DOG: The Story of Dennis Littky and His Fight for a Better School by Susan Kammeraad-Campbell

DOG: The Story of Dennis Littky and His Fight for a Better School

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The inspiring tale of an innovative outsider who, as school principal, transformed a disruption-plagued, academically deficient high school in Winchester, N.H., into a center for learning, problem-solving, and life-skills development--only to be faced with dismissal by a traditionalist school board. Before taking over Thayer High, Dennis Littky met with teachers, students, and parents to learn of problems and to tailor a curriculum that reflected each child's needs and aspirations. He also saw to it that the vandalized and graffiti-smeared school building was repaired and spruced up before the fall semester. Among his innovations: school rules established jointly by students and teachers; class credit for apprenticeships in car-repair shops, for work as teachers' aides in the lower schools, etc.; a school farm as a ""learning laboratory""; a mandatory ""life-skills"" class in which seniors learned the realities of budgeting, job-seeking, and college-selection. Kids, parents, teachers, and townspeople were energized by these changes. The dropout rate plummeted, vandalism ceased, the number of college-bound graduates soared. But some Winchesterites wanted a return to traditional rules and teaching methods and a principal who was an authority figure, not a cheerleading, bearded, blue-jeaned ""hippy"" who allowed kids to call him ""Doc"" or ""Dennis."" Eventually, a newly elected school board denied Littky's fifth-year contract. An inevitable showdown ensued: heated meetings at which the traditionalists stonewalled all questions, a court case, and, finally, after two school board elections, triumph for Littky. Newspaper journalist Kammeraad-Campbell has done a crackerjack job here in portraying the impact of a charismatic educator not only on a school, but also on a once-hidebound small town.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Contemporary