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School board gets good news on Kingswood opening



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THE 2011-12 GOVERNOR WENTWORTH REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARD posed for its annual picture (l-r): Student representative and senior Matthew Lounsbury, Ernie Brown, Board Vice-Chair Stacy Trites, Board Chair Jack Widmer, Charlene Seibel, Jim Rines, Administrative Secretary Joanne Fiorini, Donald Meader, Wendi Fenderson, James Manning DDS, and Diane Drelick. (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
September 29, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Thanks to the hard work of the staff, custodians, administration, and North Branch Construction crew the high school and middle school had a successful start to the school year with almost no hitches, Superintendent Jack Robertson reported at the school board's Sept. 26 meeting.

After the excitement of an unanticipated one-day delay and a fire drill last Tuesday, things have settled as students and staff adjusted to their new routines and learned to navigate the altered layout of the buildings.

With the schools now occupied, North Branch crews, though cut back significantly, continue to work and rework their project schedules as educational and student priorities arise.

Even with the Kingswood complex doubling as a construction site, however, the students and staff have remained "positive and upbeat," said Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Cuddy-Egbert, who has visited each school.

Contrary to what you might expect, the "staff are all organized and the kids on task," she reported.

Possibly two of the most substantial enhancements contributing to this successful start are an increase in school pride and in the air quality. Both factors seem to keep those in the buildings more alert and excited throughout the entire school day observed Middle School Assistant Principal Suzanne Onufry, who welcomed the school board to the new middle school cafeteria for its meeting.

Not only has everyone in the schools have been excited and happy with the completed portions of the buildings so far, there has also been an influx of alumni popping in to see the progress, added high school teacher Maureen Wheeler. "Everyone's excited and proud," she said.

With a lot of work remaining, the Region 9 Vocational center is undergoing the most hardship at this point, but it's anticipated that the middle school renovations will be completed this spring.

Regarding the high school academic calendar, the administration will be seeking a waiver from the N.H. Department of Education for the missed school day so that the high school students will not be penalized.

Other news

Director of Curriculum Heather Cummings discussed the process of revising the district's five-year Professional Development Master Plan, which is now pending state approval. Since the criteria for approval hasn't changed, the bulk of the revisions included streamlining language and making it more accessible to teachers. Overall Cummings said the process, facilitated by herself and Steve Guyer, went smoothly and they don't anticipate any issues receiving approval.

The most noteworthy topic in Concord right now, Robertson reported, is that the Trustees of the N.H. retirement system have dropped their lawsuit pertaining to employer contribution rates. However, "the N.H. retirement saga goes on," he said since the group has reserved the right to challenge any future changes in the legislation and many of last year's N.H. School Board Association resolutions regarding the retirement system will also be resubmitted for consideration.

Cummings, who serves as President to the N.H. School Administrators Association, added that an unprecedented 132 resolutions relating to the public education system have been filed. With so many resolutions, each with the potential of becoming a bill, Robertson will continue to keep the board abreast of any legislative changes.

School Human Resources group leader Charlene Seibel reported that a tentative agreement has been reached with the Governor Wentworth Education Association as well as the Governor Wentworth Administrative Team. Ratification is pending.

Seibel commented that it was the good relationships within each group that helped to foster a smooth negotiation process.

Without unnecessarily alarming parents, it should be noted that the board will vote at its next meeting on whether or not the district should save money by requiring fewer background checks on its volunteers.

The board had its first reading of policy GBCD regarding background investigations and criminal records checks during which Academic Affairs group leader Stacy Trites explained that currently everyone must submit to a background check before being able to help out at any school function.

While needs vary from school to school, the revised policy will leave it up to the principal of each to decide in what circumstances a check will be required. The policy does still require checks of all volunteers that return frequently, will be alone with students, or attend overnight field trips.

The change in the policy applies to one-time situations in which a parent or citizen might volunteer during a school event such as a book fair or field trip where they will always be in the presence of a group of teachers and students.

While one board member Ernie Brown voiced some concern with the change, another, Don Meader said that at about $50 per background check thousands of dollars would be saved.

The school board will meet next on Wednesday, Oct. 19 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Brookfield town offices building.

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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