Board believes citizen petition will not alter district management plans
March 09, 2011A petitioned warrant article asking the Gilford School Board to implement provisions of a School District Warrant article dating back to 1998, with the intentions of changing the district's management structure, passed Tuesday night.
The petition, Article IV, asks that the current School Board implement the provisions of Article 5 pertaining to a School District Warrant article approved by voters and the New Hampshire Board of Education on March 18, 1998.
Twelve years ago, taxpayers voted in favor of this warrant, asking for the withdrawal of the Gilford School District from SAU #30 – a separation from the Laconia and Gilmanton school districts at the time.
The current petition also asks that the School Board operate in accordance with the proposed district plan at the time, involving a management structure plan developed by the SAU Planning Committee in 1998, which proposed the use of a business manager or "general manager" verse a superintendent position.
For the past budget season, debate over the superintendent's position at Gilford School District has ensued since the current Superintendent, Paul DeMinico, announced his retirement for June 2011.
Members in support of the petition claim that the School District must agree to operate the SAU under such provisions until the voters explicitly vote to rescind the plan, yet School Board members claim the school district determines how to run the school, and not the Budget Committee or its taxpayers.
While the citizen petition passed with a 492-287 vote, Chairman of the School Board Kurt Webber said he foresees no changes in the management structure in Gilford or with the utilization of a new superintendent (announced on Monday night) next school year.
"The bottom line is, regardless of what supporters of the petition say the law is, the law clearly states that the School District determines how the district is run," said Webber Tuesday night after receiving the results.
Webber said that outspoken supporters of the position, including supporter Terry Stewart, have "misinterpreted" the events that occurred in 1998.
"The proposal to function without a superintendent was just a proposal," said Webber. "Members of the Budget Committee keep saying that two thirds of the voters voted in favor of this proposal. Those two thirds of voters approved of a split from SAU #30 and that's it," said Webber.
In a letter dated prior to elections, Webber stated that both the Gilford School Board and the Gilmanton School Board unanimously agreed that the use of a superintendent is "absolutely essential" for the continued and effective operation of the school district.
He went on to say that any company or organization must look to a supervisor or leader, and that an experienced superintendent assists in important tasks, such as developing policies and setting school-wide goals.
"We are not willing to experiment with an untested management system that no other district in the state is using just because of a proposal 12 years ago," said Webber.
He referred to a statement made by the school attorney and reiterated that the School Board will view this citizen petition as an "advisory" only.
"Right now, we have no plans to change our schools. We have been told repeatedly that this petition is advisory in nature. The law is clear; the schools determine how the schools are run," said Webber, who added that the board also plans to go ahead and hire Gilford's new superintendent this summer.
He said that the majority of School Board members were surprised by Tuesday night's outcome, and plan to discuss the matter in further detail during a scheduled meeting on March 21. The board also plans to send out a press release to the public, clarifying the petition and their stance on the matter.