My wife and I debated for a long time on the private vs. public school option for our kids. There are certainly some benefits to private school, like smaller class sizes. In the end we chose public school as our option in Dover. That being said, I am not convinced that Dover’s public school system is really the best it can be at this point and that is no fault to the teachers or administrators in our public schools. I have worked with the teachers and administrators in our public schools directly over the course of the past year. Once we did decide to send out kids to public school, I made a personal commitment to my family that I would invest more personal time and energy into learning about our schools and finding opportunities where I could get more involved to help our administrators and teachers find new and innovative ways to teach our kids and enrich their learning experiences. With that being said, here is the path that I have been on personally to learn more and work to influence public approach to improving the access our administrators and teachers have to quality learning methods and tools.
- As a leader in a local Fortune 100 company here in Dover, I volunteered some folks and myself to go into the middle school in 2016 for the Hour of Code event run in early December by the Women in Technology group (Hour of Code).
- I joined the STEAM working group headed up by Fran Meffen from DMS to learn even more, and as a result of that relationship I hosted an event for the Dover community including many community leaders, school board and city council members where we discussed the current state of education in Dover.
- I invited teachers (4 DMS, 2 from Keene, NH) into a training seminar that I hosted, to learn along side industry professionals in how we think about product development in industry. The teachers were able to take this new model for learning and executing directly into their 8th grade math class and have their students use new technology to create story boards that highlight how critical it is to further our outreach and collaboration between our educators and our industry professionals. See a short video of the outcome of a student developed app based on this training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CvTV_AtAeo
- I joined the Seacoast Educational Endowment for Dover (SEED) as a regular board member, where I have brought in new funding sources to help further the reach of this amazing non-profit and provide over $30,000 per year of direct funding to the administrators and teachers in Dover’s public school system.
- I joined the Children’s Museum board as a regular board member to help drive community based events that inspire engagement in our culture and education, along with ensuring that the Museum remains a foundation of our community by helping to support their annual fundraising goals to keep the museum running and in Dover.
Outside of my personal investment in public education in Dover, I am also heavily invested in higher education and enriching student experience in our local University (UNH). I have run two highly engaging and successful DataJams at the University, and am in the planning stages of helping to coordinate and execute a Hackathon on campus in collaboration with the IOL. I have also been involved with course design and student experience with Southern NH University as an adjunct faculty member for the past 6 years, after earning my Masters Degree from Boston University.
It is no secret that Dover ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to the amount of money we spend per student when compared to the rest of the state. It is also no secret that our property tax rate in Dover is near the median for the state which is probably where it should be…. So where does this leave us to help further enrich our students experience and quality of education? We still need to provide our administrators and teachers the resources they need to enhance and improve education in Dover, regardless of our current tax rate or per pupil spend…So how do we do that? The short answer is, I don’t know… The longer answer is that I want to find out. I am not sure that just a re-appropriation of the municipal budget is the answer either. I will tell you that based on my personal experience inside a Fortune 100 company for the past 15 years, I face the same challenge we are talking about here, every single year. Budgets are flat, but the workload is increasing, quality needs to improve and we CAN’T just add people to fix the problem. Also, just throwing money at a problem never has the long term success we all hope it does. So in my business, we get creative. We get creative in the way we work, the way we think, the way that we approach everything we do. My first step (Always) is to optimize our expenses, or what’s going out the door in cold hard cash every single year. I always ask myself and my teams, could we be doing business differently that would allow us to retire that contract with that specific vendor, etc.. Typically I find that we can retire anywhere from 20% to 50% of our outgoing expenses through taking more personal accountability to the services we are providing to our customers and actually giving our customers more personal responsibility to do things on their own, or create self-service opportunities. So how does this relate to public education… I am not sure yet, but I wonder if it is worth finding out…