Staff cuts possible if school budget fails

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Board met at the rindge Middle School to discuss several issues including a leaking roof at Conant High School's STEM building.

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Board met at the rindge Middle School to discuss several issues including a leaking roof at Conant High School's STEM building. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

At the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Board meeting Monday night, Chairman Dan Whitney said that if the proposed budget is not approved, he’s not sure how the district would make up the difference between that and the default budget, a difference of nearly half a million dollars. After the meeting, Jaffrey-Rindge Superintendent James O’Neill said that if the district reverted to the default budget, teaching or staff positions may need to be cut.

The proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year is $26,019,402, an increase of $477,479 since last year’s budget. The budget has been adjusted to meet costs in the district, including much needed-repairs to a 25-year-old building with a leaking roof.

O’Neill spoke in length about the building in question, the Industrial Arts building at Conant High School, and said that with the renovations to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics room, part of the building would be expanded to make space for storage.

This hinges on the approval of Article 5, which asks voters to approve an appropriation of $200,000 for the capital reserve fund, created in 1990 for reconstruction and maintenance on real estate, buildings, and capital equipment in the school district.

Another budget hike stems from Article 3, which regards a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the Jaffrey-Rindge Education Association, the district’s teacher’s union. If passed, it would require $225,317 for increases in benefits and salaries.

Article 7 asks voters to approve the non-lapsing Extended Day Revolving Fund. The article would support the district’s afterschool and summer programs, previously funded by a grant, which is ending.

Whitney and O’Neill said that they would apply for the grant again, but per a stipulation in the grant application, it would only be for half of the original dollar amount, and an additional source of funding would still be required. This would depend on “fundraising, fees and additional contributions,” and not come from taxes, according to the Article.

It’s important in the long run that the afterschool and summer programs continue, said Whitney, attributing the district’s success in standardized testing scores to those programs.

An internal miscommunication between the Jaffrey Grade School administration and the Board was made clear when Whitney called on Susan Shaw-Sarles, JGS Principal, to speak about issues that may arise from new immunization policy changes. Whitney said he didn’t want to change any of the policies without direct input from JGS because he thought there could be special circumstances the board hadn’t considered regarding younger kids at JGS.

The district is amending their current immunization requirements and making the language more precise, and will have introduced a draft policy that would require more teachers and staff to have first aid training.

According to Shaw-Sarles, a major challenge in that training is maintaining the certification. She said that the teachers at JGS were already given emergency training, but that because there was no follow-through, the certifications lapsed.

She added that while the current school district manual stipulates that the school nurse be present at all planned school events and activities, it’s not possible. Whitney agreed that it was an issue that would need to be addressed.

Several students from the school district also made announcements and vied for approval from the Board. Ben Germano, a grade 10 AP history student at Conant High School, proposed a trip to Gettysburg, Pa. for his class. In his written request he explains that after a family trip to Gettysburg last year he wants to go back with his classmates for the educational experience. The Board unanimously voted to approve the trip.

Conant senior Brian Yaceshyn and CHS junior Shelby Barden proposed a plan for the second annual CHS Spring Festival, which they said has really come together because they have fifty members of the Interact Club working to put it together.

They provided insurance information on a bouncy castle planned for the event, for which the Board thanked them, since in their presentation last year it had been an oversight. Three members of the board moved to second the motion to approve the Spring Festival proposal and the Board voted unanimously in favor of it.

The next School Board meeting will be held at Conant High School March 27; the Board members said they expect it to be a long one, because it will include a discussion on results from the New England Common Assessment Program test.

Hayden James can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or hjames@ledgertranscript.com.

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