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Budgeters play with notion of nixing superintendent position

December 08, 2010
A 3.5 percent increase in the Gilford School District's proposed $23 million budget led to talks of doing without a superintendent during the Budget Committee's meeting last Thursday.

Current Superintendent Paul DeMinico plans to retire in June, and some Budget Committee members see the next school year as a chance to save a significant amount of money. Some committee members suggested cutting raises or freezing administrative head pay, just as the town did with their department heads, and others supported doing away with the superintendent position altogether.

Budget Committee Chairman Dick Hickok said he was concerned to see that all employees within the school district, including administration, were still budgeted to receive raises. While he did feel the school could make more "hard" cuts, he did not agree with foregoing the superintendent position.

"There is about $180,000 in pay raises in this budget. We would have been more impressed to have seen no pay raises this year. The average guy would like to see fewer taxes," said Hickok.

School Board members explained that they made difficult and deep cuts to the school budget in prior years, but Hickok said he wanted to focus on the budget at hand.

"I didn't agree with foregoing a superintendent, but I want to hear what you did for me today, not what you did for me yesterday," said Hickok.

Committee member Terry Stewart, who was on the sub-committee that reviewed the school budget, said the sub-committee had discussed not filling DeMinico's position one he retired. Stewart said he didn't think it would hurt to take a year or two off from hiring another superintendent after DeMinico's retirement.

"I don't understand what the resistance is. Why go find someone if we don't need someone?" said Stewart, who added that $125,000 in a superintendent's salary would make a difference if withheld over the course of a year. "At least explore and look into the possibility. If all those functions can be done without a superintendent and people are for it, why not?"

School Board member Sue Allen said the board years back had looked at the possibility of having a business administrator and no superintendent, but after investigating the pros and cons decided not to take that route.

"We have made great strides within the School District. To take a year off would only hurt the students. Be cautious of making a different move where we are not moving forward," said Allen.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Scott Isabelle said that the salary for a new superintendent to fill DeMinico's position has been advertised between $110,000-125,000, and that not filling this position could lead the district to legal issues.

"If we go down that road, we will receive resistance from the Department of Education," said Isabelle.

Other than the legality of the issue, DeMinico said the quality of Gilford School District may not be upheld without an overhead position such as the superintendent.

"The school holds the superintendent accountable for everything that happens. I worked in Europe for many years, and you don't want a European style system," said DeMinico. "There is no one at the top; here is more efficient. You don't want the European model, you want the American model."

School Board Chair Kurt Webber agreed.

"Since I have been on this board we have made a lot of advancements within the School District. This proposal is penny wise and pound foolish," said Webber. "We are taking a big risk and also putting accreditation at risk. Without this accreditation, we would be a school in great trouble."

After hearing additional comments Stewart made a motion to look into resources that an individual connected to the Budget Committee may have pertaining to Gilford's current RSA, although the motion was tabled.

Committee members did not make any final decisions on the School District budget and plan to take it up again, as well as the discussion on the superintendent position.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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