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Merrimack Valley

November 28, 2012

Methuen parents, students take on school administration

METHUEN — Parents and students pushed back against the school administration last week and this week after changes to the Rangerland pre-school program were announced via letters to parents.

School Committee members received numerous emails and phone calls from parents about the changes and perceptions that the program would end altogether. City Councilors also fielded calls from parents who said they were not getting a response from their School Committee members.

Those things are more common. What was unusual was the initiative of parents and high school students to get together to discuss the changes and the rumors they heard and to directly confront the school administration about changes and what the students felt were broken promises and mixed messages. Another student started a petition this week to ask the superintendent to leave the program alone.

“They’re students, I get that,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said Tuesday evening after a sometimes contentious meeting with parents and high school students enrolled in the Rangerland program at the Quinn Building on Hampshire Street.

“But you’ve got to love their courage,” she said.

More than a dozen students on Tuesday challenged Scannell, high school principal James Giuca, associate principal Maria McLaughlin, high school vocational supervisor Jane Obshatkin and special education director Gina Bozek on why the changes were being made, why other options were not being pursued and the promises they believed Scannell made at previous meetings.

One student pressed Scannell several times about Maryann Merrill, the high school teacher who supervises the Rangerland program, and her role in the grammar school preschool programs that will be accepting Rangerland toddlers starting Dec. 3. The student, who did not give her name, said Scannell told them Merrill would travel to the grammar schools to visit the current Rangerland children.

Scannell shook her head, “Those words never came out of my mouth.” She and McLaughlin explained that Merrill works with the high school students and would stay with them at Timony Grammar School, where the high schoolers will finish their preschool clinic. But the student would not give any ground.

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