2022 Chester School Board Meetings

Chester Academy School Board Approves Temporary CESPA Agreement
By Penny Williams   11-04-22

The Chester Academy School Board met on Wednesday, November 2, and discussed and approved the Temporary CESPA (Chester Educational Support Personnel Association) agreement.

Board Chair Royal Richardson and board member Sabrina Harris went over the main details of the agreement between the Chester School District and the CESPA.

The contracted Salary Schedule was changed to seven steps with a starting salary of $15.50 for Para II's and a maximum salary of $20.00 in year one and setting a maximum hourly wage of $23. in the final year of the agreement.

The agreement provides for the District to provide an entry level health insurance benefit equal to 80 percent of the cost of the SchoolCare Orange plan's Individual policy. This benefit cost would be $7,200 per individual and for those who opt out the increased reimbursement will be $1,500 in year one rising to $2,000 in year two.

The cost of the agreement would be $864,332.27. While noting this is high, Richardson pointed out the reason is the levels of previous contracts didn't have the salaries and benefits today's market demands so this a kind of catch up scenario.

The board unanimously approved the three year contract to be in effect from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2026.

During their policy discussions the board discussed Policy IAA - Class size. This was for first read. Richardson stated he wanted to ensure the board members had time to consider this change before they vote on the policy at the next meeting.

There will no more than 18 students in Pre-school to grade 2. In grades 3-5 there will be no more than 22 students. and no more than 25 students in grades 6 through 8. The change  will shift groups to align Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6-8 relative to maximum student numbers.

It was noted that these grade sizes are still lower than the state Department of Education recommends. Superintendent Sharon Locke  stated that she feels confident the change for grade 3 was appropriate and workable for both staff and students. The present enrollment is flat with 485 K-8 students plus 19 Pre-K for a total of 504 as of November 1st.

Principal Sarah Munsey in her report said Fire Prevention Week had been successful and that Fire Chief Phil Gladu had visited Pre-K through grade 5.

Testing at the beginning of the year is complete and teachers are using the data to improve instruction. The Multi-Tiered Systems Support Team meets regularly and is working on intervention and enrichment services for the students and these are already up and running. Teachers get data and support from the team regarding Tier 2 and Tier 3 implementation.

Personnel and Professional Development is being pursued with Multi-Tiered Systems Support and Vector Professional Development Training being utilized.

ALICE refresher course was also provided. Munsey said during the Teacher Workshop Day teachers had an option of designing their own Professional Development day and it was popular with teachers.

Munsey indicated that Start with Hello Activities and Red Ribbon Week had both been successful student endeavors. She indicated that she had met with parents at Muffins in the Morning on October 19 and another event, Cookies and Conversation, is planned for January 12.

Veterans Day will be celebrated with the Wall of Honor and students are excited to be participating in developing this and preparing for the Reverse Parade on Veterans Day.

Munsey said with pleasure, the exit door to the playground will be fully installed in the next day or two.

The board unanimously approved the District Goals presented by Locke.

Locke and Munsey discussed the Portrait of a Learner that will engage the education system and the broader community to create a unifying, collective vision for the Chester Academy students. This program will have effective impacts on programs, policies, budgets , and, grants.

Sheryl Rich, Business Administrator, provided a review of  revenues and expenses.  The total revenue Budget Projection is now $4,314,559 up from $4,194,203 and increase. The budgeted Expense total is down to $13,553,463 from the projected $13,606,290 , a reduction of $52,827. Due to these new numbers the overall estimated savings as of  October 27, would be an estimated $169,836.

Two resignations were announced. Susan Perry, Part-Time Art Teacher will leave in December and the administration believes it is important to try and replace her although there have been no responses to the advertisement for a .6 art teacher.

The other resignation is Rich who will be leaving to join the Londonderry School District. The board members and the administrators all expressed deep regret at Rich's decision but Rich said it was the right move for her at this point in time. A search for her replacement will be underway.

The board came out of non-public and made two announcements.

The board unanimously approved adopting the proposed Non-Union Salary Proposal related to the Technical Support Specialist per the board's discussion.

The board approved and authorized Superintendent Locke to enter into an agreement for a resident of Hampstead to attend Chester Academy from November 14, through June 16, 2023 on a tuition basis.


Chester Academy School Board Updated on Multi-Tiered System of Supports
By Penny Williams   10-6-22

The Chester Academy School Board met on Wednesday, October 5, and among the items covered was the implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports presented by Chester Academy's Director of Learning and Growth Jennifer Maio.

Maio pointed out this system supports all students and supports both Interventions for students struggling as well providing Enrichment activities for those students who need additional academic opportunities.

This system includes multiple tiers of instruction, intervention and support, all focused on learning standards and behavioral expectations. Involved in this system is the problem-solving process; data evaluation; and, communication and collaboration among students, parents and staff.

A goal of the program is to ensure that capacity building continues to grow through Professional Development and through leadership.

Principal Sarah Munsey updated the Personnel and Professional Development activities noting Professional Development is critical to good educational, learning, and behavioral outcomes.

Munsey also went over activities focused on so far including core values and mandatory trainings. She noted that Students are writing to troops overseas and she announced her decision to bring back a Veterans Day celebration.

She said the partnership between the school and Chester Public Library is being strengthened and that the Grace LeBlanc, Youth Services, had paid a visit to a staff meeting to encourage staff to get library cards.

Community engagement is being pushed and she said the Muffins in the Morning will provide opportunities for conversations with Academy leadership.

Special Education Director Jana Ruiz said the canceled Child Find meeting has been rescheduled and parents contacted as well as future Child Find meeting dates are posted on web site.

Ruis said the IDEA grant of $42,047 was initially approved and  $126,142.48 by the state  was added bringing the total to $168,189.97.

There is a new grade 5 through 8 Special Education model and teachers held a parent forum on it with a lol the feedback positive.

Business Administrator Sheryl Rich reported that the total estimated revenue stands at $4,248,870 which is an increase of $54,647 over the March budget amount.

The regular education budget is over budget due to Pinkerton Academy tuition and over budget for transportation due to additional out-of-district requirements.

Superintendent Sharon Locke reported on enrollment.

There are 485 K-8 students with 19 in the Pre-K program making a total of 504 students. There are 251 Chester students enrolled at Pinkerton Academy, 8 more than budgeted for.

She estimated the PA tuition rate for 2022-2023 at $14,238 per student.

Locke proposed and the board approved contracting with NESDEC (New England School Development Council) to prepare enrollment projections and updates. The $775 cost annually is worth it.

Locke presented the final draft of the District's Capital Improvement Plan and said it has been submitted to the Planning Board for review. The board voted to accept and approve the updated CIP.

Chair Royal Richardson suggested using the FRED Index (Federal Reserve Economic Data) for CIP purposes and Locke agreed to look into this.

The board approved Locke's proposed Snow Day plan. First cancellation day will be a Snow Day. This day will not need to be made up at the end of the year.  All the remainder remote days that have to be snow days will have to be made up.

The board voted to approve moving the part time custodian to full time for the remainder of the year at a cost of $19,090. This was considered a safety issue as well as an operational issue.

Board member Dana Theokas provided an update on the Strategic Plan. She went over the committee membership and noted the plan is to add representatives from the Public Library and Pinkerton Academy as they move forward working on the plan.

Richardson suggested and the board approved adding Cougar Kudos along with a certificate of recognition for recognizing accomplishments of community members during board meetings.


Chester School Board Told Opening of School Went Smoothly and 300th Committee Responds to Concerns
By Penny Williams   9-11-22

The Chester School Board met on Wednesday, September 7, and Principal Sarah Munsey and Superintendent Sharon Locke both reported everything went smoothly.

Munsey said core values were gone over for all grades and the administration and staff will be emphasizing being respectful, responsible, and expectations for success throughout the year.

Locke reported that for the start of the year there were 508 k-8 grade students, an increase of 12 students from the end of school in June and a 22 student increase since September, 2021. There is also an increase of students going Pinkerton Academy to 252 students which is an increase of 9 over the anticipated number of 243.

The District faces many of the same issues Districts across the nation face such as Learning Loss due to the pandemic, Locke said Chester Academy is well positioned to address these issues.

Testing has already begun but it was noted that ELA, Math and Reading saw gains.

DIEBELS testing started the week of September 6 and iReady and initial Reading Horizon Discovery for K-through grade 2 has already started as well. Munsey noted they are waiting for the NH SAS Interim Assessment tests to be released.

Support for new staff began with the orientation and mentors have been assigned to each new teacher and the Mentor program as a whole is taking shape. New Leadership teams are being developed and everything is student oriented.

Stop the Blood training with the Chester Fire Department has taken place and as things get underway there are a lot of extracurricular offerings being provided. Field trips coordinated with curriculum are being planned.

Miss Grace from the Chester Public Library met with teachers to provide them with library cards. There is an effort underway to strengthen the partnership with the library.

Locke asked the board to accept and approve an "in-placement" of a Pre-Kindergarten student from Auburn requested by the Auburn School District. It would be tuition based and subject to availability. The board approved this.

Business Administrator Sheryl Rich went over the tentative Budget Development Schedule and provided the financial report.

There is an Unreserved Fund Balance of $394,425 which is $59,207 more than the Annual Report figure. There is a Retained Fund balance of $245,831.

The Chester Library Fund end of year balance is $6,185; available Impact Fees at the end of June amounted to $53,401.

The Market Value of the District's Capital Reserve Funds included on June 20;
* Roof Replacement, $237,696
* Special Education Fund, $143,767
* Boiler Replacement fund, $40,750 with $20,000 added from Warrant Article

Rich asked the board to approve continuing the contract with Primex and the Contribution Assurance Program Agreement that caps Workers' Compensation at 10 percent for three years and Liability and Property at 9 percent for three years. The board approved the contract.
Locke said 14 projects have been completed including six that were part of the School District's Capital Improvement Plan. There were:
* Phone Hand-set Replacement
* Renovation of the Cafeteria and 2nd Floor Student Bathrooms
* The STEM Conversion
* Propane Tank Repairs
* Parking Lot Resealing and Line Striping

In addition, air conditioning to four more classrooms was completed.

Locke said the Board will adopt the goals of the District's Strategic Plan as their outcome goals for the year in the area of academic growth and communication. These goals will be approved after the Fall baseline data is compiled.

The board adopted the proposed Chester Academy /SAU 82 Emergency Operations Plan.

IT Director Ben Kilar presented the revised Data Governance Plan and the board approved its adoption.

Locke presented the revised COVID Management Plan for 2022023 which  reflects the most recent Guidance and the board approved adoption.

Katherine Harake introduced herself to the board and spoke about why she is running for election to the New Hampshire Executive Council to represent District 3 which includes Chester.

The next meeting is scheduled for a workshop on September 14 and a Chester School Board Meeting will be held on October 9.

In response to reaction from the letter Locke sent to parents concerning the upcoming final 300th Anniversary event, the parade and BBQ, WMUR asked for further clarification of the issue. Locke provided the following statement to the media.

"The Town of Chester has a committee of volunteers who have been working for over a year to plan a celebration in honor of Chester's 300th Anniversary.  We are excited for our students and staff members to participate in the culminating events and parade of September 24th.  When we learned yesterday afternoon that the Event Coordinator was on the sex offender registry, we immediately contacted our committee liaison who arranged a meeting where we mutually agreed that the event coordinator would not attend the event for the safety of our many students who are taking part in the event. 

"We are looking forward to September 24th and returning to our focus on celebrating the long history of Chester as a united community."

The 300th Anniversary Committee posted the following concerning this issue.

"The 300th Anniversary Committee first met in August of 2016 to plan events related to Chester’s Tricentennial Celebration. At the March 2019 meeting, the committee met with representatives from another southern NH community that was celebrating an anniversary at the time, to share experiences and ideas. At that meeting, the committee was introduced to an individual from a consulting firm, Event Central, who was contracted by the other town and had extensive experience in managing municipal anniversary events. After that meeting and other subsequent encounters, it was agreed by the committee that this type of knowledge and experience would be essential to conduct a successful anniversary celebration for Chester.
Informal and uncontracted dialogue was begun between the committee and the firm’s representative with the intent of contracting with the firm. It was during this period, while performing due diligence on the capabilities of this firm, that a member of the committee uncovered concerning information on the principal owner’s past. In June of 2019, the committee agreed to seek an alternative consultant. After several months of comprehensive searching, the committee was unsuccessful in finding another firm or individual who was experienced in municipal event planning. We then decided to meet with the Board of Selectmen and discuss the situation with them. Since this firm and its principal would only be dealing with the committee, only present in town together with the committee, or at a minimum one of its members, and dealing directly and solely with adults, the collective decision was made to enter into an agreement with the firm. The protocols that the committee put in place were that he was not to engage independently with any person or organization and while acting in an official capacity during an event, there was to be a committee member present.
The contract was signed in November 2020 and was made up of two parts. The first stipulated that the firm was to provide the committee with assistance in developing a sponsorship program to raise the additional funds needed to host multiple events organized solely by the committee, none of which were fully self-funded. The second was to consult on events and organize a parade through the firm’s many contacts and experiences, the majority of these being professional groups. The committee was to be responsible for organizing and contacting local parade groups.
The sponsorship portion was a huge success. The financial generosity and support in spirit that this committee received was beyond our most optimistic projections. Many sponsors came to us unsolicited wanting to be part of the celebration. No sponsors were notified of the past history of our consultant. The committee was not aware of any requirement to disclose this information publicly. The committee’s association with this individual has always been made publicly available. We did not believe that our decision to contract with this consultant would ever reflect negatively on our sponsors. The consultant is in no way connected to any of our sponsors and to the best of our knowledge none of the sponsors had any prior knowledge of the consulting firm’s principal owner’s past.
On Thursday, September 8th a member of the Chester School Board contacted members of this committee to let us know that they had just learned of the consultant’s offense and that the school’s connection with the parade and our consultant put them in an impossible situation. Two members of the committee met with the Chairman of the School Board and the School District Superintendent that afternoon who informed us there were only two resolutions; either the school had to sever all ties with the parade, or the committee had to assure them that the consultant would not be present in town on that day. Since this is Chester’s celebration there was clearly only one logical option. The meeting resulted in the email that the school issued to all parents that evening. Yesterday, the parade committee met with our consultant, and he has agreed not to come to Chester between now and the conclusion of festivities on the 24th.
The committee volunteers are Chester residents and parents and grandparents like many of you. Our families have attended the events over the past year of celebration, and we would not have put plans in place that we did not feel were safe for children. We are looking forward to coming together as a community to celebrate Chester’s Parade and Festival. We sincerely hope the people of Chester will enjoy this Grand Finale."


Chester School Board and Chester Academy Principal Welcomes Students and Parents
By Penny Williams    8-22-22

Chester Academy Principal Sarah Munsey and Chester Academy School Board Chair Royal Richardson welcomed students and parents and the community to the new school year.

On behalf of our entire school community, Munsey said welcome to a new school year at Chester Academy.

"We are all eager to see your children when they return to school on Monday, August 29th for K - 8 or Tuesday, September 6th for our students in the Preschool Program.  We hope that your summer has been filled with wonder, laughter, and moments that will last a lifetime.  Here at school, we have been busy preparing for the year ahead, from cleaning and sprucing up the building and grounds to unpacking and getting ready to use new curricular materials and supplies.  All the hard work of summer months sets the stage for a successful year of learning together."

Munsey indicated that communication is a priority. She stated that open communication and partnerships between school and home are the best way to give students the support they need to grow, learn, and thrive. 

"You are the experts on your children, and we value your input as partners." she said. "Thank you for the trust you place in us each day and for sharing the responsibility of guiding and supporting your child’s learning this year.  If you are interested in more opportunities to engage with us, please consider joining our Chester Academy PTA or contributing as a volunteer."

The PTA  has several exciting activities already planned:
* Kindergarten Roundup 8/25 from 11 - 12 a.m. (immediately following  

* Kindergarten Open House 9 - 10 a.m.)

*PTA Back to School BBQ 8/25 from 4 - 6:30 p.m.  If you are able to contribute to the BBQ, please visit this link to sign up https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805044CAFA82BA5F49-back

* Fall Fundraiser:  get a head start on purchasing beautiful fall mums or bulbs.
To order, visit: https://threeriversfundraising.com/fundraiser/chacpta-f22

Some reminders as parents start to prepare for coming back to school this year:
First Day of School:  Students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 start school on Monday, August 29th.  Drop off begins at 8:20 a.m. and classroom Morning Meetings start promptly at 8:35 a.m..  Preschool begins on September 6th.

Annual Registration:  open now in PowerSchool.  Directions can be found on the Chester Academy website under Quick Links, Annual Registration. If you need assistance with your login, please email techsupport@sau82.org. For parents who prefer paper forms, please visit https://ca.sau82.org/ to print forms from the website or visit the Main Office. 

Bus Routes:  First Student is finalizing the bus routes.  We expect them to be complete and posted no later than Monday, August 22.

Supply Lists:  The supply list is posted on the CA website and can be found here 2022-2023 Supply List.pdf.  General items required for all students and grade-specific items are shown.  It is especially helpful for all students to have a reusable water bottle each day.

Lunch Program:  Federal funding for free school meals has ended, however our food service program will continue to offer nutritious and delicious breakfasts and lunches. Lunch prices have increased to $3.15 this year.  Visit  Food Services - Chester Academy for more information or for an application for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.

Fall Sports:  Registration for our Fall Sports (cross country running, soccer) is open.  Visit Athletics - Chester Academy to learn more and to register.   
If you haven’t done so already, visit and “like” our Chester Academy Facebook page, where we share important information and exciting happenings here at CA: Chester Academy FaceBook

In hope and anticipation of all that lies ahead,
Sarah Muncey, Principal Zachary Champion, Assistant Principal
Jana Ruiz, Director of Special Services Jennifer Maio, Director of Learning & Growth.

Richardson welcomed everyone to the new school year and noted that everyone is emphasizing the need for parents to register / apply for Free and Reduced lunch if they need assistance. He indicated this may be confusing for some families as lunches have been free (or no-cost-to-parents, anyway) for the last couple of years. However, that Federal subsidy program for-all is ending so it is important that parents register.

First, and foremost, in these difficult economic times, we want to ensure that the children’s nutrition needs are being met.

Second, traditional local school funding calculations utilize the number of students receiving Free and Reduced lunch to determine Adequacy Aid contributions. So, this could have a direct impact on the amount of money for Operating Expenses that the District has to raise and appropriate via local taxation.


Chester Academy School Board Announce Teaching Staff Complete
By Penny Williams   8-7-22

The Chester Academy School Board met on Wednesday, August 3, and the administration was pleased to announce that all full time teaching positions are filled.

Superintendent Sharon Locke noted that while there are still some Para-Professional positions and lunch monitor positions open, the administration has hired a Spanish teacher, Colleen Forsyth, completing the full time teaching staff.

The Kindergarten through eighth grade Spanish program is being upgraded and developed. There is already a Spanish program for the middle school which is being improved and upgraded with the K-5th grade portion being developed.

The new Pinkerton Academy Liaison, Siena Stafford introduced herself and the Chester Academy Scholarship winner Tyler Fernands spoke to the board.

Principal Sarah Munsey, the Pop-Up Principal fresh off her outreach meetings with the community, said the Extended School Year and Math Camp are both underway with the Extended School Year program having 49, grade 1-8 students and the Summer Math camp having 28 students.

Muncey explained improvements to the school's Mentor Program. She went over the Workshop Days and the targeted subjects for the August 23 date for new teachers and staff and the Teacher Workshop Days that will be held on August 24 through August 26.

Muncey said security is being emphasized with plans for ALICE training with the Chester Police Department and with the new doors for the school building upgrades that are currently being installed. There is a plan to work with the Fire Department on a Stop the Bleed training program for teachers and staff and 60 kits for this program have been obtained.

Muncey also said efforts to improve communication internally and externally with the community are in development.

Business Administrator Sheryl Rich reported that the current Unreserved Fund Balance is $401,792 and The Retained Fund is $225,995. The surplus is actually $65,574 more than reported in the annual report.

Rich indicated the Retained Fund could be increased to $245,000. After a discussion the board chose to set the amount for the Retained Fund at the 2.5 percent of the 2022-23 net assessment. This would reduce the amount returned to the Town to offset taxes by the increased amount.

The Library Fund balance is $6,185 and these funds can be used to purchase books for the library.

The Food Service is in a positive financial position and the board approved increasing the cost of lunch to $3.15. The lunch program during the pandemic was free and increases each year of 10 cents were approved. So the rate set at $3.15 for 2022-23 includes these previous approved increases. All the summer facility projects are underway and on track.

Locke went over assessment updates. The administration and staff have decided to begin using the NH SAS Modular and Interim assessments in both ELA and Math in lieu of the iReady and Dibels for 2022-23 for grades 3 through 8. Chester Academy plans to integrate computer science standards into the school's curriculum.

Going forward it was noted that the COVID Management Plan will be basically the same policy that was in place at the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year. The board approved this plan.

The board approved the changes to the Student and the  Athletic Handbooks as presented.

Board Chair Royal Richardson asked the board for a volunteer to be the liaison to the PTA Playground Project Committee. Dana Theokas volunteered and was approved.

Locke and Munsey went over the list of school related items they have identified as obsolete or worn out and wish to dispose of these. The board approved of the list and the items will be disposed of.


Chester Academy School Board Vote to Replace High Use Doors
By Penny Williams   7-25-22

A Chester Academy School Board meeting was held but not recorded on July 20.

According to the School Board Chair, Royal Richardson, two issues were discussed.

The first was the school's intent to apply for a NH DOE Security Action for Education (SAFE) Grant. The school board reviewed the requirements for SAFE Grant Program participation.

The board voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Locke to apply for a grant. Locke submitted a grant application the following day.

The plan for the grant if the school receives one is to redesign the front-office and main entrance of Chester Academy in order to improve Access Control to the building.

The second issue the board considered was the replacement and upgrade of two high-use external access doors next to the cafeteria leading out to the playground.

These doors were on a list of planned upgrades but Locke recommended doing it immediately.

The board agreed and unanimously authorized the SAU Business Administrator and the Facilities Director to engage in a contract to replace the current doors as soon as is practical.


Chester Academy Chooses Director of Learning and Growth
By Penny Williams   6-9-22

The Chester School Board met on Wednesday evening, June 8, and announced their choice for Director of Learning and Growth.

Chester Academy, SAU 33 Superintendent Sharon Locke announced the selection of Jennifer Maio to the board as the recommended Director of Learning and Growth.

Maio comes to Chester Academy from Groton-Dunstable, Massachusetts where she was a long-time ELA teacher and most recently the Middle School ELA Curriculum Coordinator and District Mentor and Induction Coordinator.

The board had met Maio previously during a pre-meeting Non-Public Session. Chair Royal Richardson made a motion to approve Maio as Chester Academy's Director of Learning and Growth, effective July 1. The board unanimously approved Maio.

Locke notified the board of the resignation of Lee Ann Dalton-Kane, Chester Academy Title 1 Tutor/Teacher and recommended hiring Emily Favaloro as the Title 1 Tutor/Teacher effective August 23. The board voted to accept Dalton-Kane's resignation with regret and to approve the hiring of Favaloro to fill her vacated position.

The board discussed the recommendation for Administrative and Non-Represented Staff Performance Incentives. Richardson recommended that Superintendent Locke also be considered for a Performance Incentive.

The board approved a $5,000 Performance Incentive for Locke and not to exceed $25,000 be provided to the seven identified staff for Performance Incentive payments.

Locke was approved for summer hiring and Locke noted the only still unfilled position is the Spanish Teacher position.

 She told the board that since the Athletic Director will not be returning, and no one has stepped forward for assuming the position, Assistant Principal Zach Champion would be assuming the role of Athletic Director for the coming year.  The board approved the Memorandum of Agreement between the Chester School District and the Chester Educational Association regarding this change and the board approved a stipend of approximately $8,000 for Champion for assuming the role of Athletic Director for the coming year.

The board is good to go with the 300th Anniversary Committee's Car Show, August 6, using the school parking lot as well as Nichols, French Fields and dirt parking lot for the snack shack.

There was a discussion about fund raising for a new playground for the school. The present PTA officers will be stepping down from their positions to head up a committee to handle the fundraising and development plans for the new playground. This has a 2 to 3 year timeline.

Principal Karen Lacroix presented her final report. There will be  Professional Development days June 17, 20 and 21. These will cover Responsive Classroom tiered groups; QBS de-escalation training; VECTOR software training; and, Reading Horizons Discovery training.

Jana Ruiz, Special Education Director discussed her department's analysis and plans for a new service delivery model for middle school students.

Using current resources - 4 case managers and 7 paraeducators - the  team plans to move to an 'Expert Model.' This uses a strength based approach utilizing staff in their areas of expertise.

The board approved Business Manager Sheryl Rich moving forward with the purchase and replacement of 3rd grade desks with 30 tables at a cost of $7,947  and to install the HVAC Split units in four classrooms and a work space at the cost of $21,154 for the recommended bidder, New Hampshire Mechanical. In addition she was authorized to pre-pay the 2022-23 Discovery and Elevate curriculum license at a cost of $15,453. This will leave the Unreserved Fund Balance at $376,574.  

The parking lot project to Stripe and Seal the parking lot is on hold due to product unavailability.

The enrollment report is that  47 are projected for Kindergarten, 54 for Grade 1,  and 67 for Grade 2. Grade one numbers will need to be carefully watched.

The board will negotiate with the Chester Educational Support Personnel Association. A meeting will be scheduled for mid-July to set the ground rules and a beginning negotiation meeting will be set for mid-August.

The NH Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS&EM)  will provide a free voluntary physical security assessment of Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools in NH. Locke and Principal Muncey will coordinate with the DHS&EM in July as they conduct an audit of Chester Academy.

The Superintendent's Strategic Planning Team will be made up of representatives of our community. The Wellness and Safety sub-committee will focus on our priority of wellness and safety  with a separate Safety Team which will support the schools emergency plans and partnership with Chester Police and Fire and Chester's Emergency Management Department.

The board after a brief discussion voted to approve Locke's recommendation to make the temporary increase for substitute pay permanent. That pay effective for the 2022-2023 school year will be $120 a day for certified substitutes and $100 a day for non-certified substitutes.

The board approved Locke's recommendation to distribute a Performance Incentive of 2.38 percent of base salary for each Chester Educational Association participant.

The board approved the school calendar that has only a minor change. The board had previously approved it but re-approved the calendar as presented.

The next regular School Board meeting is scheduled for August 3.

The last day of classes is scheduled for June 16 and the annual Eighth Grade Promotion Ceremony will be held at the Stockbridge Theater at Pinkerton Academy.


Chester Academy Close to being Fully Staffed Going Forward
By Penny Williams   5-12-22

The Chester School Board met Wednesday evening, May 11, and the board approved the hiring of several new teachers leaving the World Language/Spanish Teacher as the only instructional position to be filled.

It was noted that the World Language/Spanish position is currently in process and the Director Learning and Growth position is on-track to be nominated for appointment during the June 8, School Board meeting.

The board approved the hiring of Lisa Kennedy as a fifth grade teacher who will join the staff in August as announced by Superintendent Sharon Locke. The board approved the hiring of Jennifer Potts and Nancy Leavitt as sixth grade teachers and Amanda Hackney as a Preschool/K Case Manager, all named by Locke.

In Locke's report she noted the sixth grade students had enjoyed the Science Camp the week before Spring vacation. The eighth graders also had a successful and exciting trip to Washington D.C.

The board approved allowing the Reach the Beach race using the school. It was noted they always leave the grounds completely picked up.

Director of Student Services Jana Ruiz told the board  the Extended School Year program will run from July 11 through August 4, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The team is already fully staffed. She anticipates roughly 70 students preschool to high school ages. She added there will be a Child Find for 3 to 5/6 year olds on June 2, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

She also informed the board that at this point she foresees having 9 starting in Preschool for next year and there may be more. She indicated this can be handled
Principal Karen Lacroix told the board that May is a primary testing month and Tier II students in grades 1 through 5  will be identified. Invitations will sent to parents for participation in the summer program but she has no firm number at this point. 

She said UNH came and carried out test screenings in a very efficient and effective way and had the results available by the same evening.

Field trips are taking place and the fourth graders visited the State House recently. Their teachers were told the Chester Academy students knew more than most and not only were they well prepared but they behaved very well. Students in Grade 7 will be going on a Whale Watch and Ocean Study trip the beginning of June.

Lacroix said congratulations are due to Alexis Peterson who received an Honorable Mention  in the Water Poetry Contest - fourth place out of 161 participants. She congratulated this year's Scholar Leaders, Olof Holmes and Nicole Blake.

Locke said  a Strategic Planning Team would be created with representatives from many groups. She is looking at a committee of 15 people, She showed three Sub-focus groups -  Vision and Goals; Learning and Growth; and, Wellness and Safety. These groups are already working but the board approved two board members for her Strategic Planning Committee.

Board Chair Royal Richardson and Board member Jonathan Eckerman met with the Chester Educational Support Professionals Association (CESPA) officers and discussed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding changes for the final year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The board previously approved increasing the annual amount of the premium cost paid by the District to up to $3,000 for each Association instructional  assistant who elects medical insurance. The change is effective July 1, and continue in full force and effect through June 30, 2023.

The board learned from  Assistant Principal Jonathan Gilbert about the choice of Amplify for the Middle School ELA Program. The contract will be for 6 years saving the school some $20.000 and will be a hybrid model. Gilbert said they decided to add the 650 digital library bringing the total cost to just under $39,000, which is less than budgeted. The board approved adopting Amplify for the Middle School ELA Program.

The board also approved using Discovery for the elementary level ELA program. Title IV funds were used to cover this cost.

The board approved the latest update of the School Calendar as it includes two parent teacher conferences and the hours  for Open House were removed.

The board addressed assigning the committee assignments and approved them.

Business Administrator Sheryl Rich told the board that projects for A/C in the Preschool/t/ Kindergarten will be done at a cost of $22,000. Merit Bonus will be discusses at a cost of $25,000 and chairs desks may be ordered if needed for Grade 3 and room 164 at a cost of $25,000 if the enrollment warrants it. Decisions on these will be made at the June meeting.

Rich said right now the district has more to return to the taxpayers than predicted, $480.543 which if the aforementioned projects are approved would be reduced to $393,090.

Four CIP projects will dealt with over the summer.

* Renovation pf the Cafeteria and second floor student bathrooms.

* The STEM Room conversion.

* The Propane Tank Repairs.

*The Parking Lot Resealing and Line Striping.

IT Director Ben Kilar told the board the replacement of telephones has been completed; the Chrome Book computers have already arrived;  he is getting an online Professional Development system for evaluation of plans; and, he is creating an online employment ap.

The next meeting of the Chester Academy School Board will be 8th and will start at 6 p.m.


All Warrant Articles Approved at Chester School District Meeting
By Penny Williams   3-17-22

On Wednesday evening, March 16, the Chester School District Meeting was held and more than 100 people were in attendance as the registered voters approved all of the articles.

In his opening remarks, Chester Academy School Board Chair Royal Richardson noted that Chester Academy Principal Karen Lacroix in December "notified us of her intention to retire at the end of the coming year. Karen has been with the Chester School District for 23 years, beginning her career with the District in 1998: first as a Teacher with a boundless amount of energy to teach science in ways that made it come alive for her students; then assuming the role of our Assistant Principal in 2013 and, finally, in 2017, as our Principal for the last six years."

Richardson added that Lacroix throughout her time at Chester Academy has been an exceptional teacher, an effective leader, and a dedicated educator.

He also thanked long time school board member Valerie Weider, for her 18 years time and dedication and noted that Sabrina Harris would be stepping into her slot going forward.

Richardson reviewed the factors relating to Article 3, the Operating Budget for the School District noting that the total is $13,858,164. He indicated this is an increase over last year of $394,908 or 2.78 percent. The tax impact would be $0.228 per thousand and this calculates to $102.60 per year on a home valued at $450,000.

 Moderator David Scott asked for a motion to have the article placed on the floor which was seconded. There was no discussion and by voice vote the ayes had it.

Article 4, Chester Education Association Collective Bargaining was next and there had been a call for a secret ballot for this article.

Richardson went over the changes to the teacher contract and noted the cost in year one would be $157,094, an increase of 2.25 percent: in the second year it would be $165,510, with an increase of 2.25 percent; and, in the third year it would be $195,006, with an increase of 3 percent. The potential total cost for the three year contract is $997,308 with the first year tax impact of $95.79 on a $450,000 property.

Voters went and placed their votes in the ballot box and Robert Grimm, the School District Clerk counted the votes. The vote was 73 yes and 29 no for a total of 102 votes cast and the article was approved.

This made Article 5 unnecessary so Scott moved on the Article 6, Contribution of $20,000 to the Boiler Fund.

Richardson pointed out the reason for this fund is that when the boilers are to be replaced the residents will not have to raise the money all at that time. The fund presently has $44,718 and would have the estimated cost needed by 2024-25 when it is expected the boilers will need to be replaced.

One resident questioned whether the projected cost of the boiler replacement couldn't be reduced and asked if anyone had checked to see if there was a potentially less expensive replacement possible.

The article was moved and seconded and the voice vote approved the article.

Chester School Board Approves New Chester Academy Principal
By Penny Williams  3-11-22

On Wednesday evening, March 9, the Chester School Board approved the recommendation of Superintendent Sharon Locke for the new Chester Academy Principal.

Locke issued the following statement after the school board voted to appoint her recommended candidate.

"Sarah L. Muncey has been selected to serve as the new principal at Chester Academy beginning July 1, 2022. She is replacing longtime Chester Academy educator and principal Karen Lacroix who announced her relocation plans and resignation in December." 

Locke noted there had been twelve qualified applications who were screened and six were interviewed for the position.  "Sarah Muncey," Locke said,  "was the top choice of the committee and then was further interviewed by the superintendent and school board.  Her references commented how fortunate we were to have her join us as our new leader; describing her as a dedicated student-centered leader who works tirelessly with her team to accomplish their goals."

 Muncey comes to Chester Academy from Hudson, where she most recently served as the district’s Director of Student Wellness and as the district’s Emergency Management Committee Facilitator. 

Locke further stated, "She is a strong advocate for family engagement and is known as a great partner in the Hudson community."

Muncey  served as the assistant principal and interim principal at Hills Garrison School for 5 years where she implemented a Professional Learning Community structure to ensure the success of all students. She  has 14 years of classroom experience as a fifth grade teacher and special educator in Derry. 

The board accepted the resignations of third grade teacher Megan Howell, effective June 30; Technology Support Specialist Glen Savoie, effective March 11; Pre-School teacher Katie Burke, effective March 18; and Assistant Principal Jonathan Gilbert, effective June 30. The long-term substitute teacher for Howell's 3rd grade, Stirling Risteen, will remain in that capacity and will be offered a contract for the third grade position for the next school year..

Internal staff moves involve kindergarten teacher Cheryl Taylor moving up to be the Early Interventionist. Heather Godfrey, STEM teacher,  will become a kindergarten teacher. Melissa Kendall, a  kindergarten teacher will become a second grade teacher. Madeline Cox, a grade 1 teacher will become a kindergarten teacher.

The board tabled the board reorganization until the School District Warrant Article 2 is processed at the Annual School District meeting, March 16. At the March 8 election board member Jonathan Eckerman was re-elected to the board and Sabrina Harris was elected. Valerie Weider will continue as a board member to the March 18, meeting.

SAU Business Administrator Sheryl Rich told the board the Food Service icemaker needs to be replaced. Maintenance Director Martin McFarland obtained  quotes to replace the icemaker. The board voted to approve purchasing a new icemaker at a cost not to exceed $6,000. A smaller size icemaker would work and its cost would be $4,600. Rich indicated they will be submitting a request for a National School Lunch Program Equipment Grant to cover the cost of whichever icemaker is purchased.

Rich also updated the board on the  STEM Room conversion to a classroom. The board reviewed the quotes and approved the $25,500 bid from Eric Howard Builders for doing the job which she indicated will be started in June.

Principal Karen Lacroix said the return to school under the new COVID Management Plan has gone well and she called it "awesome."

The options for the ELA program have been narrowed down to three and a decision will be coming on the final selection.

The Professional Development workshop included SEL videos and Mandatory Suicide Prevention training, she told the board.

Lacroix said 9 students participated in MathCounts with Caleb Hobden advancing to the State competition. She congratulated Ainsley Kneeland (7th grade) for receiving a NH Scholastic Arts award. Third-fifth Art Club students sketched historical Chester Buildings and these will be on display at the Chester Historical Society meeting, she told the board. The PTA Winter Carnival/Chili Cook-Off saw Vinnie Taliento the winner in the Youth Division with a veggie chili.

According to Lacroix, there will be a mandatory Washington D.C. parents meeting March 28, at 7 p.m. There will be the PTA Read-a Thon March 14 to 31 and the PTA Mother/Son Dodge Ball Event will be held in the MPR at 6 p.m. on March 26. On March 22 the Community Safety Committee/Emergency Preparedness Tabletop Exercise will take place and Kindergarten information and registration will take place April 12 at 6 p.m. in the Cafe.

Locke said work is being done on the Strategic Plan with an update on the goals.
The four goals the committee are working on are: Improving Math Learning; Improve Reading Learning; Improve Writing Instruction; and, Increase Communication. She also noted the ARP ESSER Use of Funds Plan Status Report is online for those interested in reading it.


Chester Academy to Reassess Universal to Optional Masks in Late February
By Penny Williams    2-6-22

The Chester Academy School Board met on Wednesday, February 3, and the board approved accepting the recommended changes to the Return to School Plan that included holding off on changing the current Universal mask requirement.

The Chester Return to School Committee on January 26 met and proposed changes incorporating feedback from the Board regarding changes to the Return to School Plan provided to the board for consideration in December.

Superintendent Sharon Locke recommended the board Wednesday evening, approve the changes to the plan while holding off on mask threshold changes until after she meets with the state late in February.  After discussion, the board approved the plan changes holding off on changing the thresholds for mask decisions until the next board meeting.

The NH Department of Health and Human Services has been implementing changes on the COVID-19 Surveillance 2.0 strategy. However, the  Department of Public Health, instead of providing changing thresholds for determining universal or optional mask policy, referred school districts to the CDC guidelines which 'recommend' but do not mandate mask wearing.

Those changes will be further discussed at another state level meeting on February 23 and Locke will subsequently meet with the Chester Academy Return to School Committee to assess the new information as well as reviewing the present level of COVID cases and transmission at the school before reporting to the board.

There was an in-depth discussion and review of the Pinkerton Academy student course selection process for Chester Academy students. Increased communication about this process and the possible student course selections between Pinkerton Academy and Chester Academy and student parents was recommended. It was also recommended that this whole process begin sooner at Chester Academy.

Principal Karen Lacroix told the board recent testing had gone well with only 2 students absent for the National Report Card test. She told the board she would present the data from the iReady Math mid-year tests at the March meeting as well as the DIBELS results.

She indicated that Professional Development training is happening particularly with respect to English Language at the K-5 grade level with Para Professionals getting some of the EL training as well. The testing assessments will lead to implementing and improving  plans to assist student proficiency progress.

The board discussed getting bids for working on the HVAC for a couple of rooms that don't reach adequate warmth on very cold days. The unencumbered revenue money that would have been applied to this will need to be used to cover an unexpected special education out-of-district student placement.

 It was decided after a discussion that unencumbered funds should be used to cover the out-of-district costs and the Special Education Capital Reserve Funds will be used to cover the costs next year in the budget.

As for the HVAC in the classrooms needing more heat Finance Director Sheryl Rich was told to move forward with getting bids for the work.

Rich reported that the Food Service is doing alright this year and that reimbursements have increased.

The board approved creating a sub-committee (members Brennan Holmes and Jonathan Eckerman) to review legislation and recommend bills to the board for deciding whether the school board would like to weigh in on them.

IT Director Ben Kilar told the board that the phones the classrooms are having issues with can't be replaced in kind. However he said the server remains the server for newer phones that can be purchased to replace the classroom phones so a new server will not be needed. The board approved the cost of $19,500 for the purchase of the replacement phones.

The search committee for Chester Academy Principal has been selected and will move forward. Locke noted that it appears Chester Academy got in at the right time and expects to get the cream of the crop applying for the position. The hope is to announce the new Chester Academy Principal no later than March 25.

Rebecca Bergeron reviewed and explained the Enrichment Program and plans for continuing improving it going forward.

The board accepted the resignation of World Language teacher Eva Moore.


Social and Emotional Learning Program Reviewed by Chester School Board
By Penny Williams    1-9-22

On Wednesday, January 5, the School Board met and learned about the Social and Emotional Learning Program that has been implemented at Chester Academy.

Director of Student Services, Zachary Champion went over the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program, reviewing curriculum and practices being conducted. The school uses the 'Choose Love' program and the school is looking for ways to move beyond or augment this program.

Champion also went over the SEL Assessment Tool that will be implemented in the next school year. This program, Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), is an empirical, standardized and strength-based assessment that will provide the school with reliable data on the strengths of students' social and emotional skills as well as identifying where students may need additional instruction.

Grant Funding covered the cost of the program and Superintendent Sharon Locke said there would be funding options for the continuation of the program going forward.

Given the coming retirement of Principal Karen Lacroix at the end of this school year, Locke updated the board on the search process. The opening will be posted January 10, and it was noted that the Hampstead Middle School has announced the retirement of its Principal, Maria DiNola, so they will be also looking at the pool of candidates.

A search committee will be created that will include two board members ( Jonathan Eckerman and Brennan Holmes both volunteered for this); two teachers, one from the Middle and one from the Elementary level; two parents (one from the PTA); one Para-educator and one Support Staff member. Interested individuals need to submit their request by January 28.

Candidate applications for the principal position will close February 4, and screening will take place in February with interviews the week of February 21. Locke hopes to have a recommendation for the board at their March 4, meeting but it may be necessary to hold a special meeting if everything doesn't go quite as planned. The new principal will be announced no later than March 25.

The board voted to approve the timeframe for the principal search, the committee composition and the proposed job description developed by Locke and Lacroix.

Locke reviewed the COVID-19 issues at the school. She indicated that cases in Chester continue to climb and the vaccination rate remains at about 52 percent for the town. Cases in the school were up dramatically during December and there was one cluster thought to have been school spread. Regardless, she indicated that attendance has remained above 90 percent. She also noted that student trips to the nurses' office have declined as parents are keeping sick kids home. In school testing is done with parental approval and test kits are being given out.

The school district will follow the latest CDC guidelines with respect to isolation and quarantining, she told the board. The Reopening Plan will be reviewed in January with any revisions provided to the board at the February 2, meeting.

Lacroix thanked parents for continuing to assist with athletic meet transportation. She indicated upcoming assessments include iReady Math, DIBELS, and eighth grade National Association Educational Preparedness assessment.

She said Student Council has been providing the Morning pledge, held a Toys for Tots drive that was very successful, and helped students with Reflections program as well as the PTA Make N' Take program and the popular Ugly Sweater Day.

Students stepped up to assist a family in need with  medical issues and raised $1,675. She expressed great pride and admiration for this student effort. She also said the Spring Musical is in process but is scaled down due to COVID. If necessary it can be live streamed.

Business Administrator Sheryl Rich said the only update from the December 15 Board Workshop report was the Special Education Aide was received and the academy received $117,000 where she had projected just $100,000.

The Draft Warrant Articles were reviewed but it was noted the figures might change after the Budget Committee meeting. At present the Operating budget is $13,858,164, an increase of 2.4 percent.

Special Education Director Jana Ruiz reported that Child Find had been cancelled but will be rescheduled. She said the Report on Risk Ratio for Chester Academy indicated the school is doing well in terms of  discipline relating to grade and ethnicity.

IT Director Ben Kilar reported that the Social Media is up on Face Book and there is a quick link to it on the Web page. Pictures with students involved in learning are being sought for this.

The board reminded members and listeners that the Town Election which includes School District officers will be Tuesday, March 8. There two, three year school board sets up for election.

The board approved the new Educational Association agreement with an increase of 3.91 percent in each of the three years of the contract. Voters are asked to support an appropriation of $157,094 for year one. The contract agreement and amounts are Warrant Article 4.

The board accepted with regret the resignation of 8th grade math teacher Ron Lubatti who has taught at the school for 20 years.









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