Will the last person at the DOE please turn out the lights?

By Chris Hamilton; 9/16/00

Does anyone remember a famous billboard erected in Seattle toward the end of a recent recession? Referring to a mass exodus brought on by a high regional unemployment rate, the sign read, "Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?" We might need to put a similar one up by 101 Pleasant Street in Concord. Numerous recent resignations and retirements at the DOE that affect homeschoolers include:

The state has had a hiring freeze since 5/9/00, and a goal of reducing existing department expenditures by 3% during the next fiscal year. To even hire a replacement for a vacant position requires a waiver from the governor's office. Given the current chaotic conditions at the DOE brought on by a chronic shortage of resources and personnel turnover, IMHO it will be difficult to attract outside applicants.

Angie LeBel is now doing as much of the work of three people as she can, and needless to say, she is swamped. All non-essential duties have been curtailed, but she is still spending long hours trying to make sure the important work gets done. DOE personnel she relied on to get answers to unusual questions have left or are leaving soon. Co-workers who might have pitched in to help her are themselves already doing more than one personís job.

At the last HEAC meeting, Angie indicated that on a personal level, she simply cannot continue very long the way things are. HEAC is looking into ways to lighten her home education load, and David Gephardt has offered some help. With all the new responsibilities she has, she has put in for a job upgrade, but did not get approval from all parties.

As helpful as it has been to homeschoolers, the DOE primarily serves the SAUs. The DOE is the organization to which superintendents go when they have questions about the laws. To date, the answers provided by DOE, more often than not, informed the superintendents that homeschoolers have more rights and fewer obligations than the superintendents thought. Though often invisible to homeschoolers, this type of communication is important to a good relationship between homeschoolers and administrators.

Homeschoolers should realize that if Angie leaves the DOE anytime soon, there will be no one there who can knowledgeably answer questions about homeschooling. Someone will answer the phone, but that person won't have a clue how to answer the questions. When Rachelís replacement is hired, the DOE would have to start over from scratch understanding the home education law and community.

We are at risk of losing a significant component of our home education environment in NH: a helpful, knowledgeable and sympathetic DOE.

I believe that losing Angie would be a big loss to the home education community. There are things home educators can do to lighten her load:

  1. We can spread the word in the homeschooling community that home education resources at DOE are at a critical low.
  2. We can be patient when the DOE is slow in responding to our requests.
  3. We can stop referring newcomers to the DOE for routine questions about homeschooling, and instead refer them to other homeschoolers.
  4. We can urge homeschoolers to use the DOE as a participating agency only as a last resort, which was the original intent of the law.
  5. We can stop asking for packets to hand out at homeschooling information events. DOE is happy to provide "clean" originals that we ourselves can photocopy for distribution.
  6. Finally, if and when the posting is opened to the public, we can help in the job search for Rachel's replacement, by steering people we think would be appropriate for the job in that direction.