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Stratford passes advisory article to tuition grades 9 to 12 to Groveton High


March 17, 2011
STRATFORD — It wasn't easy; it wasn't pretty; there was backing-and-filling; and it didn't really make anybody very happy, but in the end, Stratford voters passed an advisory motion at Monday night's annual school meeting to tuition all 17 students in grades 9 to 12 to Northumberland and appropriated $218,127 for that purpose by a ballot vote, 80 "yeas" to 27 "nays."

Although the school does not have to provide transportation for high school students the appropriated sum does include those costs, starting this fall.

SAU #58 Superintendent James "Dan" Shallow and the three-man school board, including newly elected board member Bruce Blodgett who has returned to board service after a break, must now thread their way through securing legal advice and permission to secure the voters' intent, likely from both the state Department of Education and the Board of Education.

All three board members — outgoing chairman and board member Michael Lynch and E. Harlan Connary, who will have served 15 years when his term ends in 2012, and Dr. John Avery, a family physician, explained that there will be many decisions to make in the next weeks and months.

If it turns out, for example, that the warrant article was not legally drawn up or is flawed in some way and students cannot be tuitioned to Northumberland, then a special school meeting might need to be held to remedy the situation, Superintendent Shallow and board chairman Lynch explained.

Questions will have to be answered as to how to handle the top students who would have been the Class of 2012 valedictorian and salutatorian and also on how to convince Vermont parents to have their Vermont children enrolled in a New Hampshire K-to-8 elementary school.

Voters also passed a budget of $1,940,364 to educate Stratford students from kindergarten to grade 8 in their own town's school building. Tuition students from Brunswick, Bloomfield and other towns will likely pay another $100,000 in tuition payments to attend the Stratford School.

Originally the article that concerned parents and taxpayers petitioned to have put on the warrant called for sending all 45 students from grades 6 to 12 out of town, giving families a choice of either going to school in Colebrook or in Northumberland. Apparently the proponents of change who argued that having a greater choice of subjects to study and classes large enough to keep students engaged understood that these attributes are more important during high school years than in the lower grades.

An amendment to change tuitioning students to only four years garnered far more support.

As the meeting unfolded, however, it was clear that some townspeople worried about not having any representation on the Northumberland School Board, just as Vermont residents don't have the right to vote in Stratford School elections or serve on its school board.

Voters supported both warrant articles that are directed at planning for the future.

They created a Cooperative School District Planning Committee and appropriated $1,200 to pay for associated costs. A school board member and two other moderator-appointed volunteers will serve on this. Superintendent Shallow said the Stark School District has already passed a similar warrant article, and the Northumberland is expected to shortly do the same. These nine people, three of whom will be elected school board members, should be able to come up with a plan to present to the voters in some 18 months to two years, designed to use buildings more effectively, maintain or increase the quality of education, and to get the biggest bang from every buck.

Voters also passed a warrant article to form a Conversion Charter School Committee made up of one school board member and two at-large school-board appointed citizens. A charter school, for example, might allow a new high school to be started in the existing building that would have a nontraditional focus and fewer restrictions that would attract students from other towns.

The first scheduled annual school meeting on Monday, March 7, was canceled because of icy roads. Moderator Steve LaFrance joined the Peace Corps in the intervening days, and so Jim Brown stepped in to serve as moderator at what was an emotional and somewhat difficult-to-manage meeting.

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