON -- School officials said Hampton Academy was in danger of losing its status of an "approved school" with the state Department of Education because it no longer met the state requirements to be designated as a "middle school."

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday to avoid that from occurring by changing its designation with the state from a "middle school" to "K-8 school" at the recommendation of Superintendent Kathleen Murphy.

"We are not in compliance and we had to do something," Murphy said on Wednesday. "If we didn't make the change we would have been a school that did not meet state approval."

The state Board of Education recently submitted a report to the district informing officials that Hampton Academy is not in compliance with the requirements of a middle school because it no longer offers technology education/wood shop and family consumer science.

Both unified-art programs are required for middle schools while schools designated as "K-8" do not have such a requirement.

Technology education/wood shop was eliminated last year while family consumer science was recently cut as part of budget reductions.

Murphy said the school also does not have a health program, which is a requirement of a middle school.

Hampton Academy Principal Dave O'Connor told the board he supported the change because there was no other choice.

"Its impossible to be a middle school right now," O'Connor said.

Even if the school were able to incorporate health, family consumer science and wood shop into other courses, O'Connor said they would still not meet the requirement of having a certified teacher in those areas.

"But this doesn't change the fiber or the mission of the school," O'Connor said. "This (designation) is for approval status, but it's not a change in philosophy."

Murphy said the middle school philosophy will continue at the academy and the only change students will see is family and consumer science will no longer be taught.

"Everything will stay the same," Murphy said. "This just allows us to continue to meet the state standards."

The only requirement for K-8 designation the district didn't have was a health program. The board voted to hire a certified health teacher to meet that requirement using funds from an Education Jobs Grant.

Murphy said the state is the one that recommended the district change its designation to a "K-8 school" as a solution to the district's problem.

"There are many K-8 schools in the state," Murphy said.

O'Connor said he believes the requirements for a middle school will change in the future, which would allow them to revert back to the former status.

"I think what we see is that family consumer science and technology education will no longer be a requirement of middle schools," said O'Connor.

Murphy agreed, noting more schools are eliminating those programs due to budget crunches and finding qualified teachers in those areas has become difficult.

The school, O'Connor said, meets all other requirements of a middle school.

Board members Maureen O'Leary and Ginny Bridle-Russell were opposed to the move to change the school's designation.

"I think this is the first step in a road that I do not want to go down," O'Leary said.

While school officials assured them the middle school philosophy at the academy will continue, Bridle-Russell said she voted against the change because she wanted to ensure that happens.

"I don't want to lose the flavor of Hampton Academy," Bridle-Russell said. "Many people before me have worked hard to have the academy become a middle school. I don't want to lose that."

Board member Art Gopalan, however, said the change is just wording.

"The only thing this does is release us from technology education and home economics requirement," Gopalan said. "It doesn't alter the school as we know it at Hampton Academy."

While the academy no longer has technology education/wood shop and family consumer science, Murphy said they investigating other ways to expose students to those subjects.

One of those ways, she said, is to partner with Seacoast School of Technology.

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