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Fall 2022 Update
In the fall of 2022, New Hampshire published a financial transparency tool to show how school districts have used their COVID relief funds. Although opportunities for advocacy around how these funds will be spent have mostly passed, we have updated this page with a brief summary of what we found during the week of November 17th, 2022. Please note that the tool is updated weekly and we encourage you to use the transparency tool if you require current numbers.
Financial Transparency Tracking Tool
Community Engagement Recap
- Concord’s ESSER plans are posted on their website. The most recent plan was signed February 15, 2022 and is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WQ3QYZDuL12TOXUavpDWaq1cRd1LGQC7/view.
- To gather public opportunity, Concord has surveyed staff, students, families, and community members. The survey was sent out in late May and early June of 2021. Translation services were provided upon request.
- Members of the public can offer feedback during public comment sessions of school board meetings.
What We Found
- According to the New Hampshire Financial Transparency tool, Concord has spent the most amount of money on the following: Student wellness (52.7%), staffing (23.3%) , and technology (7.3%).
- Concord School District states that it plans on hiring an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion officer sometime before 2024. The inclusion officer will oversee and implement support services and ensure the school system is equitable, just, and inclusive.
- Concord School District states that it plans on using the funds to hire additional staff to provide additional support to students.
- Concord School District states that it plans on updating their technology to support their social-emotional system of care. To support and intervene in students who struggle with academics, social, emotional, and mental health, the District plans on using screening tools and data from attendance, discipline records, and grades.
Concord’s plan includes language around equity that is encouraging but it’s actual plan was difficult to assess and we were unable to determine if the needs of students with disabilities were being prioritized in any meaningful way. We were unable to find plan updates* or opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
What Can You Do?
A requirement of this federal funding is to engage in ongoing meaningful communication with the public. We have found that this is happening in Concord on an individual basis but not in a formalized manner.
- Ask your your school board representative, school principal, or Superintendent Kathleen Murphy whether any opportunities are planned for families and stakeholders to provide input on the ongoing use of these funds and if they aren’t, request that such opportunities are made available in the near future. You can use the links above to address your letter appropriately.
- Provide input on how the Concord school district should be spending these funds. We have created a Template Letter with some disability-related priorities that you can use or reference.
What we know
- The Concord School District is receiving $15 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The grant requires that 20% of this (or $3 million) is specifically allocated towards ‘learning loss recovery’ which is understood to include special education supports and services.
- The district’s original plan outlining how it hoped to spend the funds can be accessed from the homepage of the district website at http://sau8.org. Additional information can be found in the minutes of the district’s finance committee meetings, available at https://www.sau8.org/en-US/agendas-minutes-d5a81af3.
What we found
- Concord’s plan was difficult to assess and required us to review past minutes from school board meetings to fill in details and piece together the current state of things. Even after all this, we were unable to determine if the needs of students with disabilities were prioritized in any meaningful way.
- Concord’s plan states that the district has, “tentative plans to hire an equity, diversity, and inclusion officer to oversee and ensure implementation of ESSER funds is done in an equitable, just, and inclusionary fashion” and that “Funds will be allocated equitably across our district with specific consideration for students with IEPs, those eligible for free reduced-price lunch, and our English Language learners”. It is not clear how or if any of this is being done.
- In a call with the grants manager for the district, we were informed that ESSER III funds will be used to hire a permanent director of student and staff wellness.
What we recommend
- Increase opportunities for stakeholder engagement:
- Hold dedicated public meetings for discussing ARP ESSER III fund allocation, at least every six months and upon any major changes or additions to the use of funds plan.
- Provide alternative and accessible ways for the public to provide their input during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as an online survey, dedicated email address, etc. Make this information available and easy to find on the district website, school websites, and other easily accessible locations.
- Publicize opportunities for consultation and ways for families to find up-to-date information via social media, school email, and other relevant platforms.
- Designate an individual or team within the district who stakeholders may contact with questions or comments regarding the district’s use of ESSER III funds (e.g. school board members, district grants manager, etc.). List the contact information for this individual or team on the school website including both a telephone number and email address – ideally, on a virtual hub of information pertaining to ESSER funds (as recommended above).
- Distribute funding in an equitable manner to assist the students who need it the most, including students with disabilities. A letter with our specific recommendations is available HERE.
*Six Month Updates
School districts were required to provide the NH Department of Education (NHDOE) with an update of how they are using these funds by February 23, 2022. This deadline was recently moved to March 9, 2022. On March 9th, we reached out to the NH DOE requesting access to these six month updates but were told it would take a while for them to be posted publicly. We will continue to monitor their status and will update our analysis accordingly.
Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to
eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire.
DRC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for New Hampshire
and has authority under federal law to conduct investigations in cases of probable abuse or neglect.
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