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Belmont School Board names interim superintendent


May 16, 2012
BELMONT —The school board met on May 10 at 6 p.m. in the Belmont Elementary School library, where they announced at the end of the meeting that Maria Dreyer is their choice for the interim superintendent position. All board members were in agreement, and Dreyer will be begin her new duties on July 1.

The position of superintendent for the Shaker Regional District opened up last year, when Mark Blount tended his resignation in September after only a little more than one year on the job, citing a difference in educational philosophies. Retired superintendent Tom Hayes stepped in to fill the slot on a part time basis as a search committee was assembled, but Hayes was only contracted through the end of the 2011-12 academic year. The search resulted in two final candidates. One of those two withdrew their application, and the other was later involved in questionable financial activity within his current school district, sending the board on the quest for an interim candidate as they continue their search.

Dreyer comes to Shaker Regional with a background as an assistant superintendent in the Mascenic Regional School District, located in southern New Hampshire. She has also served as a classroom educator and a special education director at Alton's Prospect Mountain High School, and in Plymouth's Pemi-Baker school district.

The Shaker School Board said Dreyer has both a Bachelor's degree in communications disorders and a Master's degree in education, and further holds certificates of Advanced Graduate Studies, as well as those of superintendent, principal and special education administration. She also serves as an adjunct professor at both Granite State College and Rivier College in Nashua.

"Her contract will be pretty much the same," said Chairman of the board Pret Tuthill. "There will be a few minor changes because it's an interim position."

The board also heard an update from Karen Gingrich, enrichment teacher for both elementary schools in the district, about some of the highlights from this past school year.

"All children are gifted and talented in some way," said Gingrich. " We need to bring those talents out."

Gingrich explained to the board that the activities she does individually and with entire classes work on things such as memory, problem solving and creativity.

Some of the highlights from this past year included the wax museum, where third grade students researched and dressed like a famous historical figures and memorize a script to recite to those interested. The One Room School House was a success again this year, where students from Canterbury experienced what school was like in 1880 during the Industrial Revolution.

"I was able to get a lot of community members to come and talk," said Gingrich. "It has been a success every year."

Fourth grade students also carried on the tradition of toothpick bridge building, where students work together in a business setting to create architectural plans, write checks and learn the inner workings of a business, with a bridge breaking ceremony on May 24.

Gingrich also works with second grade classes, tying in the healthy eating and free snacks program in the school by having second graders interview cafeteria staff members and do research on fruits and vegetables to make a game and a recipe book.

Audience member Greta Olsen-Wilder asked the board to reconsider revitalizing the wellness committee to include faculty, students and community members to insure everything is being done to look out for students' health and well being, which includes the healthy snack and healthy eating program.

"I feel that a lot of good ideas come from it, and I would like to see where we could go with it," said Olsen-Wilder.

The wellness committee last year had a committee in each school, and all the committees would come together monthly to discuss concerns or improvements.

"We had some road blocks, but I would like to push forward and see some community involvement and student involvement because they're the consumers," Olsen-Wilder said.

The board also looked at the cost of school lunch due to concerns about the cost of lunch not meeting government regulations.

"The amount you receive for free meals must be equal to full charge lunch," said Tuthill.

Currently, school breakfast is $1.55, lunch at the high school is $2.20, and lunch at the elementary and middles school is $2.45, though the board may need to increase the price to meet regulations set by the state.

"We still have a long ways to go before we can meet government requirements," said board member Stacey Kruger.

Some students may not only be paying more for lunch next year; the board also began discussion about the controversial idea of having students pay to participate in extracurricular activities.

"I don't think the budget situation is going to get any better, so it's worth the discussion," said board member Sean Embree.

Between the two elementary schools, the district sees more than 800 children participating in extracurricular activities; Canterbury School sees around 122 participants each year, and the board began thinking about charging participants $15 per activity.

The board thought about students who participate in multiple activities, possibly isolating the more expensive activities the school offers, the additional burden of cost it would put on parents and the possibility of offering scholarships to students who need assistance.

"There would have to be scholarship money available because we don't want to pull any of these kids out," said board member Donna Cilley.

Through the brainstorming and conversation, the board decided to dig deeper and do some more research in the event they would have to make a decision about "pay to play."

"If we are forced to make a decision, at least we can put some concrete evidence behind it," said Cilley.

The board also looked at student enrollment and the possibility of doing a demographic study, and heard updates about the Energy Grant from Doug Ellis.

"I am very pleased with how much we have gotten done on this project," said Ellis.

The Energy Grant has allowed the school to update their heating system and look into energy efficient outdoor lighting options.

The board's next meeting will be on May 24 at 6 p.m. in the Belmont Elementary School library.

Editor's note: Winnisquam Echo staff reporter Donna Rhodes contributed to this report.

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