2020 Chester School Board Meetings

Chester Academy School Board Reorganizes
By Penny Williams  5-8-20

The Chester Academy School Board met Wednesday evening, May 6, and reorganized.

Current Chair Royal Richardson was reappointed as Chair while Jonathan
Eckerman was appointed as Vice Chair and he will also continue as the representative to the Board of Selectmen. New board member Dana Theokas will be the liaison to the Chester Budget Committee backed up by Brennan Holmes.  The board went on an filled all committee assignments.

Sheryl Rich, Business Manager, reported that the District would return $381,834 as the result of the projected excess Revenue and reduced expenditures, the largest of which is the non-payment for bus service amounting to $196,000. Chester was fortunate to have in its bus contracts non-payment when buses not used. Rich noted anticipated overages related to revenue and reduced expense of $313,987 for a revised projected total of $695,821 and the amount of available unencumbered funds and identified planned expenditures that could be addressed which the board approved.

* Pre-purchase of Supplies/Workbooks not to exceed $50,000 that will trigger a decrease to the 2020-2021  budgeted expenses.

* Infrastructure projects- HSEM Door Locks - $4,000 because only responsible for  20 percent of cost  because of a grant;  replace exterior Door Lock Cylinders $3,000; refresh softball field -$8,000.

* Fund new Capital Reserve Fund approved 2020 for replacement of Boilers $20,000.

* Chester Unreserved Fund Balance Retained Fund is fully funded - increase of $6,000.

According to Rich, it is anticipated the Unreserved Fund Balance to be transferred to Town's General Fund will be nearly $580,000. The Trust Fund Balances are Maintenance $206,859 and Disabilities, $136,611.

Chester Academy Principal Karen Lacroix reported that the decision was made not send home trimester 3 progress reports and that the last day for remote learning would be May 29. Between June 2 and 5 has been designated as Intervention Camp and the teachers are working on which students need to be invited. The decision was made to move forward with New World Language series for 2021. She felt this was the right choice and the board approved the cost of $5,600.

Lacroix said interviewing has taken place for the opening for the Reading Specialist and the interviews would begin shortly for the 6th grade math teacher opening. Another opening is 6th grade science. Superintendent Darrel Longwood said there were several resignations and the board approved these while approving the hiring of nominations for Speech Assistant, Occupational Therapist, a Guidance Counselor, and an Enrichment Teacher.

Lacroix told the board there will be a teacher parade around the school the afternoon of May 29, between 1:45 and 3:15 p.m. On June 4 the Grade Promotion Night will take place at 8:30 p.m.  There will be a huge screen in the parking lot and parents and their 8th grade students will attend in their cars for a video being prepared by an 8th grade parent, Mrs. Archer. There will be police to assist with traffic. At the end, the cars will drive by and each student will receive their diploma. There are 142 parking slots so she felt this would accommodate the 54 8th grade students needs.

Specific times will sent to parents between June 8 and 12 for them to come by to return school supplies such a books and chromebooks. There will a table where students can pick up their belongings left at the school and any medications. Assistant Principal Ann Gaffney has planned this and it should go smoothly.

Jana Ruis, Special Services said they have been providing additional services to students needing it and training teachers on some special services programs. They have also been working on student IEPs. There will be ten 4-year olds and seven 3-year olds in the pre-school and there are some referrals still to review. The Extended Year Program maybe a more hybrid program dealing with compensatory education and looking at who needs additional support.

The board approved the proposed 3-year Chromebook Lease Proposal with CDW and Hewlett Packard Financial Services for 270 chromebooks and accessories proposed by Technology Director Ben Kilar.  There was $36,000 budgeted for this 3 year lease of chromebooks but the cost came in under budget at $32,006.24.  In addition the board approved the YMCA Afterschool Program contract for 2020-2021 and the proposed Chester Education Association Incentive Goals Revision.

In Other Business:

* Longwood reported that some of the IDEA money would be refunded and possibly more and that Derry has been cooperative but this will continue to happen. They're trying to work out some way Derry can use the money to pay some of the sending school charges with the incorrectly allocated money.

* It was noted that Meet and Greet event would probably not happen this year but something might be planned for August.

* Re-opening is up in the air although alternative plans are under discussion.

* The Chester Academy School Board was chosen School Board of the Year by the New Hampshire School Board Association.


Chester School Board Holds Emergency Meeting
By Penny Williams    4-3-20

The Chester School Board met on Wednesday, April 1, at the unusual time of 4 p.m.. It was stated that the meeting was being conducted under the conditions of it being declared an Emergency Meeting.

The Board utilized the secure Google Meeting platform for this electronic meeting. All members of the Board and the Public have the ability to communicate contemporaneously during the meeting through this platform. The Public was afforded the opportunity to provide Public Input via email to the meeting-specific mailbox publiccomment4.1@sau82.org along with the author’s full name and address in the email comments.

The following members participated remotely: Brennan Holmes, Valerie Weider and Dana Theokas. Board Member Jonathan Eckerman was absent at the start of the meeting due to personal requirements that prevented participation at the planned start-time but he joined them at 5 p.m. Chairman Royal Richardson and Superintendent Darrell Lockwood conducted the meeting today onsite here at Chester Academy. In addition, the SAU 82 Business Manager, Sheryl Rich, was also onsite at Chester Academy.

School Board Chair Royal Richardson spoke quietly about the situation existing at the moment noting that typically in April people are all looking forward to shaking off the last vestiges of winter and looking ahead to spring and summer. That is especially so this year as we have been teased by summer-like weather in both February and March.

Unfortunately," he said, "all of those familiar rhythms and expectations have been upended as we deal with a public health crisis that has had an unprecedented impact our town, our state and our nation. While the Board and the Chester School District have been considering the potential of disruption as a result of the Novel Coronavirus nothing could have prepared us for the rapid and dramatic onset that began on March 13th. That Friday completed like any other school day at Chester Academy but by that evening our Superintendent was regularly conversing with State officials as we developed a plan that changed several times over the weekend which resulted in the Governor issuing a directive to close all of the schools in New Hampshire and to implement a remote-learning plan for our students.

While our teaching staff and administration had been considering how to do this, the actual implementation plan had to be developed and put into place, literally, overnight. Thankfully, the District’s investment in technology over the last several years positioned Chester Academy to ensure that all students were on an equal footing and that we could quickly leverage the capabilities of the Google platform to effectively bring students and teachers together in this shared experience."

Chester Academy Principal Karen Lacroix provided an abbreviated report, focusing on an update on the planned student overnight trips (to Washington DC and the annual Science Camp). She reported that after negotiating with the service providers, both organizations had agreed to refund the fees paid by the families for the cancelled trips. The process for determining and distributing the refunds is underway and she will be updating the individual families on when they can expect their refunds.

Lacroix also provided a summary of recent Remote Learning survey. Overall the results were quite favorable and she noted that several parents had provided specific feedback regarding how pleased they were with individual teachers.

Special Services Coordinator Jana Ruiz provided an update on the District’s Child Find and Referrals process. She also provided a report on the current status of Special Education Services, noting that she has found that her staff  has more knowledge about engaging students through technology than we knew.  She said that they  are able to be flexible in ways we never imagined, and our students are rising up to the expectations put in place.

She reported that there are a variety of ways special education is providing educational supports and services to students.  This includes virtual work live with individuals or small groups,  recorded activities, phone calls,  participating in classroom morning meetings or other classroom presentations, taking class notes, creating notes to fill in the blank, or being available to answer questions.

   Rich provided an updated report for April 1st that showed a Net Unreserved Balance To Date of $406,502, which exceeded the projection by a surplus of  $24,668. She noted that, due to the transition to Remote Learning, there are several line items that are in transition and under evaluation.

Rich also presented the results of a bid process for a replacement floor scrubber for the Maintenance Department. There were four pieces of equipment under consideration. As a result of the bid, Facilities Director Martin McFarland recommended that the Board select the Clean-O-Rama 28 inch Scrubber at a cost of $7,995. After some brief discussion related to warranty and extended-warranty options, the Board voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of the replacement Scrubber.  

   Lockwood provided an update on School Disruption and Remote Learning implementation, focusing on both the successes and challenges. He described the process that the teaching staff is using to deliver educational services. The availability of technology for our students as a result of the investment in a 1-to-1 device-to-student program really paid dividends both from the standpoint of ensuring equal access and opportunity for our students and familiarity with the devices that they would be using from home while the facility was closed.

The Superintendent noted that it is important to recognize that while the Chester Academy facility is closed and access to the building is restricted that the school is not “closed”. Chester Academy is actively involved in remote-learning and all of the staff are actively engaged in supporting the students every single day. A limited number of essential personnel continue to work onsite at Chester Academy each day and the SAU office while the rest of the staff are working remotely.

   He  announced that they would be instituting a day each week, on Wednesday, of Individual Learning for students. The consensus was this would allow flexibility for students, and families, to either ensure that they are current on their assigned work or to take on approved projects tied to the curriculum that they are worked on, similar to the What I Need (WIN) program that was part of the Middle School curriculum. In addition, that the Teachers would be establishing specific time each day for interaction with students and parents, likening it to “office hours” for professors in a college environment.

There was also  some discussion regarding the scheduled April vacation week and the pro’s and con’s of cancelling this vacation week in order to continue with instruction.

 He  presented with the Board with the Teacher Resignations for 2020-21 School year. Two long time staff members that had taken a leave of absence this year have submitted their resignations. The Board voted unanimously to regretfully accepts the resignations of Ms. Heidi Milardo and Ms. Katie Fuccillo and to thank them for their years of service to the children of the Chester School District.

He also provided the Board with Teacher Nominations for the 2020-21 School year. After some discussion regarding the candidates and the currently open positions the Board voted unanimously to authorize the Superintendent to initiate contracts for each of the individuals and to move forward with the hiring process for the open positions. 

The Superintendent provided the Board with a list of proposed Administrator and Support Staff salary/wages and benefits for the 2020-21 School year. These positions and the associated wages and benefits were all approved in the 2020-21 School District Budget.  After some discussion related to the Food Services department and the format of their contracts, the Board voted unanimously to authorize the Superintendent to initiate contracts for each of the individuals.
































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