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Joyce Endee

Petition seeks to change school district's management structure

January 26, 2011
If approved in March, a petitioned warrant article submitted to the Gilford School District this past December will eliminate the superintendent position.

The warrant asks the School District to adopt a management plan created and voted in favor of in 1998, which will change the current structure and operation of the school system, until voted otherwise.

Residents submitted the warrant during the Budget Committee's final School District hearing.

The petitioned warrant article states the following:

To the Gilford School Board, Per the privileges granted to us under RSA 197:6, the undersigned, registered voters of the Gilford School District, hereby submit the following article for inclusion in the 2011 School District Warrant:

"That the voters of the Gilford School District order the Gilford School Board to implement, on or before July 1, 2011, all the provisions of Article 5, 1998 School District Warrant, as approved by NH State Board of Education and the voters on March 18, 1998, and to operate the SAU indefinitely under such provisions until the voters explicitly vote to rescind such plan."

Article 5, 1998 School District Warrant, read "That the Gilford School District vote to accept the provisions of RSA 194-C providing for the withdrawal of the Gilford School District from SAU 30 involving the school districts of Laconia and Gilmanton, in accordance with the provisions of the proposed district plan."

Article 5 was recommended by the Gilford School Board and the plan had been previously approved and certified by the NH State Board of Education per RSA 194-C:IV (g)-(i). The voters approved it by a vote in excess of the requested 60 percent majority.

Resident Terry Stewart, one of dozens of residents who signed the petition, said the purpose of the warrant is to ask the School District to operate under "district plans" that were approved by the voters over a decade ago but never acted upon.

This management plan was prompted by the Gilford School District's separation from Laconia and Gilmanton in 1997 to form a single district, and to brainstorm needed administrative positions.

"The purpose of the Warrant Article is to require the School Board to run the School District per the wishes of the voters as passed in 1998. The vote passed by the two thirds required and is legally still in effect today," said Stewart.

Co-authors of a report, the basis of the vote that took place in 1998, were the late Edgar Kenney and Millard Smith of Gilford. According to Stewart, Kenney was an educator and a Superintendent of the Meredith school for many years. He was asked to craft the report by the Gilford Planning Commission.

This SAU Planning Commission was formed in 1997 for the purposes of coming up with a district plan after breaking away from Laconia and Gilmanton.

In the report, both Kenney and Smith suggested that Gilford start their separation from Gilmanton and Laconia to become a single district and form their own SAU by withdrawing from SAU #30.

"Part of this forward movement would be to recognize that the simple duplication of the present SAU staffing would be a move backward," wrote Kenney and Smith. "As a single district SAU, there would be little educational value achieved by inserting a higher level of management … To duplicate in the district the present position of a Superintendent would be both a difficult and costly endeavor."

At the time of the report, authors noted that Gilford had two building principals, two assistants, an administrator of special education, and a technical services coordinator. They instead proposed implementing the new position of a School District General Manager or a "business leader," with lesser pay then a superintendent, to oversee Gilford schools.

While School District members have said in the past that switching to a different management plan, which would eliminate the position of the superintendent, would be potentially illegal or frowned upon by the New Hampshire Department of Education, those who signed the petition feel otherwise.

Stewart said personally he did not believe that taking on a new management plan and eliminating the superintendent's position would defy state law or the NH Department of Education's requirements, or jeopardize school accreditation.

Neither the Budget Committee or School Board voted on the petitioned warrant article, stating they needed more time to review the warrant and to clearly understand its intentions.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Martin Lord & Osman
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