Framework changes suggested to board
PETERBOROUGH — Members of ConVal’s District Model Study Committee, unable to reach consensus on a model for reorganization of the district’s schools, decided last week to recommend that School Board propose a change to the district’s Articles of Agreement.
After two motions for recommendations failed, committee members approved a motion recommending a change to the Articles of Agreement that would allow the School Board the flexibility to close schools based on a two-thirds majority of the board and call on the board to evaluate the consolidation of the district’s schools.
The articles currently call for the district to maintain elementary schools in each of the ConVal towns except Sharon. That limits the district’s ability to close any of its eight elementary schools, some of which are facing declining enrollment.
The committee had sought public input, through a series of meetings and a survey mailed to each household in the district, on four possible options for the future. While a model that called for sending all fifth-graders to local elementary schools and closing Great Brook School, the middle school in Antrim, drew the highest number of votes as a top choice in the survey, model study committee members chose not to recommend that option to the School Board.
At the committee’s meeting on Thursday, a motion to recommend consolidation to one middle school failed, with two committee members in favor and eight opposed. Stewart Brock, Francestown’s School Board representative, said he made the motion reluctantly.
“If we don’t keep these small schools, we’ve gone against all the feedback we’ve had,” Brock said, referring to comments at both the public meetings and in the survey that residents did not want to eliminate any elementary schools. “It’s pains me to say it. It’s the only option we have now.”
Only Brock and School Board representative Mary Loftis voted in favor of the motion.
Committee member Erik Thibault of Peterborough then moved to recommend changing the Articles of Agreement to allow the School Board the flexibility to close any school in the district with “something more than a majority vote at the School Board level.” Thibault said he didn’t want to support closing a middle school and wanted to see a recommendation that would direct the board to look at all the district schools.
That motion also failed, on a vote of three in favor, seven opposed.
The committee then discussed a third motion, recommending a change to the Articles of Agreement that would allow the School Board the flexibility to close schools based on a two-thirds majority of the board. The final version of the motion, which was revised during discussion, also called for the board to evaluate the consolidation of the district’s schools.
School Superintendent Dick Bergeron said the committee should take note of political realities.
“What you’re doing is just delaying everything,” Bergeron said.
He reminded the board that he is in the last year of his contract. Bergeron said his replacement, who would be expected to take a leading role in discussions of any change, would find it difficult to make a rapid recommendation on a restructuring.
“A new superintendent won’t venture into this quicksand if he or she has any sense,” Bergeron said.
The third motion was approved by a margin of eight to one, with one abstention. The committee agreed to ask the board’s lawyer to draft a proposed warrant article to clarify the wording before the committee presents it to the School Board.
District Model Committee Chair George Kidd said he hopes to have the recommendation ready to present to the School Board in December.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.