Mixed reviews of divorce study

Committee talks about possible board statement

  • ConVal's ad-hoc Communications Committee meets to discuss a statement in response to the Peterborough petition to study withdrawal. Janine Lesser, a Peterborough representative who attended the meeting, left, and Pierce Rigrod, a Hancock representative. STAFF PHOTO BY Priscilla Morrill

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, May 02, 2016 7:38PM

An ad-hoc communications committee met last week to discuss a possible school board statement on the petition warrant article calling for the ConVal School District to study Peterborough’s withdrawal. The petition was brought forward by a group of Peterborough residents calling themselves the Committee of Concerned Citizens.

The communications committee will bring a statement to the school board meeting Tuesday night. If the full board approves it, the committee said it will circulate the statement ahead of voting in Peterborough on May 10.

The majority of school board members at the communications committee meeting Wednesday expressed support for keeping the ConVal School District of nine member towns going. Indeed, their working draft statement was focused on that end.

Pierce Rigrod, the Hancock representative to the school board, said he sees ConVal’s Strategic Plan as an alternative to studying Peterborough’s withdrawal, but the two can’t happen at the same time.

“If we go down the road of withdrawal, portions of the strategic plan will be delayed for at least [two years],” Rigrod said, noting investments in the school district, like upgrading science labs, would also be put on hold.

The Strategic Plan, he said, is the school board’s plan for reorganizing the district.

However, at least one school board member supports the petition brought forward by Peterborough residents Nadia MacStay, Kevin Rushalko and others. Though not part of the Committee of Concerned Citizens, Peterborough representative to the school board Richard Dunning, speaking for himself alone, said the study is worth doing.

“We really need to look at resizing the district,” Dunning said. And though the Strategic Plan calls for reorganization, under that plan, it won’t be looked at until 2017, he said.

One of the issues the ConVal community has been discussing for a number of years is whether to keep open elementary schools in eight of the nine member towns, given the current enrollment numbers.

“I know the communities really love their schools,” Dunning said.

“The question is, is that the best way to deliver the best education to the children. The study is going to answer that question – at least for Peterborough.”

Dunning said the study the petition is calling for will give Peterborough voters the information they need to move forward.

“I don’t know if Peterborough is paying too much. Won’t know until we do the study,” he said. “They may find this is a great deal and we should just continue [with the district].”

Dunning said he would prefer to see the district stay together.

“It may still be a good thing, but we need to look at what that looks like 50 years later,” said Dunning.

MacStay and Rushalko did not return messages seeking comment by press time.

At the Wednesday meeting of the communications committee, school board members present said it is worth noting that the percentages of the school district’s budget paid by each town has remained relatively stable over the years.

Dave Martz, a school board representative from Temple, said people should be aware that the study the petition calls for is going to cost the district money, though he did not say how much.

Kristen Reilly, a Peterborough representative, said, “I don’t feel like a lot of people know what’s going on.”

If a majority of Peterborough voters approve the petition to study the financial and educational impacts of the town withdrawing from the district, the district is required by state law to perform the study. It is the first step in a formal withdrawal process that would require N.H. Department of Education approval and another vote. A simple majority of voters of the district is required for withdrawal to be finalized, according to RSA 195:29.

Also on the Peterborough warrant is a request for $20,000 for a consultant to independently review a withdrawal plan the study might produce.

The School Board will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m.