Default budget cuts discussed at ConVal deliberative

  • ConVal-Conant hockey players came to ConVal’s deliberative session Tuesday to support their program. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Sharon resident Mark Fernald speaks to a petition article calling for the district to prepare a proposal to restructure the school district by eliminating the district’s middle schools. Fernald was in favor of eliminating the middle schools, as many towns want to keep their elementary schools. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Over 200 people showed up to ConVal's deliberative session on Wednesday to talk about potential programming cuts should the proposed operating budget not be passed and single tiered bussing. Feb. 6, 2019 Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/7/2019 11:49:55 AM

Supporters of the ConVal-Conant hockey teams came out en masse for ConVal’s deliberative session to defend a sport on the chopping block should the district’s operating budget not be passed by voters in March.

Blue and orange Griffins hockey jerseys speckled the crowd of over 200 in the ConVal High School gymnasium on Wednesday night, with many hockey supporters defending the merits and value of the program.

“It’s about the kids that are willing to put on those uniforms every week and represent our communities,” said Scott Tracy, head coach for the boys’ team. “If you take away this program from them, I think you are doing a huge injustice.”

This year’s default budget is $1.25 million less than the district’s proposed operating budget of $48.1 million, which has prompted the school board to begin looking at the areas of the budget that could be cut and have the smallest impact on students.

Proposed cuts include the golf, spirit, and both hockey teams, and funding for the Cornucopia Program, the fresh fruits and vegetable program at the elementary schools, and the Quest Summer Program. Students would also have to pay for Advanced Placement (AP) tests and Running Start classes.

Players from the girls’ and boys’ teams were both in attendance at the meeting, routinely applauding when anyone spoke in favor of the program. The boys’ team had a home game scheduled for the same night as the deliberative session but postponed it so they could attend.

“This puts our hockey-dedicated teens at risk... colleges do take notice,” Peterborough resident Lori Turner said.

Turner has two sons on the hockey team and said one was told by a college that his hockey career could put him in line for a college scholarship.

ConVal’s boys’ hockey program started in the 1981-82 school year and flourished in the mid-2000s, when they won back-to-back championships. Declining numbers on the ConVal team and interest from Jaffrey-Rindge students led to the creation of the ConVal-Conant cooperative team in 2016. 

The girls’ hockey team took the ice for the first time at the varsity level in the 2012-13 season and went winless until merging with Conant in 2016; they won their first game in January of 2017 and have improved their record each year since.

Superintendent Kimberly Saunders said that none of the cuts being talked about were easy decisions to make and that the district ultimately does not want to cut any positions or programs.

Saunders urged those who wanted to keep the hockey team and other potential cuts to vote for the operating budget.

“As a hockey mom with a 12-year-old child, I understand everything that you are saying,” Saunders said. “What we need you to do is support the budget. Because it doesn’t matter where we cut, our child, our program is going to be affected. There is no way you can cut $1.249 million off of this budget without cutting programs and staff.”

Also at the deliberative session Wednesday night, an amendment to remove the dollar amount from a warrant article to raise $808,000 to add bus routes for a single-tier bussing system – which would allow the middle and high schools in the district to start an hour later – was passed 80 to 76, but was later reconsidered and defeated by a vote of 50 to 87.

Sharon resident Mark Fernald proposed the amendment, saying he agreed with the change conceptually but he couldn’t get behind the cost.

“I don’t think the way it’s worded is going to pass,” Fernald said, prior to the first vote. “With all the other issues we have $800,000... is not going to work.”

After the amendment was passed it was explained to the audience that removing the dollar amount would make the warrant article advisory only, meaning voters would be recommending the change instead of approving it. The amendment was then reconsidered and voted down.

Research shows that a later start time for middle and high school students would be beneficial as many students are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, which can lead to an increased risk of obesity, injuries, poor mental health, and attention and behavioral problems.

Sharon resident Dianne Mitchell – a bus driver for the district’s contracted bus company, Student Transportation of America – said she was concerned about moving to a single-tiered system as the company would have to find a way to staff an additional 14 buses.

Two petition warrant articles ask for more information about potential consolidation plans.

One of the petition articles would have the school board and district administration prepare a detailed proposal to close the two middle schools in the district, leaving 8 K-6 elementary schools and one high school to serve grades 7-12.

Fernald said the petition article came about as there has been much resistance to close any of the smaller elementary schools in the district by the towns, even though there have been studies and proposals pointing to that being the best option.

“Although the school board and administrators think big elementary schools are the best idea, the parents and the people in small towns don’t want to give up their schools,” Fernald said. “If we are going to consolidate, the only way to consolidate is at the middle school level. It’s not going to happen politically at the elementary school level.”

The school board voted to not recommend the article at a previous meeting by a vote of 1-10.

A document handed out by the school board at the meeting said the option has been looked at in the past and it was determined that savings would be insignificant. Having the district further study the option pull administrators away from working to develop and present a more viable option, according to the document.

The other article, which has unanimous support from the school board, would require the school board to submit a comprehensive analysis and implementation plan detailing the impacts of school closures to students and town to voters for approval.

The aforementioned plan would have to be approved by voters prior to the district proposing any school closures within the district.

All other articles on the ballot were brought up with little to no discussion by voters.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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