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'Expert' will talk superintendents at tonight's meeting

December 15, 2010
While some Budget Committee members don't agree with the subject of tonight's meeting at town hall, the majority of the committee voted in favor of bringing in an "expert" to further discuss the fate of the superintendent position.

Last Thursday night Budget Committee members continued their discussion on potentially cutting about $175,000 from the Gilford School District budget, the amount of money budgeted to fund the next superintendent, including benefits.

Some members argued that the Budget Committee was targeting and attempting to get rid of the superintendent position by nixing an amount equal to the superintendent's salary within the budget, although other members said they were simply trying to trim the ends of a budget about $200,000 too high.

Budget Committee member Skip Murphy plans to bring in Jorge Mesa-Tejada to Thursday night's meeting to discuss the legal aspects of a superintendent position.

According to Murphy, Mesa-Tejada was head of the Hampstead School Board for a number of years, as well as chair of a budget committee. He was also an integral part of creating a law stating that a superintendent is not needed under an SAU, although Gilford is currently under a RSA that creates friction with this proposed law.

"Since he helped write this law, it may be good for the committee to have him come in," said Murphy.

Budget Committee Chairman Dick Hickok said he is against ridding of the superintendent position and believes in having a leader at the head of institutions such as schools, but he said he would be opened to hearing this individual out.

"We are assessing the budget. We are not telling the School Board what to do. We are looking for a rational way to accomplish this. It's what budget committees do," said Hickok. "We are not trying to replace the superintendent, but it just so happens that people don't like a $200,000 increase."

Committee member Dale Dormody sided with a few concerned School Board members at the meeting and said that it was not the committee's place to tell the board how to run a school. Dormody said the committee did not have the right, or the needed knowledge at this point to make a rash decision involving the cut of such a large position.

"This is a little different than some of the cuts we have done before. It is pretty clear that if we take out $175,000 that we are taking away that position. We are forcing it on the School Board by pulling that money," said Dormody. "We can't make that decision for the board."

School Board representative of the Budget Committee Paul Blandford placed his concerns as well at the meeting last Thursday.

"You are specifically targeting this one item," said Blandford.

Other members of the Budget Committee said that either way, it was worth listening to this speaker who knew more about the subject than they did, and that this was simply for educational purposes and to explore "alternative options" in reducing a $23-million budget.

Superintendent Paul DeMinico spoke on behalf of the School Board and said that he recently spoke with a representative of the Department of Education, Dr. Julie Fillion, who said that no school in New Hampshire has a "super-less intendent."

"The state board would entertain the notion of a position if the School District were under 400 students and under two buildings to administer," said DeMinico. "This should be directed to smaller schools. Gilford is too large and there are too many school buildings."

DeMinico added that the Department of Education would most likely not even consider reviewing a petition from the Gilford School District, especially since there are no models of such schools in New Hampshire, and a lack of models even nationally.

If the Budget Committee still decided to cut $175,000 from the budget, the School Board may legally still have to provide funds for a superintendent, and funds would have to be taken from discretionary items in the budget including instructional materials, textbooks, and activities for students.

"You have to ask what impact this would have on student achievement and education since there are no models out there," said DeMinico.

While the Budget Committee has yet to make a final decision on Gilford's district wide budget and superintendent's salary, the majority of the committee voted in favor of inviting "expert" Mesa-Tejada to tonight's meeting. The meeting will be held at town hall at 6:30 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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