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School Board doesn't back down on budget cuts

February 17, 2010
MEREDITH — The sixth grade at Sandwich Central School will still be cut following a narrow vote by the Inter-Lakes School Board, though an after-hours office position at the high school was reinstated.

The board held a meeting on Tuesday to finalize the budget and warrant to go before voters at the March 3 School District Meeting.

Several parents, teachers, and interested parties attended the meeting at Inter-Lakes Elementary School, though public comment was limited as several hours had been devoted to comment in past meetings.

Board member Dan Cunningham moved to amend the budget to reinstate $89,730 for salaries and benefits for a sixth grade teacher in Sandwich, preventing the sixth grade from being moved from SCS to the Middle Tier.

After no discussion, Cunningham and Board members Richard Hanson and Lisa Merrill voted in favor with members Carol Baggaley and Rebecca Alosa, and Board Chair Jack Carty voting against. Board member Howard Cunningham was absent from the meeting, making the vote a tie and failing the amendment.

Student representative Tim Quinney asked for the board to reinstate the one-third Industrial Arts position at the High School. Quinney said those classes are seen as career possibilities for many students and many students are greatly interested in taking them.

Hanson motioned to reinstate the position, which would carry a cost of $31,289.

Baggaley said cutting the position would only mean the loss of two courses based on low interest.

"I think it provides an opportunity for many students who may be headed towards a tech field," Hanson said. "It provides them with an opportunity they otherwise might not have."

Quinney said he had received several calls from students on the issue and a Facebook group was created to have that position put back.

Hanson and Merrill voted in favor of the amendment while the rest voted against it.

The 3-5 p.m. clerical position at the high school was reinstated. Several parents had raised concerns that their children would have to remain outside the school unsupervised in the time between the end of school and the beginning of afternoon sports and activities.

The person in that position can monitor students in the hallway and watch security cameras, allowing students to remain in the building during that time.

The motion to reinstate $6,777 for this position passed with a vote of four to two with Alosa and Dan Cunningham voting against.

Hanson motioned to reinstate proposed cuts to the chorus program at a cost of $43,169.

Hanson said he benefited from music programs when he was in school.

"Although the numbers may not be great, the benefits are almost indescribable for those who love music," Hanson said.

Cunningham, Baggaley, and Alosa said chorus would still be available, but there would be fewer course offerings and fewer teachers. Baggaley additionally asked why no one was questioning the cut of the one-third history teacher position.

The motion to reinstate the chorus cut was defeated with Hanson and Merrill voting in favor.

Chorus teacher Grace Ainsworth said the proposed cuts would have a significant impact on students, including making students unable to perform at the Lakes Region, All-State, and All-New England music festivals and would take away an opportunity to learn how to audition in front of a live audience.

Hanson's motion to reinstate field trips, including the Cape Cod trip, for $26,805, was also defeated with Hanson and Merrill the only ones in favor.

Merrill said it might be a good opportunity for students who do not have the means to visit the ocean to do so and be inspired. Carty said it is best for students in need that the tax impact is kept lower for their parents.

After the one amendment, the budget of $19,664,532 passed in a vote of four to two with Hanson and Merrill voting against. The budget will go to voters at the March 3 District Meeting.

Neither petition articles to add $89,000 each to the budget to add a kindergarten through fourth grade teacher at Inter-Lakes Elementary and reinstate a fifth grade teacher at the Middle Tier will be recommended by the Board following two more four to two votes. Hanson and Merrill were the only yes votes for both recommendations.

"I am thoroughly disgusted with the Board's lack of support for education in this district," said Ryan Chappis of Sandwich, a student at Inter-Lakes High School. "If students don't get a good education, they can't go on in the world."

Cindy Hambrook of Sandwich thanked Hanson and Merrill for their votes.

Hambrook said, saying the sixth graders contribute to the historical society, library, fair committee, Recreation Department, environmental clubs, and other community activities. "Taking the sixth grade out of Sandwich is taking a slice out of the community," Hambrook said, adding that the kindergarten through sixth-grade program brings people to the community.

"I really walk away from these meetings feeling like what we as a (public) are asking for, shame on us because we are trying to raise taxes," said Mary Williams of Meredith. "Why is it a bad thing that we want to keep our teachers and keep our programs? Two people voted to reinstate our teachers, but we have (Destination Imagination)? I have a huge problem with that."

Some residents also expressed concern about larger class sizes, especially in fifth grade and at SCS. A few others said the School Board was making the cuts at the expense of students' education.

Alosa said she hoped people at District Meeting would vote to reinstate some cuts.

"I care about the education that they get, but I also feel that we have a responsibility to people who cannot make their economic situation any better at the moment," Alosa said.

High School Math teacher Diane Mega said she understood there was a balance between keeping a good education and managing the budget.

"I think the cuts we've made will make their education questionably successful," Mega said. "(The students) might not do as well in their adult lives."

Lora Carney of Sandwich asked why Spanish was reinstated so quickly. Carty said the Spanish initiative started with people in the district and there has been significant support for the program.

Hambrook said students have Elementary Spanish for one 45-minute class a week.

"Spanish or sixth grade, I think we vote sixth grade," Hambrook said.

The final opportunity for speaking to and making changes on the 2010-2011 budget will be at the District Meeting.

This year's District Meeting will be held on March 3 in the Inter-Lakes High School gym at 7 p.m.

"After what I've heard tonight, I suggest everyone get a good night's sleep on March 2," said Moderator Lee Quimby.

Martin Lord & Osman
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