February 05, 2014WHITEFIELD — All eight articles, including Article 1 for a proposed bond for a new Career & Technical Education Center at WMRHS and Article 2 for the District's operating budget, will be on the warrant as presented by the WMRSD school board at the First Deliberative Session held on Monday night, moderated by Ben Jellison of Carroll.
Rumors had swirled around over the weekend that Caledonian-Record sportswriter Arlene Allin of Lancaster, who has steadfastly argued for nearly two years against adding so many square feet of new space to WMRHS, would propose slashing the proposed $18 million CTE bond issue to $1, in order to kill the project.
The state would pay 75 percent of the total project's capital cost and the District, 25 percent.
A crowd of some 300 voters was on hand in the WMRHS auditorium. Allin merely spoke against the project and did not move to amend Article 1 as written.
The future of Career & Technical Education does not depend on a building, she said, calling the proposed one-story structure a "monstrosity." Rather, Allin said, it is teachers who make the difference. It is the CTE program that needs to be overhauled, she said. "Strengthen the programs first," Allin urged, adding only then should taxpayers be asked to spend their hard-earned dollars for building improvements.
She also warned that spending $450,000 a year in debt service for 20 years would limit what could be done in other areas of the educational program.
She praised teachers, principals and other administrators for changing the "trajectory of education," asserting that the District is outperforming others in the region and sometimes the state, thanks to the professionals "who've pulled the District out of the educational ditch…It's the teachers that need raises," Allin said.
She slammed the school board for using "smoke and mirrors" to blur the line between the amount of state funding that would be available — 75 percent in 2014 and likely only 60 percent in the future — and the District's place in line (queue) if the proposed CTE project were defeated a second time.
Allin also added that the proposed CTE operating budget would call for "cash-strapped taxpayers" to pay $120,000 a year for two people "to sweep the floors" of the new Center — money that otherwise could be spent hiring two teachers.
The flat-roofed "palace is unaffordable," she said, when state revenues are falling. "Now is the time," Allin pointed out, "to focus on education and not bricks and mortar."
Lancaster Fire Chief Randy Flynn said he has concerns about the project and fears that code issues in the existing building would make the District "come up short."
Three Lancaster men spoke in favor of the project. David Fuller of Fuller's Sugarhouse said that sugaring is not a hobby craft but a multi-million-dollar business. Fuller said he has nine people on his payroll and is looking for workers skilled in math and computers. UNH Cooperative Extension educator Steve Turaj also emphasized that farmers and foresters today must be able to deal with complexities. Logging contractor Allen Bouthillier said the area must be able to retain a younger age class.
No other articles were discussed, and the Session only last three-quarters of an hour.