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March 18. 2013 10:25PM

Goffstown school board says town doesn't value education

GOFFSTOWN - School board members Monday night said voters sent a message that Goffstown does not value education.

Voters rejected the proposed school district operating budget and the $14.5 million bond for improvements to the town's two elementary schools on March 12.

"I think Goffstown needs to change some of (its) focus and stop being so divisive," said board member Virginia McKinnon. "We passed the town budget; we did not pass the school budget. That sends a huge message to our sending towns. One thing they're looking at is if we support education. I think the message that we sent this year is a real bad one."

On March 12, voters defeated the district's proposed $37.3 million operating budget 1,139-1,060. They also voted down the $14.5 million bond that would have financed renovations to both Maple Avenue and Bartlett elementary schools. The bond proposal lost by a vote of 1,146-1,062.

Also last week, Dunbarton voters elected to enter into an Authorized Regional Enrollment Agreement with Bow in 2014 instead of renewing their 40-year AREA agreement with Goffstown, meaning Dunbarton middle and high school students will attend schools in Bow instead of Goffstown beginning in September 2014. The loss of Dunbarton students means Goffstown will lose approximately $2 million annually in revenue.

Board member Philip Pancoast, speaking to members of the public, said the results of the March 12 vote will also affect the quality of professionals who come to Goffstown to teach.

"One of the things you might talk about is how attractive we are to staff, how attractive we are to teachers, how much we support public education" Pancoast said. "I would encourage you to get on board to support education and understand that challenging times are coming."

Pancoast said teachers and support staff in the district have been without a contract for two years and that the school board's "greatest obligation" is to the district's personnel.

One parent, however, told the board that families have had to make adjustments to get by in this difficult economy, and she urged the board to think creatively when making financial decisions for the district.

"I think our number one concern should be the children," said Karyn Battey. "A lot of people haven't had raises. I know myself we've really had to think outside the box at home."

Another parent, Christi Garrison, echoed Battey's comments, urging the board to be creative in how it delivers student services in a time when voters are not inclined to approve budgets recommended by the school board.

"I'm sorry Dunbarton pulled out," Garrison said. "I think we're in a mess - that's just the way life is. I'd like us to think outside the box too."

As an example, Garrison said last year the high school's football team - which plays on a field that has no lighting - played a game under the lights at Saint Anselm College. That arrangement was cited by Garrison as a way to provide a student service without a large expenditure of money. "I don't think we're going to get funding for a new field and track," she said.

Another parent, Angela Battey, urged the board to proceed cautiously in finding a replacement for former Mountain View principal Jim Hunt, who resigned suddenly Friday after months of allegations that he created a dysfunctional and hostile work environment for some teachers and staff there.

"I just think it's really important that you take your time and thoughtfulness in replacing Mr. Hunt," she said. "These kids are struggling. It's important that we bring that school back to life."

hmetz@newstote.com


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