Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Debate News!

The Debate Team has had a great two weeks! 

On Saturday, February 3rd, varsity debate team Abigail Fitzgibbon and Juliette Kelly attended the NCFL qualifier tournament in Shrewsbury, MA, competing in the Public Forum format. They received a record which qualified them for the CFL national tournament, which will take place this May in Washington D.C. The team was debating the resolution: Resolved: The United States should abolish the capital gains tax. Just one week before, the varsity team Lena Brzezinski and August Kahle attended the NSDA qualifier tournament debating the resolution: Resolved: Spain should grant Catalonia its independence. Kahle and Brzezinski achieved a record of 4-2 and made it to the final break round of the tournament, making the team alternates for NSDA Nationals. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Green Team News!

3 Season Gardening

Annie Martin has been working to develop a way to increase the yields from our school-based community gardens. The Cafeteria staff has been using the gardens for several years and has only been able to access fresh produce in early June and from September to October. The gardens are tended, but not utilized during the summer. Annie has come up with a program that will allow the garden space to be used by the school for many more months during the school year. In addition, her proposal has the opportunity to use the greenhouses as a sustainable teaching tool for several classes. Annie is proposing that 2 gardens be enclosed in each greenhouse. Beginning with an idea and a design, she put together a proposal that has gotten approval the High School Principal, Facilities Director, Superintendent and most recently the School Committee. She has secured several greenhouses plans as options and has begun the process of obtaining quotes. In addition, she has also begun the process of writing grants to fully fund her project. MERHS could see the greenhouses installed this spring or summer.

1/25/18 Green Team Hosts Harry Hintlian 

Harry Hintlian, the Board Chair of Reforest the Tropics, a United Nations approved carbon reduction program visited Manchester-Essex High School to discuss Carbon sequestration. He spoke at length to the students of the GreenTeam classes as well as the Sustainability and AP Environmental classes. He discussed the need to use “All options when meeting the challenge of Climate Change”. His focus was on the long-term viability of planting trees, as a way to capture CO2 365 days a year.
 The website, is where you can become briefly acquainted with RTT.  They are a scientific research organization, and also we integrate our forestry science into climate change teaching programs in schools. In some cases, they will plant a 1-hectare tropical forest for a school, and then use the school's own newly planted tropical forest as a 3-dimensional teaching platform for a climate change curriculum in the classroom.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Congratulations to this Year's Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winners!

Congratulations to this Year's Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winners!

Emily Beck  Silver Key Photography Desensitized 
Madison Boisvert  Honorable Mention Photography Untitled
Natascha Braase  Gold Key Photography Untitled 
Rebecca Braimon  Gold Key Flash Fiction Kolibel'naya 
Hannah Burnett  Honorable Mention Photography Untitled 
Matthew Carter Honorable Mention Photography Spectrum of Preferences 
Emily Clark Honorable Mention Photography Portfolio The Young Widow 
Thymen De Widt  Gold Key Photography Hyper Flexible 
Randall Doane Honorable Mention Art Portfolio Life 
Randall Doane  Honorable Mention Mixed Media Deface 
Randall Doane Silver Key Drawing and Illustration Grampy 
Abigail Fitzgibbon  Silver Key Journalism The Last Shipbuilder 
Kara Glynos  Honorable Mention Photography Untitled 
Garrett Lamothe  Honorable Mention Flash Fiction Before the Rainfall 
Eden Mayer Gold Key Photography Untitled
Madonna McGuire Silver Key Drawing and Illustration Tuning In 
Nell McKeon  Gold Key Art Portfolio Everyday Affairs 
Nell McKeon  Honorable Mention Mixed Media Windows 
Nell McKeon  Silver Key Drawing and Illustration Mom 
Nell McKeon Silver Key Fashion Oysters and Pearls 
Spencer Meek Silver Key Photography What a Day 
Mason Paccone Silver Key Photography Untitled 
Faith Palermo Honorable Mention Flash Fiction Stitched With Love 
Madison Palmer  Silver Key Painting The Factory 
Nina Prince Silver Key Short Story Hot Fish 
Sofia Puchniak Honorable Mention Mixed Media Orchard 
Margareta Taraska Honorable Mention Photography Sinised Beebid 
Meredith Wolf Honorable Mention Photography Fisher Cat 
Genevieve Young Honorable Mention Photography Sibling Rivalries

What are the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards?

"Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth, and provided opportunities for creative teens to be celebrated. Each year, increasing numbers of teens participate in the program, and become a part of our community—young artists and writers, filmmakers and photographers, poets and sculptors, video game artists and science fiction writers, along with countless educators who support and encourage the creative process."

Monday, February 5, 2018


$20,000 in Grants Awarded Across Manchester Essex School District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (January 17, 2018)  - - Spaulding Education Fund (SEF), a non-profit committed to advancing educational excellence in the Manchester-Essex regional schools for close to 30 years, is pleased to announce it has awarded $20,000 in grants for its 2017 Fall/Winter grant cycle. Successful grant recipients have created exciting initiatives and found innovative materials to offer unique opportunities that advance, enrich and enliven the classroom experience. Grants were awarded to applicants throughout the district and across all age levels.  To follow is a summary of the Spaulding Education Fund Fall/Winter 2017 grants:

Composer in Residence: Under the direction of the award-winning composer Demetrius Spaneas, Essex Elementary School fifth-grade students will learn how to compose music with the goal for each student to complete an original composition by the end of the residency.  In addition to an introduction to music writing software, students will learn to utilize and combine the basic concepts of melodic contour, simple harmonic progression and rhythmic continuity in their own compositions. 

Engineering Component for Math Explorers and Problem Solvers Program:  MEAPS is an innovative pilot program recently launched at Memorial Elementary School that encourage students, grades 2 to 5, who have an interest and passion in mathematics and technology/engineering to work on flexible, collaborative problem-solving projects.  This grant will purchase supplemental materials, which will expand the scope of the projects to include more advanced engineering concepts.  Last year, over 130 children participated in MEAPS.

Chromebooks for Middle School Robotics:  Robotics will be incorporated into the Middle School Engineering curriculum with the addition of six Chromebooks to the classroom.  With robotics and engineering design being taught over the course of 4-6 weeks, all middle school students will have the opportunity to design, build and program robots to solve real-world problems, evaluate their own work and generate solutions. In response to the grant’s approval, MS Principal Joanne Maino said,  “Thank you SEF.  I can’t tell you how proud I am to be principal of this wonderful school – much of it is thanks to the incredible support we receive from our community of dedicated parents.”

Middle School Academy Digital Classroom Equipment: Middle School Academy is a new 6th grade class at MERMS with the goal to build academic, social, and digital literacy skills through project-based learning. Technology will be purchased to support this innovative class including iPad minis and cases, green screens, and microphones. MSA teacher Vidula Plante shared, “Adding 21st-century technology will support students’ imaginations and build their digital skills as they work together to troubleshoot problems and produce new content that follows an idea from its inception to its finished product.”

Biotechnology in all Classrooms:  All levels of High School biology are currently incorporating biotechnology into the curriculum and to support the increased volume of biology students and the number of inquiry-based labs, the Science Department will purchase six electrophoresis chambers. This cutting-edge technology allows students to identify properties of DNA, explore GMO presence in foods, identify DNA from crime scenes and so much more.  HS Science Department Chair Kristi Umilie explained that, “Thanks to the Spaulding Education Fund, we are able to provide our students opportunities for real-world science experiences and skill development.”

The Anatomy in Clay: The High School Science Department will purchase and implement this hands-on system to support the growing interest in Anatomy and Physiology courses. The program, which aligns with progressive trends in education, provides differentiated instruction to effectively reach a wide variety of learning styles. “I believe that providing engaging activities in any science class is the key to student learning.  This system is a comprehensive, hands-on option for students to learn the difficult subject of Anatomy,” stated HS Science Teacher Maria Lonnett Burgess.

MERHS Robotics Team: SEF is pleased to continue to support the MERHS Robotics Team known as “Robots-by-the-Sea” which provides students unique hands-on experience through the applied STEM.  Students work intensely to design and build robots for competitions throughout the region, which also fosters teamwork and a commitment to excellence among the students. This past spring the team won their division at the World Championship: Tesla Division Finals.

As the organization’s Annual Appeal comes to close, SEF would like to express its sincere thanks to the many members of the community who continue to generously support the district’s education fund.  It is only with their support that we can fund this many projects and the kind of rich learning that our students experience.  SEF is a group of parent volunteers who focus on the mission to assure excellence in the Manchester Essex Public Schools by funding programs and resources that open doors to innovative curriculum-based learning.  To learn how you can get involved or about the organization upcoming Annual Winter Beach Bash Benefit on Friday, April 6, please go to    

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Summer Music-by-the-Sea!

Summer Music-by-the-Sea

By beginning a week-long summer music camp for MERSD elementary and middle schoolers’, the MERSD Music Department hopes not only to jump-start the school year by getting students back into practice on their instruments but also to provide valuable learning experiences that will support school year learning.  
The program will provide opportunities for small group and solo performances, promote independence and leadership in young musicians, and allow young students to interact with and be inspired by their older peers. Additionally, this more intimate setting will allow for finely tuned individualized instruction for each student.  Finally, we hope that this program can provide students with a fun enrichment of their musical experiences at MERSD, and motivate them to become leaders and role-models for their fellow musicians throughout the school year.

Summer Music Camp Registration

  • Location: MERSD High School
  • Dates: July 30-August 3
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 9-12 & Friday 9:00-2:00
  • Tuition: $175.00 per student for week

Registration Link:  Summer Music-by-the-Sea


Monday, January 29, 2018

MERSD FY19 Budget Hearing

Public Hearing on the FY19 Budget
January 30th  @ 7:00pm 
Essex Elementary School Cafeteria

Presentation of the FY19 Budget followed by public input. This is an opportunity for  the community to learn, ask questions, and provide feedback about our proposed budget for FY19. 

As outlined at the Tentative Budget Public Hearing on December 13, 2017, the district is facing a projected $735,000 (16%) increase in health care costs.  This increase follows a 28% increase in fiscal year 2018, for a total increase of $1.5 million dollars in two years.  The cause of the increase is not due to changes in plan design but rather a significant and atypical increase in catastrophic cases.  The increased cost of health care will exceed available funds under a level services budget, leaving no additional funds to manage annual increased costs and program investments.  Our current fiscal situation will require us to make some difficult choices going forward.  In the short-term, to manage the FY19 budget, we are looking at efficiencies in the areas of services, fees, staffing and program. Long-term we will be looking at the structure and sustainability of the current health care benefits plan.

Manchester Essex Regional School District (MERSD) is committed to a collaborative approach to budget planning.  Throughout each budget season, we work cooperatively with the Boards of Selectman and Finance in both Essex and Manchester meeting regularly to provide on-going progress reports on our planning process and multi-year outlook.   It is important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of our budget is to support our school and district goals.

Budget Goals for FY19
  • Position MERSD for continual improvement of educational program and student achievement
  • Manage Enrollment
    • Strive to meet School Committee class size guidelines
    • Serve increasingly diverse student educational needs
  • Exercise fiscal responsibility
    • Seek internal efficiencies to offset growth needs when possible
  • Meet local, state and federal responsibilities while controlling growth

Please visit our Finance & Operations page for information about our budget process, a complete budget season calendar, and links to our strategic plan which outlines the work going on in the district. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

MERSD FY19 Budget Update

Rising Health Care Costs - A Persistent Problem

January is budget month for the MERSD School Committee and balancing the FY19 Budget presents a challenging task.  Over the next few weeks, the School Committee and district team will continue to work collaboratively with the towns of Essex and Manchester to refine the numbers and reach a final budget request.  The challenge before us is addressing back-to-back double digit increases in health care.

As we outlined at the Tentative Budget Public Hearing on December 13, 2017, the district is facing a projected $735,000 (16%) increase in health care costs.  This increase follows a 28% increase in fiscal year 2018, for a total increase of $1.5 million dollars in two years.  The cause of the increase is not due to changes in plan design but rather a significant and atypical increase in catastrophic cases.  The increased cost of health care will exceed available funds under a level services budget, leaving no additional funds to manage annual increased costs and program investments.  Our current fiscal situation will require us to make some difficult choices going forward.  In the short-term, to manage the FY19 budget, we are looking at efficiencies in the areas of services, fees, staffing and program. Long-term we will be looking at the structure and sustainability of the current health care benefits plan.

Health care costs are an annual challenge.  Here’s what we have been doing to manage this difficult issue.
  • Established a joint school-towns budget collaboration team.
  • Worked collaboratively with the Manchester Essex Teachers’ Association to
    • Reorganize health care benefits and establish an OPEB (Other Post -Employment Benefits) Trust Fund to fund state mandated retiree health care obligations.
    • Introduce higher co-pays and deductibles for insurance plans
    • Reduce employer contribution rates based on standards in comparable districts
    • Negotiate annually with multiple insurance providers.  Prior to 2018, the average increase per year in health insurance rates for MERSD was just 3.3% over six years.
    • Require all eligible retirees to migrate to Medicare as their primary insurer instead of MERSD’s plan.
  • Outsourced services in non-academic areas such as custodial and cafeteria services.
Although we continue to seek internal efficiencies in order to maintain class size and program offerings, we will have some difficult choices to make in the coming months.  Shifting enrollment is working in our favor. Although we are still managing a cohort of students with record high class sizes, these students are now at the secondary level and entering elementary class enrollments have declined due to a demographic decline in school age children.  This population shift has allowed us to reduce classroom sections at the elementary level while maintaining class size benchmarks and shift resources to the secondary level to address the larger cohort.

Serving our students well is the driving force behind our budget development process. The communities of Manchester and Essex have long had a reputation of excellent academic achievement, high quality faculty, a commitment to small class size, and strong academic and co-curricular programs. Our program is well respected, as are our communities.

We encourage you to visit the MERSD Budget page ( – Quick Link: Budget) to review our presentations and to learn more about the goals and the challenges we are facing.  We also hope that you will consider increasing your involvement with the schools.  We welcome your participation and input as we work to address our challenges.

FY 19 Tentative Budget At a Glance
FY19 Tentative Budget = $25.2 million
  • 3.18% ($777K) spending increase from FY18 budget
  • Includes $354K cut to level services staffing via attrition/known retirements
  • Relies upon $550K of yet‐to‐be‐identified spending efficiencies

FY19 Operating Assessment = 3.29%
  • Measures cost increase to towns after deducting “Other Revenue” (e.g., State Aid) from
  • spending needs
  • In line with recent year assessment increases of 3.32% (FY17) and 3.20% (FY18),
  • following override/revenue correction from Towns

FY19 Capital Budget = $2.108 million
  • Pays for MS/HS project debt service
  • Decrease of $48K (2.2%) vs. FY18

A great way to join the conversation and learn about what's going on is to attend a School Committee meeting.   Here’s a look at the topics being addressed in the next month.

Upcoming Meetings - MERSD School Committee
Presentation Topics
January 30 /  7:00pm / Essex Elem.
Public Hearing - FY19 Budget
February 6  /  6:00pm / MERMHS LC
Adoption FY19 Budget
February 13  /  7:00pm / MERMHS LC
Joint Board Meeting w/ Memorial Building Committee  Approval of Preferred Option
   MERMHS LC = Middle High School Learning Commons – 2nd Floor