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Joyce Endee

District teachers offer to donate five unpaid days to save jobs

Attendance during Saturday makeups for snow days has been better than expected

IT WAS UNCLEAR who was more complimentary of the other, New Durham Elementary School Principal Barbara Reed of the longstanding Governor Wentworth Regional School Board or the Board of her upon her announcement that she would be retiring from the district after 18 years at the end of this school year. Among other comments, Board member Charlene Seibel said of Reed; “It has been a pleasure and a privilege… you’ve been a quintessential professional and always there for our students.” Superintendent Jack Robertson added that Reed has been “an incredible principal and wonderful colleague.” Reed very modestly turned the tables and praised the board for its hard work over the years, finesse with making difficult decisions, and for continually making the students a priority. (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
April 07, 2011
NEW DURHAM — For the second year in a row the Governor Wentworth Education Association has overwhelmingly agreed to donate five days of work to the district in an effort to save jobs.

Superintendent Jack Robertson made the announcement at last Monday evening's school board meeting, saying that he is proud of the staff for making such a generous commitment and thinking for the greater good.

The five optional days in which the teachers will work for free are professional development days scheduled throughout the 2011-12 district calendar. This is in response to the State's proposal to reduce retirement funding, which has yet to be determined. If State funding doesn't come through, the district must still live within the approved budget, explained Chair Jack Widmer, spreading thin its resources. It has been the reaction of many districts to pass out pink slips, a measure Governor Wentworth would like to avoid if possible. The agreement with the teachers is in the best interest of the students and will save money for the district's taxpayers.

If by chance the money does materialize, then the staff will be paid for as many of the five days as feasible; however the state's budget will not be finalized until June 30, more than two months past the district's April 15 deadline for providing notice to its employees. If funding is not shorthanded, Robertson said, he would happily modify individual contracts to cover the days.

In the meantime, additional steps will be taken to create wiggle room within the budget such as delaying the purchase of school busses and instructional equipment.

In regard to other N.H. House budget proposals, Robertson spoke of one that could impact the district indirectly. The house proposed a cutback of approximately $4 million on money used for vocation tuition and transportation aid. This is money spent to cover the costs of sending students to the vocational technical education center by towns outside the district. If significantly lowered, communities may no longer be able to afford or begin to send its students to the Region 9 Vocation Center.

The House did vote, however, to include a good amount of catastrophic aid – money that the Governor's proposal eliminated. And more importantly, the House restored the building aid to 100 percent, of which Lynch's budget planned to eliminate in the upcoming year and then fully fund the following year.

House Bill 112, calling for more local control over school district calendars, has been labeled by the Senate as "ought to pass." This comes as good news for the board as the bill was originally proposed by them as a school board resolution in the 2009-10 academic year.

Saturday school, snow days and other news

Robertson reported that due to such good overall attendance during the past Saturday school make up days, Saturdays would remain a viable option for making up missed days on future calendars. Having surpassed its 80 percent target each time, the district is able to justify that Saturday school has been a valid alternative to tacking missed days on to the end of the school year.

This year school has been held during one Saturday per month for most of the winter and one, the 16th, is already slated for April. And because of the most recent cancellations, full days of school are planned for Thursday and Friday, April 28 and 29. This negates all of what was planned for an already shortened April vacation.

Because the middle school was designated a School In Need Of Improvement under the No Child Left Behind standards last year, the school was prompted to conduct a self-evaluation. To do so a planning team was formed of teachers, staff and administrators whose function was to develop an improvement plan. Academic Affairs Committee Chair Stacy Trites reported that the group has met multiple times and designated leadership, instruction, and assessment as areas in need of enrichment. A completed draft of guidelines has been created, based on faculty responses to the committee's inquiries, and a report will be forwarded for the state's review later this spring. Assistant Superintendent Kathy Cuddy-Egbert added that while the school is likely to make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, the committee wants to make this past planning year meaningful and continue moving forward with the collaborative effort even though it won't be required to.

The full school board, which voted in favor of keeping Widmer as Chair and Stacy Trites as Vice Chair for another year, will meet again on Monday evening, May 2 for a joint board meeting beginning at 6 p.m. in the Skylight Dining Room.

A technology presentation was given at the April 4 meeting, coverage of which will be included in an upcoming edition of the Granite State News. The presentation highlighted the use of different technologies throughout the schools and how the district is meeting the National Educational Technology Standards and implanting them into the core curriculum.

Heather Terragni can be reached at 569-3126 or hterragni@salmonpress.com

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