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Meredith, Inter-Lakes to explore study options together


March 31, 2010
MEREDITH — Town and School District officials will mutually examine options and information regarding a motion at Meredith's town meeting calling for a study into Meredith's withdrawal from Inter-Lakes.

Meredith resident Mark Flanders made the motion during town meeting calling for the selectmen to request the School Board take on a study on the feasibility of Meredith's withdrawal from the Inter-Lakes School District.

The Meredith Board of Selectmen did not make any motions or directions to do so at its March 22 meeting pending any decisions by the School Board.

The School Board met on Tuesday with an item on their agenda to discuss the matter.

Superintendent Phil McCormack recommended that Board members carefully study the related to withdrawal from a cooperative school district and get a good understanding of what it entails.

"It's quite complex and the ramifications of such actions are significant," McCormack said.

McCormack said he spoke with the New Hampshire School Board Association's legal department about the issue and a representative would be available to explain the laws and answer any questions. The Meredith Board of Selectmen could also be invited to attend the meeting and gain information.

"I think it would be appropriate to have a better understanding from someone who's more informed than anyone else," McCormack said.

He also said the School Board Association could not immediately identify a cooperative school district that had gone through the process.

Carty said the trigger to begin discussions was decision by the Board of Selectmen. If they did not request further action, the issue was moot unless the School District chose to "take it upon ourself."

"It might still become beneficial to discuss the problem that got us from there to here," said Board member Dan Cunningham, who recommended that the Board talk to the School Board Association. "I'd like to know what the heck we're getting into before we move forward."

"I think there's an opportunity here to have all the community here in this district understand the potential benefits and disadvantages," said Board member Howard Cunningham.

Board Chair Richard Hanson said the board could learn much from a self-study, though he said he did not think the board would want to take the matter on themselves.

"I'm certainly not about to do anything until the selectmen ask us to," Hanson said

"It has the potential of taking on a life of it's own and at this point that's not necessary," Carty said.

Carty said the board should wait until the Meredith selectmen's meeting that Friday to see if they voted to take any action. Other board members said this would only be information gathering and not starting any legal process.

Dan Cunningham made a motion to ask McCormack to talk with the School Board Association about someone sharing information about the process.

Board member Lisa Merrill called for an amendment that such action would not be taken unless requested by the Meredith selectmen.

"It seems like these things are almost inflammatory after an event takes place," Merrill said, saying it would not hurt to wait.

Both Cunninghams said it would be best to have the information sooner.

The amendment failed after a vote of four opposed with Merrill and Hanson in favor. The motion itself passed with Hanson and Merrill voting in opposition.

Flanders further explained his reasons for making the motion, saying it would be best to understand the mechanics of the school district and how the towns interact.

"It's not because I think dissolution of the School District of withdrawal is necessarily the right outcome," Flanders said. "If it wasn't under this special direction, it might not be as exhaustive, it might not be as swift, and it might not be as conclusive."

Flanders said the district could explore the solutions to what might be found as problems and have the right players examine the issue exhaustively.

"I think it would be a show of good faith for you to take the initiative," Flanders said.

Mark Billings of Meredith commended the board for their decision.

"It was the first olive branch that had to be put out," Billings said.

Ron Lawler of Sandwich suggested the Board take a break before taking any action.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to bring three towns together that form a community," Lawler said. "I haven't seen that opportunity. Let's not blow that opportunity by getting tied up in an RSA."

Nancy Fredrickson of Sandwich said she was concerned the discussions were happening under the "umbrella of dissolution" as opposed to discussion between the three communities.

On Friday, Meredith Board of Selectmen Chair Peter Brothers said the board also wanted to explore the issue before considering any action and look at available options.

"It's premature for us to take any action," Brothers said, saying it was best to look at all options and get information.

Brothers said this matter would be posted as a discussion item at a future selectmen's meeting.

"The idea of having a cooling-off period I think is very important," said Selectman Chuck Palm. "(We will) hopefully get opportunity to go to this meeting and get what's going on."

Carty explained the decision made by the School Board and selectmen concurred.

"They're exploring what options are open to them," Brothers said. "Town and school can address the subject in an open and constructive manner. We may not want to go down that path. Is there something we can do that's more constructive?"

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