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Veiwpoint

Formula for reducing cost of education in ConVal schools

If we are really serious about the escalating costs of educating our children in the ConVal School District, I suggest we charge the administration with a special project that would result is a series of recommendations for accomplishing education delivery at a lower per pupil cost.

District Study Committee recommendations, petition warrant articles and other mechanisms will never achieve the two thirds majority required for passage primarily because ConVal is currently charged by us with another objective. We have charged our administrators with a goal of being a “high performing district by 2015” as stated on page 32 of the supplement to the Annual Report dated Jan. 31, 2014.

If you review the NECAP scores of ConVal compared to the high performing districts covered on the next three pages of this report (pages 33 through 35), you will note that ConVal doesn’t come close in any of the indices. You should also know that New Hampshire doesn’t have an high performance district classification for its schools, that the state Department of Education does not define high performance or compile data on it. Your School Board set up its own high performing district and charged administration of ConVal to meet NECAP scores for towns like Amherst/Souhegan, Hollis/Brookline, Bedford, Lyme/Hanover, etc.

The taxpayers are frequently reminded that ConVal wants to be a high performing district but progress toward this goal is very slow and a quick look at the pages noted above will leave you wondering as to how much money we will have to spend to get there if, in fact, the objective is even achievable.

ConVal does well when compared to other school districts in our region like Mascenic, Jaffrey/Rindge and Milford although our per pupil cost is several thousand dollars higher. This regional measurement is what we should be focus on; not some pie-in-the-sky objective that works at odds with delivering a focused effective and efficient education.

I suggest we finally and formally through our School Board representatives direct our superintendent and assistant superintendent to devote three months of their combined time to a special project that would focus on what we need to do in order to run a more efficient and effective program to educate our children. By that I mean a program that won’t compromise education of our children and will reduce excess and overhead. We pay these two individuals well in excess of $250,000 in salary and benefits; yes, a quarter of a million, to manage a $45 million (ConVal operating budget) education corporation paid for by our tax dollars and we frequently find them to be unaccountable for how these dollars are spent.

Tell us why our student population drops significantly each year while our administrative costs and expense per student continues to escalate dramatically. Tell us why the district continually refuses to outsource the food service program when it is fully documented that annual savings would approach $400,000 to $500,000 per year. Tell us why there isn’t an aggressive program of putting any and all contracts out to bid. Tell us why there are articles on the Warrant that have not been fully researched and don’t include accurate costs for implementation.

These items are only the tip of the iceberg and that is why it is extremely important for us to get to our School Board representatives and make sure they understand the direction we choose. In Dublin the ConVal portion of our tax bill is 59 percent, with 13 percent going to Cheshire County and 28 percent to the town. The other eight towns are in Hillsborough County and the school tax portion for them runs from 54 percent to 72 percent. Three towns are over 70 percent!

Don’t leave it up to District Study Committees or petition warrant articles. Talk with your School Board representative today and make your thoughts known. It would also be extremely effective to vote down the budget and warrant articles on March 11 at your respective polling places. There is ample funding in the default budget to provide a quality education for our children.

Charles Champagne is chair of the Dublin Select Board.

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