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Joyce Endee

$200,000 cut from Stark School budget

SAU, school board plan next move

March 17, 2011
STARK — In the aftermath of a $222,000 school budget cut last Tuesday approved by only a handful of residents the people of Stark now face some tough choices.

"I'd like to say this is Democracy in action and what you do when this happens is take what you have and move on," said Georgina Caron who proposed to amend the school budget, "and I think we can still give kids good education."

Three options now lie before the people of Stark to be presented by Superintendent Dan Shallow at the upcoming 6 p.m. March 21 school board meeting: tuitioning out, cutting staff and services or cutting benefits and programs.

In a town of well over 400 people it all came down to a 31 yes and 23 no vote to bring the Stark school budget down from $1,024,650 to $802,650. Currently 21 students attend the Stark Village School.

"It will be extremely tough to actually get the numbers to work," said former school board chairman Danforth Peel. "Not all of the people that showed an interest were at the meeting, it was a well organized group of people in a minority and it surprised everybody in the room."

According to Shallow at this time option one seems the least viable. "As a result of the budget that was passed the total dollar figure is not enough to tuition the students to at least Groveton under the current rate formula," he said. "I've gone through the budget to tuition and to close the existing building paying for nothing but insurance and we're still about $50,000 short."

The second option keeps the school open, still approved by the state and the cost is in tune with the current school budget. The caveats include reductions in staff, eliminating after school and summer programs, "a significant decrease in student services," said Shallow.

On Shallow's trip to meet with the Stark School teaching staff on Wednesday, he told them to all plan on receiving pink slips. By law he has to let the four teachers know by April 15 whether or not their contracts are going to be renewed and plainly stated that it is unlikely "we can do the research by the 15th."

Shallow also came away from the staff meeting with their input. For option three, the staff recommended taking a reduction in benefits and cutting school programs in order to keep the school open and their jobs intact. This option comes within a few dollars of the current budget, but would cause the school to be conditionally approved for a year noted Shallow.

A fourth option that has been discussed, but Shallow is not in favor of, is requesting a special meeting from the NH Supreme Court to vote again on the school budget.

"I did not see anything improper at the way that meeting was run," said Shallow "I don't think anyone could justify a special meeting on the way it was run. The fact that a lot of people were not at the meeting or showed up after vote is not justification."

Caron, a former school board member herself and former principal of Stark school said that she has had 11 years experience with school budgets and thinks Stark can stay open with a smaller budget. The current cost to tuition 29 students to Groveton is in the range of $400,000 and "I said 21 children should be able to be educated for an equal amount of money," said Caron. "If they can't then there's something wrong."

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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