In the July issue of the Beacon we included Part I of an interview with new AE/MS Principal Dennis Dobe. Due to circumstances we were unable to conduct it in-person. Instead we had Principal Dobe send us an outline of his professional work, and what made him look at Andover for his next educational journey.
A second part to the interview was promised to our readers, and as we are still conducting interviews from an electronic distance three questions were sent to him. His answers give the Andover community a more in-depth look at who he is, how he is preparing for the fall semester during the pandemic crisis, and his visions and plans for the future of the school.
Beacon: You are starting a new job during a pandemic that has yet to abate. What are your thoughts about the challenges that face you as you get to know a new school, new people, and new students?
Principal Dobe: Beginning a new job in a new school and district during these extraordinary times presents many challenges, but none that can’t be effectively managed. The amount of guidance and support received from outgoing staff members, as well as current AE/MS staff and SAU-46 administrators, has been an enormous benefit to all three of the new administrative staff members at AE/MS [Ashley Lester, Administrative Assistant; Dennis Audet, Plant Manager; and Principal Dobe]. Parents, students, and staff have been extremely warm, kind, and welcoming. I have already met a lot of great people here in Andover, and I look forward to meeting many more in the time ahead.
Once we get a little further along in understanding what our options are for school reopening this fall, there will be a great deal of work to do with staff and families to prepare for welcoming students back to AE/MS. I really look forward to the energy, excitement, and possibilities associated with “go time” this coming August. The teamwork involved in preparing for a safe and responsible school reopening will bring us together, for sure.
Beacon: Obviously, your first priority is to deal with the current crisis, but beyond that, what plans and goals do you have for your tenure at AE/MS? What do you envision for the future of this school and its students?
Principal Dobe: My work at AE/MS will be to continue to support students, families, and staff at this wonderful school. As a school community, we will need to continue to promote “Whole Child Education,” (developing the whole person, not just traditional academics), increase student academic achievement (good, smart kids test well, and Andover students can and should perform better on standardized assessments), and provide more opportunities for students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education.
Other important initiatives will promote good physical and emotional health, increased physical activity, and experiential learning to include a wide variety of enrichment activities for students both in and outside of the school day and classroom (and in the outdoors as much as possible!).
Beacon: This is an election year, and along with that comes a certain amount of politicizing about education funding. What are your thoughts about what is needed that does or doesn’t exist? Also, can you provide an analysis of the benefits of public education versus charter schools, and if you think that funding them would cut into needed funding for public schools?
Principal Dobe: For as many benefits as we all enjoy living here in the Granite State, and as important as it is that we maintain local control over such things as our public schools, a problem associated with this model is that schools are not created or maintained equally. There is no level playing field for schools or students in New Hampshire.
There are great disparities from town to town in our state regarding the quality of schooling offered to their children. Some schools have many more resources than others, can afford more and better staff members, and can offer their children much better opportunities for learning.
Thankfully, the school system in Andover is supported well by its community, and the children and whole community benefit greatly as a result. Unfortunately, not every town in our state is like Andover, and the children in those communities enjoy far fewer educational opportunities.
On the point of regular public schools versus charter schools, etc., it is clear that as hard as our public schools work to be all things to all people (and they do a remarkably good job of this), there will always be families who elect for something different for their children (homeschooling, charter schools, parochial schools, online schools, private schools). This is a family/parent choice, and should be respected, appreciated, and supported by the public schools.
Parents need to do what they believe will be best for their children, and it is good when they have high quality educational options to choose from.