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Amendment to table Jaffrey-Rindge School District apportionment formula vote fails at deliberative

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • People speak at the Jaffrey-Rindge deliberative session Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 12, 2018 5:38PM

An amendment that would have tabled a Jaffrey-Rindge School District vote on an apportionment change failed during the district’s deliberative session on Thursday.

The amendment – proposed by Jaffrey resident and former selectman Don MacIsaac – aimed to create a working group made up of a selectman and school board member from each town. The group would have been tasked with reviewing state school aid and its effect on the fairness of the district’s apportionment formula, undertaking the forming of a coalition of municipalities to work with the state legislature to develop proposals to change the state school aid formula to be more fair, and recommending apportionment formula changes that may be needed to ensure that state school aid is apportioned to maximize fairness of the district’s apportionment formula. 

“The current apportionment formula is unfair due to state aid. We learned that the issue is state aid,” said MacIsaac. “I propose we focus on the illness, not the symptom.”

MacIsaac’s amendment failed by a secret ballot vote of 49 to 99, meaning the original article – removing property valuation from the district’s apportionment formula currently a 50/50 mix of each town’s property valuation and average student count – will appear on the March 13 ballot. 

MacIsaac pointed out that the current warrant article achieves the same outcome as a petition article from 2017, but others pointed out that his amendment was very similar to his successful amendment from last year’s deliberative session, which tabled an apportionment change in favor of establishing a study committee to look at the fairness of apportionment. 

Many Rindge residents spoke against MacIsaac’s motion, saying the article should go in front of the voters as presented. 

“I take objection to hijacking the vote,” said Roberta Oeser, a Rindge selectwoman and member of the apportionment committee. Oeser put forth the petition article last year. 

Jason Paolino, another member of the committee, said the committee spent a number of hours discussing apportionment last year, adding that “folks that want to throw amendments out after the fact could have attended those public meetings.”

“Now if the intent is to just have that whole process be an appeasement to the people of Rindge, who spent a lot of time and patience and trust and confidence in that process, then I for one will be the first one to recognize that the spirit of cooperation in this cooperative school district is dead,” said Paolino. 

The conversation around apportionment has been quite divisive over the past year, as any change could have a large tax impact on both towns.

The article on the ballot is estimated to increase Jaffrey’s tax rate by $2.20 per thousand dollars of assessed value and decrease Rindge’s tax rate by an estimate $1.70. The change will be phased in over six years to ease the burden. 

As the warrant article is making changes to the district’s articles of agreement, a two-thirds majority is needed to pass it. 

Discussion also ensued about the removal of a principal and a librarian at the middle/high school.

The elimination of the principal, librarian, and a few other positions throughout the district helped to offset some of the budgetary increases in this year’s proposed $25,385,854 million operating budget. This year’s proposal is $11,746 less than last year’s approved total, a .05-percent decrease. 

The cost savings of removing a principal, a support secretary, and a librarian at the middle/high school saves the district about $280,000.

The middle/high school would have one combined principal with two assistant principals, under the new budget. Both schools would share a librarian between the two library spaces, with support staff filling in the gaps. 

Residents from both towns stated their concerns for the elimination of both positions.

John Stone, a Jaffrey resident and former principal at Rindge Memorial School, said the district used to have one principal for both elementary schools in the district, which didn’t end up working. 

“It’s a tough job and I don’t think it can work,” said Stone, who was concerned about doubling the workload for a singular principal . “If it works, that’s great… I don’t see how it could happen.”

Rindge resident Dan Whitney said the model also failed at the middle/high school back in the early 2000s. 

“Please be very careful with this,” said Whitney. “Once you lose your credibility, it’s awfully difficult to get back.”

Board chair Laurel McKenzie defended the cut, saying that part of the reorganization involved bringing the SAU staff into the middle school building. 

Superintendent Reuben Duncan also spoke, saying the SAU staff – which includes himself, the director of student services, curriculum director, and other positions – will be more involved than the previous attempt at cutting a principal at the middle/high school. Duncan said SAU staff members are already helping teach classes, coaching teachers, working with principals, and doing other things to be a more supportive part of day-to-day operations. 

A few public comments showed support for the cuts, arguing that the cut could create a unified culture between the two schools, and eliminate some overhead costs for the district. 

Rindge resident Al Lefebvre said he is concerned about having one librarian for both library spaces, as the one person would have to “run back and forth between both spaces” and do ordering and other tasks for two separate spaces. 

“This is your responsibility… we’re going to hold you to it,” said Lefebvre, addressing the school board members and district administration in front of the audience at the Rindge Memorial School gym. 

Two amendments were made to the Jaffrey-Rindge warrant.

The first was the insertion of a word in article six, which is considered a housekeeping article to modernize the articles of agreement. 

The word “advisory” was inserted before “budget committee” in one of the changes to the articles of agreement, which clarifies the role of the committee. 

Rindge resident Dennis Casey said he was against the warrant article, as the articles of agreement is a historic document.

“It’s what people came up with at the time… I see no reason to erase history,” said Casey. “I say we leave them how they are.”

The second change was made to the lone petition article this year, which if passed would change the required vote on changes to the articles of agreement from two-thirds to three-fifths. 

As submitted, the article was about a page long. Petitioner Roberta Oeser made the motion to shorten the article down to a few sentences for clarity. 

All other articles presented will appear on the warrant unaltered and were brought up with little or no discussion from the audience. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.