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School board endorses academic camp

June 29, 2010
BARNSTEAD — A proposal by Principal Tim Rice to offer students who struggled with last year's NECAP exams some extra help this summer in the form of a new academic camp earned the support of school board members last week.

During his bi-weekly report at the board's June 22 meeting, Rice proposed the idea for the camp as a way for the school to honor its commitment (outlined in its School/District in Need of Improvement, or SINI/DINI, plan) to give more time to the "low scorers" who fell within the bottom two categories (Substantially Below Proficient and Partially Proficient) on the 2009 NECAPs.

Explaining that he and fellow school administrators had compiled a list of 91 students who they felt needed an extra boost in preparing for next year's NECAPs, Rice said his goal will be to bring as many of them in as possible later this summer, and have them work with teachers four hours a day for two weeks on activities designed to help them improve their Reading and Math skills.

Running the program, however, might require an additional $1,800 over and above what was budgeted for summer school this year.

Commenting that administrators at Prospect Mountain High School had decided to focus more of their energy on students who came within a few points of the Proficiency category on last year's exam (believing that it would be easier to help them move up one category than to help the lowest scorers move up two), board Chairman Keith Couch asked Rice whether he had considered a similar strategy.

Rice agreed to focus in on the students who might need only a slight boost along with those who will need more attention.

Estimating that the camp would see participation from roughly half the students who need help in Reading, and half of those who need guidance in Math, Couch said he would like to see an update from Rice at a future board meeting on what progress, if any, the program yields.

"I endorse your plan," he said, asking the remaining board members, who all nodded in agreement, for their thoughts.

"It's a good plan for this summer, and I think it will grow," Superintendent William Compton commented.

Server replacement authorized

Noting that one of the chief recommendations made to administrators recently for improving Barnstead Elementary's technology infrastructure was to outfit the school with new servers, Rice and Compton requested end-of-year funds last week to replace the existing e-mail and administrative servers, which Rice said are beginning to show their age.

Pointing out a $14,000 balance remaining in the Principal's Office line of the district's FY10 operating budget, Couch questioned why the board shouldn't have simply approved a function transfer to cover the cost of the new servers, rather than withdraw from the fund balance.

After discussing with Rice exactly what would be needed to purchase and install the new servers, Couch said he would be willing to approve a transfer of "any number that will get us the hardware" from the Principal's line to the Technology line, suggesting that the board approve the transfer of up to $8,000 to ensure that there will be enough available.

Agreeing with Couch's suggestion, Vice Chair Diane Beijer moved to transfer $7,500.

Board member Eunice Landry questioned whether there was, in fact, that much available to transfer, however, pointing out that $6,000 of the balance in the Principal's office line appeared to have been encumbered.

"I'm not sure that we really have that amount of money," she said.

Modifying her original motion, Beijer moved instead to authorize Rice and Compton to transfer the $7,500 from wherever they can find it in the budget.

Her revised motion passed unanimously.

Out of the loop

Raising concern about the idea of board members being kept out of the loop on important decisions, Beijer (who serves on the board's Building and Grounds subcommittee) questioned why she and fellow subcommittee member Maureen Fitzpatrick were not made aware until their most recent meeting that plans to renovate the bathrooms in the school's "D" wing this summer had apparently been scrapped.

Pointing out that she, Fitzpatrick, and other board members had told local residents repeatedly that the bathrooms would be renovated this year, and had no knowledge of a change in plans, she asked Compton and Rice for a report on what was being done in terms of summer projects, and where things stood with regard to the school's modular classroom.

Rice explained that in view of the unanticipated costs associated with replacing water-damaged ceiling tiles in some fifth grade classrooms and the uncertainty surrounding the cost of repairs to the modular, he, Compton, and Business Administrator Amy Ransom had decided that it might be best to hold off on the bathroom renovations.

Beijer said she understood the administration's concerns.

"What is concerning to me," she added, "is that it was never relayed to the board."

"We've got to be part of that process," Couch said in agreement, adding that when the board announces plans to undertake a project like the bathroom renovations at a district meeting, it creates expectations on the part of the public that those plans will be carried out.

Compton agreed to keep the board better informed of any such developments in the future, noting that they are usually included in the decision-making process and calling the bathroom situation a "blip on the radar screen."

Given the uncertainty about how much the repairs to the modular will cost and the manufacturer's seeming reluctance to provide solid numbers, Couch suggested that Rice and Compton "get the numbers" and meet with the Building and Grounds Committee.

If the board needs to take a phone vote at that point, he said, it can be easily arranged.

Landry agreed, stating her belief that the board should keep its word to the voters at this year's annual district meeting, and stay as close to its current five-year maintenance plan as possible by renovating the bathrooms this year.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board voted to approve the expenditure of $5,000 in end-of-year funds to pay for a topographical survey of the school's property which Beijer described as the "first step" in a plan to address the fire department's concerns about the inability of ambulances to access the building before and after school due to the volume of traffic parked in front of the entrance.

The board also heard an update on student discipline from Assistant Principal Jeff Drouin (who reported a significant drop in referrals during the month of June in comparison to last year).

Special Education Director Anna Williams reported that her department will be offering a stimulus-funded summer school program this year for a group of 25 coded students who scored in the bottom two categories on last year's NECAP exams, and introduced the board to one of the electronic Leapsters she recently ordered to give to parents as a way to help pre-school-aged children develop reading comprehension and phonetic awareness skills.

At Compton's suggestion, the board voted to rescind its earlier acceptance of the school psychologist's resignation, and re-hire the psychologist (who Compton said has decided not to pursue a graduate degree, as he originally planned, due to economic concerns).

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for July 13, at 6 p.m. in the elementary school media center.

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