School board puts foot down on superintendent petition


March 23, 2011
The Gilford School Board remains confident in plans to move forward with the new superintendent, stating that a petitioned warrant article recently passed by voters does not require mandatory action.

While some agree with this statement, several taxpayers feel their voices have been disregarded.

During a meeting at the SAU office Monday night, Chairman of the School Board Kurt Webber made it clear that the agenda would focus on NECAP discussions, and that public comment would follow afterwards.

The petitioned warrant article at hand, which passed with a 492-287 vote, requested that the Gilford School District adopt an operative plan submitted by the Gilford SAU Planning Committee in 1997. The plan was adopted in 1998, and while Gilford did withdraw from SAU #30 as requested, the School Board at the time decided to nix the second part of the warrant article, asking that the School District take on a different management structure.

While some said the wording was unclear, a few supporters of the petition believed the article demanded the School District take on a new structure with a general manager or business manager rather than a superintendent.

The petition was not addressed until the conclusion of the meeting, but Webber did state that the board plans to produce a press release to clarify the actual events of 1998 and 1999, when Gilford broke off from SAU #30 to form their own single district.

"I don't want to distract from the primary purpose of this meeting," said Webber, who added that uncertainties within the wording of the petition may have thrown some voters off.

During the public comment session, Webber made it clear that there would be no debate or question and answer sessions, just simply public comment.

Resident Kevin Leandro was the first to address the petition on Monday night, stating that the citizens have demanded the majority vote be put into action.

"I would like to remind the board that the citizen petition stated 'order,' and not 'advisory,' in its wording. We need to follow the taxpayers. They pay the bills," said Leandro.

Karen Thurston also spoke to the petition, noting that she was part of the actual SAU Planning Committee at the time. She said it was believed that when the taxpayers voted in favor of the warrant article in 1998, a new management structure would be implemented, and not just the separation from SAU #30.

"This is what we asked when the warrant came forward. I was disappointed to see that the outcome was very different. You should listen to the taxpayers; after all, you work for us," said Thurston. "You are drawing money from the same pot, duplicating services."

As a taxpayer, she also felt that paying $1 per page for a copy of the plan was "absurd," considering she has already invested taxpayer money in the school district and its copy machines.

Thurston suggested that the School District consider making the plan into a PDF file online, so all residents can easily access the information.

Resident Kevin Roy agreed that everyone should be able to access and read the reports from 1998 in order to properly inform themselves. He added that while some residents had the advantage of sitting on the committee at the time, times have changed.

"Throughout the reports, you will see that a lot of things have changed from then to now. The plan heavily relies on the principals and their assistant principals to carry out this plan," said Roy. "We would need to hire an assistant teacher at the elementary school again if we went along with this plan."

He said there are a lot of questions at hand, yet stated it appears that the School Board is, in fact, in charge of its own personnel decisions.

Joe Wernig believed clarity within the recently submitted petition was the greatest problem, since some taxpayers did not have the resources or proper understanding of the petition's true intent. He added that if the School Board had time to add their stamp of disapproval to the bottom of the petition, perhaps the vote would have turned out differently.

Wernig noted that because of time constraints, the board was not able to state their stance on the ballot.

While Thurston believed the SAU Planning Commission at the time was under the assumption that the implementation of a general manager, rather than a superintendent, would go into effect, Wernig said he was also present at the time, and was under the assumption that the district would, in fact, hire a new superintendent.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dale Dormody said he also read the reports differently than Thurston.

"I got the main sense that we were drawing away from Laconia, and that the superintendent position was secondary not cast in stone. After reading this, it looks as though that the decisions were meant solely for the board," said Dormody.

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