Raymond School Board Meetings


Raymond School Board Approves $25,469,726 Budget for 2019-20
By Leslie O’Donnell   11-12-18

Raymond High School science teacher Fiona Coomey, who is also the parent of a Raymond student, urged the School Board at its Nov. 7 meeting not to cut a science teacher from the proposed 2019-20 budget. “There has to be a better way than cutting education in an educational institution – that’s not the way to go,” she said.

But despite the impassioned arguments of science, Spanish and teachers, the board kept its proposed cuts intact, and chose to reinstate funding of the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program instead of adding back a science teacher.

And while the board members repeatedly said they wished they did not have to make cuts, chairman Joe Saulnier reminded them on several occasions that the Budget Committee was likely to make much larger cuts in the coming weeks. He and fellow board member Michelle Couture also frequently noted that residents should attend the Deliberative Session this winter, where changes up or down to the budget could be made.

Administration had presented the board with the proposed budget with the changes asked for at the previous meeting. Those changes are:

• Removal of an RHS science teacher ($104,718).

• Removal of the YEES (Youth Educational Employment Service) worker from Iber Holmes Gove Middle School ($65,625).

• Removal of one Special Education para-professional position at RHS ($41,831).

• Removal of half an English teacher position at RHS ($28,869).

• Addition of a morning LEAP (Learning Enrichment Afterschool Program) ($22,775).

• Addition of math interventionist half-time positions to the elementary school and middle school, giving both schools one full-time position ($76,237) instead of the current half-time positions at each of the two schools.

• Increase of middle school Spanish teacher position by 60 percent and decrease of RHS Spanish teacher position by 60 percent – no change to budget.

• Decrease in salaries and benefits ($75,270).

The JAG program ($41,000) had been removed from the budget, but although no one spoke to its reinstatement from the public that night, the board added it back into the budget.

Public comment brought forward several teachers, who asked the board not to cut educators. Coomey was joined by fellow RHS science and math teachers Shellie Gallagher, Tom Koch and Jim Maloney, the latter serving as department head for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Coomey said she thinks the elimination of one science teacher would adversely affect the STEM program, and said that the loss of a teacher would likely result in the loss of an AP (Advanced Placement) science class. Adding that her son, an RHS freshman, hopes to pursue a career in the medical field, she said, “the cuts concern me because doors might be closed to him at the high school level. It could mean eliminating anatomy class. Other students may want to go into computer science or environmental studies, and I want to keep those classes available.”

Gallagher told the board that students need to have 21st century and STEM skills. “By cutting a science teacher, it would inevitably increase the size of science classrooms, leading to fewer labs,” she said, adding that quieter students may thus not become active learners and the class size could lead to increased failures.

Koch pointed out that science teachers receive specific certification, which means that cutting a teacher could lead to the loss of specific classes. “The school does well in science on state testing,” he said, noting that this year the department added classes in astronomy and earth science, areas where need was found to exist.

And Maloney reminded the board that last year they had eliminated a math teacher. “We had several students who could not schedule Honors Algebra 2,” he said, and noted that one math teacher is now teaching six classes instead of five, giving up his prep period so the class can be offered.

“I see the same thing happening if you cut a science teacher,” he said. “Our students with aspirations for highly competitive colleges would be impacted.”

When board member Janice Arsenault repeatedly said she could not support small classes except for AP or remedial work, Coomey said she thinks the class size issue is a result of the schedule, not lack of student interest. “There’s a clash of options,” she said. “Cutting a teacher doesn’t benefit the students. Right now it’s a schedule-based issue.”

Board member Beth Paris said she and her daughters are lovers of science. “I didn’t want to see this happen at all,” she said. “I was unaware of the specific certification for science teachers. But I also agree with Janice about class sizes.”

“No one said they want to cut specific classes,” Saulnier said.

“Science is specific content and knowledge,” Coomey responded. “You can say we’ll cut and then find somewhere to put these electives, but you won’t get the program you’re looking for.”

“This (cut) is driven by numbers (of students) in the classes, not by money,” Arsenault said. “Kids need to make choices.”

RHS Spanish teacher and Unified Arts department head Kim Moyer also spoke, noting she has been a teacher of Spanish for 25 years and advocating for not cutting a part-time Spanish teacher at the high school. “We would be unable to serve all the students who want to take a foreign language,” she said. “Competitive colleges require three years in the same language. Why is it OK to run small AP classes and not give the same consideration to levels 3 and 4 foreign language students? And eliminating that position does not save money.”

Arsenault said she would “definitely take into consideration Spanish 4 as a higher level class size.”

While Saulnier said moving the part-time teacher to the middle school gives a better opportunity for students to start a language at a younger age, Moyer said that shift “impacts our ability to serve students at higher levels.”

Public comment also brought forward a parent to urge that the upper level foreign language classes be strengthened, saying the combined Spanish 3 and 4 class was not working well, and two RHS students, who also advocated for the advanced level foreign language classes.

Also speaking out were RHS English teacher Liz Downes, who said she has taught at RHS for 24 years. She said an English teacher was cut last year and agreed that the size of classes was a problem with scheduling. And she said the loss of a part-time teacher could easily lead to cutting AP English. “We’ll have to start looking at AP classes as a luxury, and I don’t want to do that,” she said.

When Arsenault said too many electives are offered in the English department, Downes said it would be better to cut electives than to cut teachers. Arsenault also said she would like students to choose their classes earlier in the year, before teacher contracts go out.

Student board member Jeff Rivard submitted a letter expressing concerns about teacher cuts and their impact on class variety, and parent Neva Cole called staff cuts “a permanent solution to a temporary problem – I liken it to suicide,” she said. “Teachers are the most important part of our school. I’d consider other alternatives before cutting teachers.”

And middle school teacher and parent Kristin Wallace said she is concerned about a “small group of people” who say the problem would go away by “shipping our students someplace else.” She said she is strongly opposed to the idea of tuitioning RHS students to a larger high school. 

When the board formally took up the proposed budget later in the evening, Saulnier asked if anyone wanted to revisit any cuts. Paris said she could not see cutting a science teacher, and Rivard agreed with her.

“The Budget Committee is going to cut that position,” Saulnier said. “Even with the cuts we’ve made, I’d be surprised if they don’t cut $500,000 more.”

Couture said she was not willing to propose any additional cuts, and Arsenault said she was not willing to add back anything. Paris suggested the idea of cutting busing, but Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy explained the high school is the only school where busing is not a required service. With the district seeking bids for bus service, McCoy added, “As Superintendent, I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize getting buses. That would be a real challenge.”

Board member Moe Titcomb said he supported keeping the cuts, but Saulnier suggested adding back the JAG program at half cost. RHS Principal Steve Woodward said New Hampshire JAG has said it would seek grants to help fund Raymond’s $41,000 share, but did not have a definite commitment. He pointed out that the graduation rate for JAG students was higher than for the average RHS student. “The growth in these students is some of the biggest gains that I see,” he said.

Paris asked if there were a way to take some of the “astronomically high” technology budget and “put it for teachers,” but Saulnier responded that teachers are asking for more technology.

“We’re not a wealthy town,” Paris said. “If I have to choose between the internet and computers and firewalls, I would rather choose a science teacher. I’ve been saying for several meetings that $663,000 for technology is outrageous. Let’s take $100,000 from that budget and keep
 a science teacher.” She later increased that proposed cut to technology to be $120,000.

Saulnier explained, however, that the Town Capital Improvement Program (CIP) wants the district to take things like technology out of the CIP and put them in the budget, as they did this year. He said the high costs now are the result of failure to keep pace with technology in years past. He asked Technology Director Kevin Federico to speak to the $663,000 figure, and Federico told the board that his proposal this year “is about one-fifth of the overall spending Raymond needs to be current.”

Couture said she preferred a science teacher to reinstating JAG but then proposed adding $41,000 back for JAG. “I don’t think we can deliberately underfund a position,” she said, in response to suggestions for funding half of that sum and hoping for grants for the rest.

Arsenault  asked McCoy if the district will enforce minimum class size, and McCoy said it would do so. She also asked McCoy to consult with the district’s legal counsel as to what would happen if voters at Deliberative Session successfully added money to the budget for a specific item, such as a science teacher. She sought information as to whether that sum would just go to the bottom line or would obligate the district to use the additional money for the specific item discussed. McCoy said she would bring that question to the attorney.

Couture said she would like to fund the maintenance initiative, presented last month at $69,859 to add a full-time grounds person. “Poor (Facilities Director) Todd (Ledoux) has carried the district on his shoulders for too long,” she said.

“I think Todd is fantastic but I would have to say no to Todd because I still want the teachers,” Paris said.

“It has to be one or the other, JAG or Todd,” Arsenault said. With the addition of JAG, the budget would be up 3.15 percent. If the maintenance initiative were added, the budget would be up 3.4 percent.

The board by consensus agreed to add JAG funding back into the budget, and then voted 4-1, with Paris opposed, to approve a budget of $25,469,726, representing a 3.15 percent increase and including the JAG program. That figure could go down, but not up, when final health insurance figures come in this month.


Capital Improvement Plan, Energy Savings Proposal, Test Results Occupy Raymond School Board
By Leslie O’Donnell     11-12-18

Members of the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee visited the Raymond School Board on Nov. 7 to discuss how the school district is utilizing the CIP and to provide suggestions for use of its Capital Improvements Plan.

Colleen West-Coates and Joshua Mann explained that the CIP Committee is advisory and looks at long-range needs of both the Town and the school district. “We look at how the school district can continue its current service level within its funding capacity,” West-Coates said. “And the CIP (for both town and schools) is woefully underfunded.”

West-Coates and Mann explained that the CIP is a fiscal planning tool for large expenditures, is intended to prevent spikes in the tax rate due to large purchases, and allows planning for expenditures that are made infrequently or are non-recurring and include one or more of the following: acquisition of land; construction or expansion of a public facility, street or utility lines; non-recurring rehabilitation of a facility; a design or planning study related to an individual project; replacement and purchase of vehicles; and any item that has a useful life of 5 or more years and costs more than $10,000 for a school district. That figure is $20,000 for a municipality and $2,500 for food service.

The CIP, as noted in RSA 674.6, “shall classify projects according to the urgency and need for realization and shall recommend a time sequence for their implementation.”

West-Coates said the committee recommends the school board slightly increase its funding of the CIP each year. “The Town is in the third or fourth year of doing that right now,” she said.

She told the board that “the CIP is being used as a budgetary supplement for that year, but that is not staying true to what the CIP or capital reserve should be. We’d like you to take a look at changing the methodology, but instead it’s being used as money in, money out.”

Mann explained that in referring to “money in, money out,” they mean that, for example, $200,000 would be put in the CIP for building maintenance to accomplish a specific project, and then $200,000 would be withdrawn to pay for that project the same year. “So there’s no savings,” he said.

West-Coates cited as an example improving the wireless environment, which would take less than five years and thus should be in the general fund budget, not the CIP. “It’s time to start changing your thought process,” she told the board.

“The committee looked at whether computers are a capital improvement vs. maintenance,” Mann said. If it’s a capital improvement, it can go in the CIP; if maintenance, it should be a budgeted item.

School board chairman Joe Saulnier, who is a school board representative to the CIP, said the district is working at putting things in the budget, such as it did with textbooks this year; they have now been taken out of the CIP. “Maybe next year we can work on technology,” he said.

West-Coates told the board the committee hopes to encourage a transition in how items are budgeted.

Concerning items in the district’s CIP, the committee said more information was needed about the elementary school roof and a steam table and ranked those items as “premature.”

Regarding security and safety upgrades, the committee said those appear to be maintenance items, not capital improvements. The committee said the district should consider moving gymnasium floors from the CIP to the budget, as they appear to be recurring maintenance items. And it said technology needs for computer labs, firewall replacements and wireless environment should be moved to the budget, as they appear to be recurring maintenance items as well.

In other business:

• Mike Davies of Energy Efficient Investments (EEI) of Merrimack discussed an energy efficiency plan, updated from what he brought to the board last year.  The plan describes approaches to save energy and money through performance contracting, a way to use energy savings for upgrades to offset the cost of needed repairs. He noted that all three schools run on oil, which he said is one of the more expensive ways to heat commercial buildings, and have no way to turn down temperatures at night or weekends. During an energy audit, EEI discovered the lack of a centralized digital control system, poor insulation in some buildings, fluorescent lighting, and a standard efficiency oil heating system.

“We have identified more than $2 million in energy efficiency improvements, including converting from fluorescent to LED lighting,” he said, and pointed out that the boilers at the high school are nearing end-of-life. He recommended replacing them with high efficiency propane furnaces, replacing transformers with those of high efficiency, and considering solar at the high school. In response to a comment from board member Moe Titcomb that propane was much more expensive than oil, Davies said that was not the case for commercial buildings such as schools.

His proposal would cost $2,279,000 and would reduce the energy budget by $91,000, with a 23-year payback. If everything suggested were done, it would add $75,000 to the budget.

The performance contract goals would be: improving the buildings; reducing energy costs; increasing renewable energy options (solar/bio-mass); creating a cost-neutral project, in which energy savings pay for the project cost; reducing energy consumption; and guaranteeing energy savings.

Davies noted the school board decided not to do the project last year and had asked him to return this year.

“This is a proactive approach that allows energy savings to pay for it,” Davies said. He explained the annual lease payment could be $165,000 but would likely be less, and would be offset by $73,825 with no down payment. Interest would likely be in the 3.5 to 4.25 percent range, he said.

Board member Beth Paris, noting discussions about the possibility of moving the elementary school, asked if the project could be done for just the high school and middle school, and Davies said it could. Paris also asked whether the Town Manager had been part of the project discussion, and Davies said he had not been contacted.

“Looking at the high school and middle school would be best,” Saulnier said.

“We have to stop kicking the can down the road,” board member Michelle Couture added.

Saulnier said he would like to see Town Manager Joe Ilsley consulted and said a warrant article could be placed on the ballot.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said she would talk with Ilsley to see if he is interested in pursuing the project for the Town, and will have that answer by the Nov. 14 meeting. No board

action was taken.

• As requested at the previous meeting, McCoy presented information with Student Services Director Scott Riddell, Lamprey River Elementary School Principal Laura Yacek, and Lamprey River Student Services Coordinator Stacey Wooster about preschool tuition and a cost comparison of area preschool options. Raymond charges the least tuition.

Both Riddell and McCoy emphasized that the district was legally obligated to provide preschool services to Special Education youngsters starting at age 3. All identified Special Education preschoolers are admitted to the preschool, and at least 50 percent of the students in the program are not disabled. Capacity is 43 students. If the district did not offer such a preschool, a program would be offered for Special Education students only, and would require one teacher for every eight students.

Currently the preschool is staffed by two teachers, four paraeducators, and a contracted autism program coordinator.

Regular students pay a monthly tuition of $108 for 10 months; the program is free – as required by federal and state law - for Special Education students. The tuition for regular students brings in $22,680 in income, based on 21 students. At the present time, 74 non-identified students are on the waiting list.

Wooster said the preschool operates on rolling admission; if a child is found eligible, he or she must have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) before turning age 3.

“The preschool program is the right thing to do, but it also is mandated,” McCoy said. “This is a valuable program and we’re required to do it. Rather than looking to cut the preschool, maybe we can increase the revenue.”

Yacek said the district could change from its current program of five half-days for 3- and 4-year olds taught together, to separate programs for each age group, with a two-day program for 3-year-olds at $145/month and a three-day program for 4-year-olds at $175/month. “Teaching 3-years vs. 4-years is dramatically different,” she said. Projected income is $33,750.

Yacek said she would like to survey the preschool teaching team about which approach they think would be better, and Saulnier asked her to survey the parents as well.

“I’m not in favor of raising tuition until we know what the program is going to look like,” board member Janice Arsenault said, and Titcomb agreed.

• Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland presented the state achievement test results. Tests are given to students in grades 3-8 and 11 in English Language Arts, writing and math, and in grades 5, 8 and 11 in science. Noting that students scoring Proficient (Level 3) or Proficient with Distinction (Level 4) show mastery of the subject matter, he said Raymond students are scoring very close to the state average. “Most of our scores are within striking distance of the state average or are exceeding it,” he said, noting that 38 percent of the students met math benchmarks, compared to 42 percent of the state, while 66 percent met English benchmarks, compared to 67 percent statewide. The figures are up from last year.

“We know we need to work on math,” Whaland said, but noted seventh and eighth grade scores exceeded state benchmarks.

Saulnier asked why scores were not higher in English and Language Arts, as the district operates a reading intervention program. Whaland said the district has Title 1 help as well, and the result could be a programming issue, with topics on the tests not yet covered in class.

“We will be looking at the data and the curriculum,” McCoy said. “We’ll be using the data to see what kids need help and in what specific areas.”

• The board approved hiring Dorothy Franchini, currently a Title 1 tutor in the district, as assistant principal at the elementary school. “She is very competent, flexible and energetic,” McCoy said, and added that she has a strong background in curriculum and instruction. “I think she is going to be an extraordinary addition to the administrative team.” Her appointment was unanimous; her salary is $77,000, pro-rated this year to $49,700. She replaces Laura Yacek, who was promoted to Lamprey River principal earlier this year.

• Whaland and McCoy discussed the strategic plan update for the first quarter of the five-year plan, but the board was approaching its 10 p.m. meeting cutoff. Arsenault made a motion to continue past 10 p.m., but Paris voted no; a single no vote means the motion fails.

The strategic plan has a vision of “Uniting our school district and community to prepare students for future success; ready for anything!” It focuses on curriculum, instruction and assessment; strengthening and supporting the workforce; community, family and business engagement and student involvement; communication; and a safe and secure school environment.

Its first goal is that in five years, at least 80 percent of all students in kindergarten-grade 12 will demonstrate mastery of grade level standards in reading, writing and math. A second goal is that by 2022, the district will develop and implement a K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program.

• Whaland said the district has received a Title IV grant for more than $31,000, some of which will go to STEM.

• Raymond High School drama coach Bob Gagnon and two RHS seniors discussed the drama program he has coached for 17 years and announced the upcoming production of “Harvey,” set for 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Gagnon said drama teaches confidence, team building and learning skills, and is both challenging and “great fun.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Non-Binding Warrant Article To Question Sending Raymond High Students Elsewhere
By Leslie O’Donnell   10-29-18

Raymond voters will have a chance to weigh in on an advisory, non-binding warrant article to consider tuitioning the Town’s high school students to another school.

At the Oct. 29 Raymond School Board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy presented preliminary comparisons for high school options for Raymond students to attend Pinkerton Academy in Derry, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston or Manchester Memorial High School, as the School Board had requested.

McCoy noted the School Board had asked her to investigate “realistic alternatives” for high school for Raymond students, and to gather details for the board and community to compare options. She said she looked at schools within a 40-minute drive of Raymond, with only the above three having the room and interest in considering taking in Raymond students.

McCoy emphasized that projected costs are preliminary, and no agreement or negotiation has been entered into with any of the other schools.

“In my mind, comparing these schools is like having an apple, an orange, a pear and some grapes,” she said.  She noted that Sanborn would need to build more infrastructure – teachers and class offerings – if Raymond were to send it students there. “Pinkerton already has all the programs and set-up to accept more students,” she said. “Memorial is part of a larger school system.”

The comparison includes costs, curricular and extracurricular opportunities, demographics, special education, state assessment results and graduation rates. Collecting the information, in addition to McCoy, were Student Services Director Scott Riddell, Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland, and Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore.

According to the presentation, Raymond High has 373 students. Sanborn has 636, Pinkerton has 3,184 and Manchester Memorial has 1,400.

Drop-out rate is 2.13 percent for Raymond, 0.92 percent for Sanborn, 1.22 percent for Manchester Memorial and 0.85 percent for Pinkerton.

Graduation rates are 83.33 percent at Raymond, 89.7 percent at Sanborn, 83.63 percent at Memorial, and 90.98 percent at Pinkerton.

The percentage of proficient or above proficient attainment for reading on state assessments shows Raymond at 48 percent, Sanborn and Memorial at 53 percent, and Pinkerton at 62 percent. For math, 30 percent of RHS students achieved proficient or above proficient, while that percentage was 32 percent for Memorial, 37 percent for Sanborn, and 41 percent for Pinkerton.

Percentages of students enrolling in four-year colleges after graduation were 33 percent for Raymond, 38 percent for Memorial, 38.6 percent for Sanborn and 51.9 percent for Pinkerton.

Pinkerton, the largest high school in the state and a semi-private school, again scored much higher than the other three schools in number of academic offerings and extracurricular activities. And while the Career and Technical Education (CTE) option for Raymond is the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter with 12 programs, and incurs a cost to the District, Manchester uses the Manchester School of Technology with 18 programs, and Pinkerton offers its own CTE programs (totaling 18) as part of its curriculum.

Cost again appears to put Pinkerton in the best position. The annual operating cost of Raymond High, including transportation and Seacoast School of Technology, is $6,786.765. Projected base tuition rates are $3,680,130 at Pinkerton, which includes the CTE offerings; $4,578.672 at Memorial; and $5,755,716 at Sanborn.

The projected additional cost for transportation to all three of the compared schools is the same for each option, $341,500, and includes six additional buses. Special education transportation is the same cost for all four schools.

Projected special education tuition cost, based on current enrollment at Raymond High, is $1,496,000 at Sanborn and $1,624,046 at Pinkerton. Memorial’s rate was not available.

Riddell noted the various Special Education programs at the four schools, but in response to a question from the board, said they equate with each other’s offerings.

“Sanborn is the most difficult to predict” because of the need to add staff and programs,” McCoy said of the options studied. ”Pinkerton has everything there already.” She added that while Memorial has not sent in its Special Education figures, the school said it would try hard to be competitive.

Thus, the overall estimated financial comparison puts Pinkerton as the least expensive at $5,803,695; with Manchester Memorial, not including Special Education tuition, at $5,928,181; Raymond at $6,786,765, and Sanborn at $8,601,235.

While keeping the students at Raymond High would give the Town more control, McCoy said a representative from Raymond would sit on a governing board at Pinkerton. She did not have specifics about the amount of participation Raymond would have at Sanborn or Manchester, but said, “with Manchester, I can’t imagine our representation would make a dent.

“The question is what would be the best fit for us,” McCoy said.

She also noted there is no “smooth way” to transition Raymond students to another high school, saying that for example, it would mean a switch in schools for students in their senior year.

Board member Beth Paris emphasized that “this is all just research. Nothing has been decided. I think it’s important we do this – people have been mentioning it for years but this is the first time we have the data.”

Board chairman Joe Saulnier said the March ballot will include a non-binding question to see if voters want to take the next step, forming a citizens’ committee, to further explore tuitioning Raymond High students. “We will have to come up with a figure and a school to look at in the next few weeks, and we’d have a public hearing,” he said.

In other business:

• The board received a report, as requested by Paris, on athletic participation fees.

McCoy said athletic directors at various schools were polled on fees, and said most schools do not charge them. If fees were charged, a mechanism would have to be in place for scholarships or fee waivers for those who could not afford to pay them.

Raymond High Principal Steve Woodward said the board should decide whether a fee would be a user tax or whether athletics was a “vital part: of a student’s education.”

Woodward said Raymond had 130 athletes participating in fall sports, with nine of those qualifying for free or reduced lunch. He said pay plans were more common at large high schools. “When people pay, there’s an expectation that they will play,” he added.

Paris said the only reason she wanted the information was to find out where the money is going, and noted that paying an athletic fee would not make much of an impact on the budget.

“I wanted to see the facts,” she said. “I’m not for a fee, I just wanted to know what would happen. If we had a fee, morale would go down.”

Woodward noted the bulk of athletic costs comes from transportation ($30,927) and officials ($19,747). The total cost for Raymond High athletics in 2017-18 was $89,576.72.

“There’s no motivator like sports,” said board member Janice Arsenault, reflecting on 20 years of teaching. “It’s the biggest motivator there is, and that’s where they learn sportsmanship and social skills and become part of a team.”

Paris again emphasized she never said she wanted to impose athletic fees, but merely wanted the facts. “Fees would be a detriment to the Town,” she said.

A motion regarding fees for sports failed 0-4, with Michelle Couture absent.

• The board considered extending the Dail Transportation bus contract. McCoy said Dail had offered two options to extend the contract – one for five years, with percentage increases of 3 percent in the first year and 4-1/2 percent for each of the consecutive four years; or one for three years, with 3 percent the first year and 6-1/2 percent the next two years.

“In my mind, those percentages are way up there,” Saulnier said.

Arsenault said, “I think any contract for this amount of money should be bid on.” She moved to disregard the three-year proposal and put the contract out to bid. McCoy noted that Dail said it would not change its figures if it were asked to bid.

McCoy was directed to start the bid process.

• At Saulnier’s request, the board reviewed committee assignments. “We’ve had some members missing quite a few meetings, and that can’t keep going on,” he said.

He cited the Budget Committee in particular, and said Moe Titcomb, the board’s representative to that group, had missed budget meetings. Titcomb denied missing any, but Arsenault pointed out he was absent from the previous week’s two school budget meetings with department heads.

Titcomb said he did not know about the meetings.

“It’s very hard to represent the budget when you were not present to discuss it,” Saulnier said, and proposed that he take over the budget committee assignment. He previously was an alternate but had attended all of  its meetings.

Saulnier also noted Titcomb did not attend a Strategic Planning Committee meeting where he was representative. That is a subcommittee of the school board.

Arsenault agreed that Saulnier should represent the board on the Budget Committee. Paris will serve as alternate representative on the Budget Committee.

• McCoy told the board that Iber Holmes Gove Middle School health teacher Krystal Kebler has been selected as Breathe New Hampshire’s Volunteer of the Year and will receive the Donald L. Frost Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. This award is given annually to a Breathe NH volunteer who possesses strength of character and dedication to the organization and the Granite State, as exemplified by Donald Frost.

Kebler volunteered to work with Breathe NH this past year to pilot the CATCH My Breath Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Program and assist in developing a Vaping Unveiled education program.

• The board accepted a donation of $2,000 to Lamprey River Elementary School from the Walmart Transportation Drive Safely Campaign. Walmart chose the school as the recipient for the $2,000 raised through its  Drive Safely Campaign when, for one week in July, the company donates 1.5 cents for every mile their drivers are driving safely. They identified 154,000 miles of safe driving.

• Whitmore said revenue is steadily coming in along with Kindergarten aid, which is new this year. The District has received 21.7 percent of its expected revenue in the first three months.

• The board revisited a proposed resolution to the New Hampshire School Boards Association, at Arsenault’s request. The resolution states: “That SB 342 be amended so that if additional staff members
are added to the operating budget, they also be added to the default budget,” with the rationale that “due to SB 342, when items are removed from the operating budget, those expenses are now also removed from the default budget. This is one-sided. We propose that if additional staff members are added to the operating budget, that they are also added to the default budget.”

Arsenault had asked to revisit the resolution after hearing State Rep. Carolyn Matthews, R-Raymond, explain the rationale for SB 342.  “I wasn’t sure I had understood it correctly when I voted for it,” Arsenault said. “I don’t agree that brand-new positions should be in the default. I’m not saying we should change it at this point, but I will vote against it.”

Saulnier said that if a position is cut from both the budget and default, there is no chance for public input, and Paris said, “if it’s OK to do it on one end, it’s OK on  both ends.” Titcomb said he would vote against it anyway.

The vote was 2-2, with Arsenault and Titcomb opposed. In a tie vote, the motion fails.

• The  board held a first reading on a new policy prohibiting aiding and abetting of sexual abuse. The proposed policy was recommended by the District’s attorneys in response to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which requires districts to adopt policies prohibiting assistance in obtaining a new job for a district or contracted employee who is known or believed to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student.

• The board approved second readings of policies on field trips, requests for educational field trips, student overnight travel, and student safety and violence prevention.

 


Raymond School Board Considers Cuts, Additions to Proposed Budget
By Leslie O’Donnell   10-28-18

The Raymond School Board spent two nights in lengthy meetings in search of places to cut the proposed School District budget to get it to a desired 3.5 percent increase over the present year. Board member Moe Titcomb was absent from both meetings.

Meeting Oct. 24 and 25, the board received a proposed 2019-2020 budget from Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy that followed its earlier directive to keep the overall rate of increase to below 4 percent, and to show the School Board what budget adjustments would be required to keep the overall rate of increase to below 3.5 percent.

The District budget also was geared to maintain “appropriate” student/teacher ratios in accordance with class size policy, maintain a range of courses and activities at all age levels, maintain an emphasis on improvements in curriculum and instruction at all levels, and increase efficiencies in the District without adversely impacting the quality of education,” McCoy said.

Based on board votes earlier this year, the superintendent included budget funding for the YEES (Youth Educational Employment Service) program at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and for a $30,000 technology initiative to purchase Chromebooks for students, but the consensus of the board at its Oct. 25 meeting was to remove YEES middle school funding once again.

As part of its budget work, the administration made a series of cuts to keep the percentage increase to the level the board wanted. Included in what were called Tier 1 cuts made by the administration were:

• Elimination of two para-educator open positions at Lamprey River Elementary School.

• Elimination of two para-educator positions at the middle school.

• Decrease in general education stipends.

• Decrease in Special Education transportation.

• Decrease in tuition for the curriculum coordinator.

• Decrease in technology training.

• Decrease in Special Education contracted services.

• Decrease in Special Education legal services.

• Decrease in technology consultant for high school wiring.

• Decrease in criminal background checks.

• Decrease in homeless transportation.

Those cuts totaled $272,053.

In addition, the School Board by consensus asked the superintendent to:

• Cut the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) school-to-work transition program at the high school, with the idea that many of the program’s components could be taught or included in other classes by current staff. The JAG program is a contracted service costing $41,000 and serves about 38 students. Administration had listed this as a Tier 2 cut.

• Eliminate one para-educator from the high school ($41,831). Administration had listed this as a Tier 2 cut.

• Reduce to half-time one English teacher at the high school ($28,869).

• Cut the YEES program at the middle school ($65,625).

• Cut one science teacher at the high school ($104,715).

In addition, the Board added several initiatives, some of which would not add cost to the budget. McCoy had earlier said academic initiatives were the highest priority for the administration.

Those initiatives proposed for addition are:

• Hire a math interventionist. The District currently has one math interventionist whose time is shared by the elementary and middle schools. The initiative would place a full-time interventionist at each of those two schools, thus adding one staff. “The board felt it was imperative to give this the attention it needs,” chairman Joe Saulnier said after the meeting.

• Increase language arts to offer a World Language class at the middle school. This has no cost, as the high school would be eliminating a half-time Spanish teacher; that person could work full time at the middle school.

• Offer a before-school child care program, which is projected to produce a profit of at least $41,000.

During the two meetings, budget presentations were made by the superintendent, Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore, Curriculum Coordinator Michael Whaland, Technology Director Kevin Federico, Special Education Director Scott Riddell, Facilities Director Todd Ledoux, Food Service Director Judy DiNatale and the principals of Raymond’s three schools.

The proposed budget included as a place holder the Dail Transportation bus contract, which represents a 3 percent increase. The board is scheduled to discuss the contract at its Oct. 29 meeting.

 

Discussion

 

Whitmore and McCoy explained that the proposed budget first had a 4.6 percent increase, and administration then proposed the Tier 1 cuts.

Lamprey River Elementary School principal Laura Yacek reviewed test scores of her students, which showed approximately 65 percent of those students overall in need of math intervention. “It would be great to have someone full time at the school,” Yacek said.

Middle school principal Bob Bickford also emphasized the importance of having a full-time math intervention teacher at each of the two schools; they currently have a half-time position at each school.

A change in the math program 4-1/2 years ago was cited as a reason for the poor math scores since then, and the current curriculum coordinator, who was not in the District at that time, agreed.

“Adding a math interventionist is one way to help solve this problem,” McCoy said. “Math is such a key foundation.”

The administration proposal states “student achievement scores in mathematics illustrate a significant need for improvement. We need to substantially strengthen mathematics instruction for all students.”

A second administration initiative – strengthening the District’s foreign language program through emphasis on its middle school offerings – would also replace library instruction as a Unified Arts offering.

McCoy said that the same issues that occur in math occur in learning a foreign language. “If the foundation is shaky, it causes problems later,” she said. “The idea is that adding a World Languages class at the middle school would address that.”

Board member Janice Arsenault several times raised the issue of minimum class size requirements at the high school. “I see multiple sections of the same class with 19, 15 and four students,” she said. “I see five classes that I think could be combined. I’m not questioning AP (Advanced Placement) classes, but when biology is offered multiple times with a few kids in a section….Kids have to make choices….We’d still have all of those classes, just not as many sections.”

Arsenault also favored cutting a high school science teacher because of decreased enrollment.

High school principal Steve Woodward said, “we’ve worked very hard on course offerings. You can look at a school like Sanborn (Regional High School) with 300 or more students than we have, and our curriculum is equal to if not better. We’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this, and this is one place where we shine.”

Arsenault also proposed cutting the middle school YEES worker. “I would never deny that person does valuable work, but the program is directed to nine students at a cost of $60,000,” she said. “We are here for the kids, but we’re here for every kid in the district. I can’t help but think there has got to be a better program out there that would serve more than nine kids.”

McCoy also spoke to concerns about cuts to para-educator positions, and said, “para support is not the solution to every problem, and it is not forever.

“We know we’re going to meet student needs, and these are IEP (Individualized Education Program for Special Education) driven,” she added. “If the need increases, we could end up over budget.”

Speaking to the possibility of cutting the preschool program, McCoy noted that “we have an obligation under federal and state law to provide education to Special Education kids ages 3 to 21, so we could not cut the preschool program – plus, having it is the right thing to do. If we were to cut out all regular education preschool students, we’d lose their tuition.”

She said in that scenario, the District would likely have a teacher and para traveling to other locations so that both Special Education and regular education preschoolers would be in one class.

She suggested a better alternative would be to look at raising tuition for the regular education students enrolled in the preschool.

Board member Beth Paris said she thought the technology budget was ”a little bit out of control. For me, it’s the last priority. I think there’s more important things.”

Saulnier noted the board had earlier voted for new equipment. “It’s been our most underfunded program,” he said of the technology budget, comparing it to not paying for repairs to a roof until the problem requires an entirely new roof at greater expense.

The board also discussed an initiative presented by Facilities Director Todd Ledoux, which addresses groundskeeping problems and proposes adding a full-time employee for $69,859 rather than continuing the current model of using substitutes.

He also presented an alternative of contracting 26 weeks of mowing and trimming for $63,000. Ledoux noted that a full-time employee could be utilized throughout the year for other duties.

Ledoux expressed concern about the state of grounds care in the District, and noted that for residents, most of whom never go inside the schools, the outside appearance is all that they see, and he is not pleased with its current state.

He also noted that while grounds care previously was done by students at $8.50 per hour, in recent years, the students’ level of knowledge has been low, with training not seeming to make a difference. “The level and quality is not what it used to be,” he said. “The level of care on our equipment is poor.”

Ledoux said he has ended up mowing the grounds himself. “I want to make it right, but it’s going to cost money,” he said. “I’m not proud of how the grounds look.”

“I have a hard time with this much money. If we can do it without raising the budget, I’m fine with it,” Arsenault said.

McCoy said she agrees with Ledoux’s proposal but noted it is not directly related to student achievement. “The cost may be hard to justify in a tight budget,” she said.

The board also discussed an initiative presented by Patrick Arsenault, director of LEAP (Learning Enrichment Afterschool Program), to offer a before-school program. During his presentation and discussion of the proposal, Janice Arsenault stepped down from the Board.

Patrick Arsenault said the initiative to offer a before-school program would fill a demonstrated need and offer increased potential to offset LEAP costs. An after-school program is already in place.

He cited changes to the before-school program currently offered by the YMCA, which has recently said it no longer wants to work with LEAP.

“The Y makes a lot of money using our building,” he said, adding that he thinks Raymond could bring in $41,000 to $45,000 from the morning program. “There would be no change or adjustment of services offered.”

Paris said she thought offering the morning program was a “great idea,” and the director responded, “it’s our facility – why shouldn’t the money go back to Raymond taxpayers.”

Saulnier noted the Board will have one more meeting to talk about its preferred cuts. As of now, he noted that technically, nothing has been cut. A board vote on the budget is Nov. 7.

In addition, District enrollment as of Oct. 1, 2017 and 2018 was noted:

• The District had 1,286 students in 2017 and 1,255 in 2018.

• Elementary enrollment totaled 504 in 2017 and 495 this year; of that number, 39 were in preschool in 2017 and 42 this year.

• Middle school enrollment totaled 404 in 2017 and 382 in 2018.

• High school enrollment was 378 both years.

The numbers include students placed out-of-district.

 


Raymond Fourth Graders To Get Opportunity for Instrument Lessons
By Leslie O’Donnell    10-8-18

Raymond fourth graders will have the chance to try out their musical interests a year early, thanks to a new program to be offered by Randy LaCasse.

LaCasse, who is a Raymond resident and parent as well as Raymond High School’s music teacher, said he had extra time open in his schedule that allows him to be a district-wide resource rather than only a building resource. To fill that time, he came up with a proposal to provide Lamprey River Elementary School fourth graders with the opportunity to take part in a before-school instrumental lesson program.

LaCasse, who said he is certified to teach kindergarten through grade 12, told the School Board at its Oct. 3 meeting that music, as well as physical education, is exempt from class-size requirements because of the nature of teaching those subjects. He currently teaches well over 100 students – with nearly 30 in chorus, about 12 in percussion, and more than 60 in band – almost a third of the high school population.

“My administrator asked me to come up with ideas for my free time,” he said, resulting in his proposal to use himself as a district-wide resource to provide the instrument program for fourth graders. Instruments are currently taught starting in fifth grade.

“Instituting such a program will be a more efficient and effective use of (my) time and skill set and has the added bonus of being able to start instrumental instruction in our district one year sooner,” he wrote in his proposal. “Another added benefit is that it starts to identify our district’s young musicians earlier and can, in part, be used as an indicator for the (middle school) administration as to numbers of incoming musicians with regard to schedule building.”

The program would be offered from 8:10 to 8:40 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays in the elementary school music room. Transportation would not be provided.

LaCasse said the program would be open on a volunteer, first come-first served basis. Instruments taught would be trumpet and trombone, with each of the two classes no larger than 10 to 15 students.

“I’m already at school at that time but not in class, and I have the time to do this two days a week,” he told the School Board. “I pared it down to instruments we need in the band.”

Board member Janice Arsenault thanked LaCasse for coming up with the program, and middle school music teacher Alicia Rockenhauser said, “it is only going to do great things.”

“I think it’s a win-win,” said board member Beth Paris.  “We’re proud of our music program and I think it’s a great way to think outside the box.”

LaCasse noted the program will not cost the school district any money. With the board’s OK, he will send out fliers to parents of fourth graders and will set a date for a parents’ night to discuss the program and instrument rental. After that meeting, a date will be set for the classes to start.

“This isn’t a one-year Band-Aid,” he added. “I would like to pursue expanding it as part of my job description. My wish is to have this be part of a finely-tuned music program.”

In other business:

• Raymond Recreation Director Michelle Weaver discussed a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Town of Raymond concerning Carroll Lake Beach. Its purpose is to re-establish a Town beach at Carroll Lake at the elementary school. According to the memorandum, the School District would provide access to the beach area, support Town activities at the beach, and review and evaluate beach use and policies with the Town.

Weaver said the Town would clean and maintain the beach area and access road, provide a portable bathroom and trash can, test water quality monthly or more often if required, comply wit New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services beach program regulations, and post signs that the beach is “Swim at Your Own Risk,” with no lifeguard on duty.

The beach would only be open during non-school hours, mainly in the summer and on weekends. No reimbursement of funds would be included between the Town and School District.

Weaver said that Town Manager Joe Ilsley is promoting the reopening of Carroll Lake from a standpoint that residents should have access to the water.

“We would be bringing the old Town Beach back but without extra services or cost,” Weaver explained.

Paris expressed concern about liability for the School District, but Weaver said both the Town and District have the same insurance and the beach is still listed under the insurance umbrella for the Town.

Asked about water quality, Weaver said testing over the past five years has never shown high bacteria counts.

The School Board unanimously approved the MOU.

• A lack of money will keep the School District from offering fresh fruits and vegetable snacks in the classrooms at the elementary and middle schools. The District previously had grant funding for the program but is no longer eligible for a grant.

Food Service Director Judy DiNatale presented the School Board with considerations involved in bringing the snacks to the schools one day each week, and said the program would be very labor- and volunteer-intensive.

“As much as I would love to do this, we can’t afford it,” said School Board chairman Joe Saulnier. “If someone wants to donate it, I’d be good with that.”

Paris agreed with Saulnier and said, “it’s a fantastic program, but I don’t know how I could do it.”

• DiNatale provided an update on the Food Service program so far this year, and said she has a full staff. She said they are building customer satisfaction, but noted decreasing enrollment and rising food prices. Breakfast is climbing at a higher rate than lunch, she added, and said a la carte purchases are rising at the high school, which makes daily income look good but those purchases do not qualify for federal reimbursement.

DiNatale said participation in free and reduced price meals is down a little, with 28 percent of the district in that category. As next week marks the end of the previous year’s participation figures, without new applications the district rate will go down to 25 percent.

Asked by Arsenault if the lower figures were because of a failure of parents to complete applications for the program, DiNatale said she has had good response from people completing applications, but noted they appear to have smaller families.

• Students in the Reach High Scholars program at RHS attended the meeting with program director Elizabeth Holcomb to discuss summer offerings. Students who attended the Phillips Exeter Academy residential summer program all said it was the best experience of their lives. The parent of one student also spoke and encouraged the School Board to keep this opportunity available.

Holcomb noted the goal of Reach High Scholars, which is not funded by the School District, is to increase college awareness and preparation. She said 22 students attended the Raymond Roundtable summer program for middle schoolers, seven rising juniors attended the Phillips Exeter residential program, five attended Brown University’s summer program, and four rising seniors were accepted and two attended the advanced studies program at St. Paul’s School.

“What a great opportunity and a great program,” Arsenault said.

• Technology Director Kevin Federico presented an update on his department. He discussed progress on paperless registration and on identification badges with microchips, and explained software updates. He said he is beginning discussions to ascertain costs for a possible copy center, as directed by the School Board.

Federico also noted that air conditioning was repaired in the server room at the middle school and said he hopes to work on updated wiring at the high school next year, as the wiring is becoming “problematic.”

• The Board discussed the first reading of a Field Trip and Excursion policy, with changes to allow perpetual approval of repeating field trips, as requested at a previous meeting.

• The Student Safety and Violence Prevention policy was before the Board for a first reading, the result of discussion at the Bullying Forum this past summer. Parent Dawn Leamer spoke from the audience about her concern that a minimum response was not specified, and said claimed future bullying was likely to happen less frequently if students and parents knew the consequences. Much discussion ensued, with board member Michelle Couture saying she could not support a specified minimum response. Couture also pointed out that examples of consequences, ranging from admonishment to expulsion, are included in the policy.

Arsenault said she was “very uncomfortable with the conversation” because Leamer was talking too specifically about an incident.

• The Board accepted the second reading of a Background Investigation and Criminal Records Check policy and heard comments from Leamer on a second reading of the Service Animals in Schools policy. The Board approved that policy as well.

Leamer was concerned because emotional support animals were not included in the policy, which is based on state law. The policy states that “comfort animals/pets: animals which do not meet the definition of Service Animal as provided…are not entitled to protection under this policy.” The policy defines “Service Animals” as “any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animal shall be construed to include a ‘hearing ear dog,’ ‘guide dog,’ or ‘service dog,’ as those terms are currently defined in NH RSA 167-D:1. ‘Emotional support,’ ‘therapy,’ or ‘comfort dogs’ are generally not service animals for the purposes of this policy.”

• During public comment, resident Carol Watjus read comments from outgoing State Rep. Carolyn Matthews, R-Raymond concerning SB 342 and default budgets. She said there is a lack of understanding of the law and urged the School Board not to send its proposed resolution, which states “That SB 342 be amended so that if additional staff members are added to the operating budget, they also be added to the default budget,” to the New Hampshire School Boards Association.

In later discussion of the resolution, board member Moe Titcomb said the proposal “goes against what Carol was saying,” and Arsenault asked to postpone a decision so she could study it further.

The Board approved sending on resolutions regarding the first day of school, stating school boards, not the Governor, should determine the start date of the school year, and regarding statewide assessments. The latter would not require a district to obtain parent approval for an educational alternative for students who opt out of assessments.

A fourth resolution, regarding public funding of religious and private education, had brought resident Rani Merryman to speak during public comment. She said public funding is a matter of choice for parents and said she has children with different learning abilities and “this is very close to my heart. You would pull out the ability of parents to do what is best for their kids, and I don’t think that is what education today should be about.” She said the resolution should instead say, “public funding should be used to support private or religious education or the education of choice.”

During the Board discussion, Couture said, “my tax dollars should not go to send your kids to private or religious schools. That’s your choice, and you should pay for it. We fund public education for all children.”

Arsenault commented that she does not see the resolution as taking choice away from families.

Couture added, “parents always have the choice to determine where their child goes to school.”

The motion passed 3-2, with Titcomb and Paris voting no.

The approved motions now go to the state School Boards Association for consideration, and if approved there, to the Legislative Delegation for consideration.

• Randy LaCasse spoke at public comment as a taxpayer, parent and teacher, to praise Facilities Director Todd Ledoux for a “fabulous job with the active shooter response training ALICE  (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) for students. “He is just a gem,” he said. “The way he talks to the kids is very impressive, and I’m proud he works here and is a Raymond High School graduate.”

• Arsenault announced that six candidates for assistant principal of Lamprey River will be interviewed Oct. 9.

• Superintendent Tina McCoy announced that the Parent Core Group at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School received the 2018 Blue Ribbon for Excellence Award from the New Hampshire Department of Education.

• Lamprey River Elementary Parent Teacher Organization members and students discussed the annual free PTO event Night Under the Stars, which took place Sept. 21 and attracted about 500 students for glow necklaces, popcorn, cotton candy, a disc jockey and a chance to sing the school song by phone to retired para-educator Sandy Ellis.

• McCoy said Lamprey Family Dental in Raymond provided dental screenings at the elementary school.

• The Board approved the bus routes for 2018-19.

 


Students Plan Greenhouse for Raymond High School
By Leslie O’Donnell   9-21-18

The Raymond School Board granted permission to Raymond High School students to build a greenhouse at the school.

At the Sept. 19 School Board meeting, students discussed the greenhouse proposal from the Site Council and said the school’s construction class has agreed to construct the building. School Board student representative Jeffrey Rivard stepped down from his Board seat to help present the proposal.

The greenhouse would not cost taxpayers any money. A gift from the Class of 2018 and fundraising by the Class of 2019 are expected to meet the approximately $1,000 overall cost of the polycarbonate cover for the 18- by- 13-foot structure.

The RHS construction class taught by industrial arts/technical education teacher Dean Plender has the budget to build the greenhouse, which would be its classroom project.

The students said biology, chemistry and botany would be among the disciplines that could use the greenhouse, and added that it would make the school more eco-friendly. Students from the elementary and middle school could visit the greenhouse for educational experiences as well.

Overseeing the project from the faculty will be science teacher Fiona Coomey and Plender.

Of particular interest was the planned use of wood from an old oak tree that came down at the school a few years ago. Board vice chair Janice Arsenault told the group the use of the wood from the oak tree “just makes it come full circle,” and board member Moe Titcomb agreed.

The proposed site for the greenhouse is outside the cafeteria doors.

In other business:

• Special Education Director Scott Riddell presented an update on Special Education in the District.  He said the District has 1,257 students, of whom 274 are identified for Special Education. That represents 22 percent of the District, compared to the state average of 16 percent.

The District currently has 16 out-of-district placements – three from Lamprey River Elementary School, five from Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, and eight from the high school. Three of the 16 students were unexpected move-ins to the District this year.

Riddell’s PowerPoint presentation showed that at the elementary school in grades pre-school through 4, a total of 108 students out of a school-wide enrollment of 498 were Identified for Special Education, for a total of 22 percent of that student body. Thirty-nine of those students are identified with a developmental delay.

At the middle school, serving grades 5 through 8, 97 students or 26 percent of the 378 students at the school were identified for Special Education. Thirty-nine of those students were identified with a Specific Learning Disability.

At the high school, with 381 students enrolled, 68 students or 18 percent were identified for Special Education, and 21 of those students were identified with a specific learning disability.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy noted that at the elementary school, the figures may be skewed somewhat because the District does not know how many preschool-age children are not enrolled in the preschool program.

• Facilities Director Scott Ledoux presented an update on safety and facilities, and reviewed work done over the summer, including two renovated and newly Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant restrooms at the elementary school, the move of fourth grade classrooms to the main building at the elementary school, hooking up the high school to Town water, and front entry safety work at the middle school, the latter still in progress.

Ledoux added that ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) active shooter training is underway.

• The school board approved an updated job description for assistant principals. McCoy noted that the job description had not been updated since 2002, and the single new description will be used at all three schools.

• McCoy explained that she is finalizing the membership of the search committee for a new assistant principal at the elementary school to replace Laura Yacek, who was promoted to principal. No parents or community members have volunteered for the committee, but Todd Ledoux will take part as both staff and parent. Meetings are planned for October.

• The board heard a presentation from three RHS students and principal Margaret Callahan from Seacoast School of Technology (SST) in Exeter. The students represented programs in digital media, pre-engineering and automotive technology.

SST serves students from Raymond High School as well as Epping High School, Exeter High School, Newmarket High School, Sanborn Regional High School and Winnacunnet High School with career and technical education programs they can enroll in, in addition to their academic studies at their high school.

The Raymond students explained their studies at SST, with one student expecting to receive 12 college credits.

Callahan noted that traditionally the school has been open to juniors and seniors only, but is now offered on a space available basis to students who have completed one year of high school.

• The board conducted a first reading of two policies: revisions to the policy on Background Investigation and Criminal Records Check, to reflect input from the Human Resources Department and school attorney, and a policy on Service Animals.

• The board approved moving their second November meeting from the night before Thanksgiving to Nov. 14.

• McCoy announced that Homecoming Parade and festivities will take place Oct. 13, and a Substitute Fair to attract substitute teachers and para-educators is set for Nov. 8.

 


Laura Yacek to Lead Lamprey River Elementary School
By Leslie O’Donnell   9-11-18

Lamprey River Elementary School has a new principal, although she’s not new to the building. The Raymond School Board approved the hiring of Laura Yacek as principal of Lamprey River at its Sept. 5 meeting. Yacek had been serving as acting principal since the resignation earlier this summer of Bryan Belanger.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy called Yacek an outstanding leader with many years of teaching experience, and said she has demonstrated a commitment to Raymond and knows its families. “She can lead the school without skipping a beat,” she said.

Yacek will receive an annual salary of $93,000. She was hired as assistant principal of Lamprey River in the summer of 2015, and previously worked as curriculum coordinator at Swasey Central School in Brentwood. She has degrees from the University of Central Florida and the University of North Florida, has principal certification, and was an elementary school classroom teacher for 14 years in both Florida and New Hampshire.

In other business:

• Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward reported on the start of school and said that despite the humidity, it was a good week. Asked about the “no hats” policy, he said that it was not as big a battle as he thought it would be and added, “at the end of the day, our kids are respectful. Our kids never cease to amaze me.”

He said 130 students are participating in fall athletic teams. School enrollment is 129 students in ninth grade, 89 in 10th, 102 in 11th and 67 in 12th, for a total of 387.

• Iber Holmes Gove Middle School Principal Bob Bickford reported on opening day, and said the first week of school ran “amazingly smoothly.” He added that “I can’t thank you enough for reinstating the YEES (Youth Educational Employment Service) worker – he started Tuesday and started working with kids today (Wednesday).”

Opening day enrollment was 104 in grade 5, with eight new students and eight withdrawn; 101 in grade 6, with four new students and five withdrawn; 89 in grade 7, with four new students and five withdrawn; and 85 in grade 8, with one new student and two withdrawn, for a total enrollment of 379.

• Lamprey River Principal Laura Yacek reported a “great turnout” at the Welcome Back Ice Cream Social, which included a visit by a Raymond fire truck. “We are very excited to have the fourth grade classrooms in the building (as opposed to in the portables), and it’s a great feeling,” she said, citing “positivity” in the air. “I’m glad we made that move.” The school open house is Sept. 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

She also noted that Special Education Coordinator Stacey Wooster has been her “right hand person” while they are minus one administrator.

Enrollment is 42 in pre-Kindergarten; 104 in Kindergarten, 88 in Grade 1, 85 in grade 2, 94 in grade 3 and 87 in grade 4.

All three principals thanked the custodial, information technology, office and buildings and grounds staff for their work in getting ready for the new school year.

• Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland reported that Title 1 reading and math interventions will start in mid-September at the elementary and middle schools. He is seeking members for a Curriculum Steering Committee to “formulate a written/viable curriculum and establish curriculum review process protocols.”

• Whaland also discussed curriculum, instruction and assessment currently underway. Goals are that “by 2023, at least 80 percent of all students in Kindergarten-Grade 12 demonstrate mastery of grade level standards in reading, writing and math; the District will develop and consistently implement a K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) plan by 2022; and by 2021, the library-media program for students in all three schools will be restructured to reflect a consistent philosophy and approach that promotes library-media services as an integral resource for classroom instruction, and supports the teaching and learning process by emphasizing research skills and curriculum-based critical thinking.”

• McCoy will establish a search committee for an elementary school assistant principal. Janice Arsenault will be the board representative for the committee, which will meet during the day. Those interested in serving may contact administrative assistant Jennifer Heywood by letter at the School Administrative Unit (SAU) office by Sept. 18.

• McCoy said job descriptions for principals in the District had not been reviewed by the board for about 16 years. She said there were currently separate job descriptions for principal of each of the three schools, and she and the three principals selected the best of each to form a new and improved single job description. Arsenault moved to accept the new job description for principal, and it was approved unanimously.

McCoy said she will now look into the job descriptions for assistant principals, and hopes to have a new one for the next meeting.

• Board chairman Joe Saulnier noted that the New Hampshire School Boards Association is accepting proposed resolutions for its 2019 Delegate Assembly on Jan. 26 in Concord. Deadline for submitting proposals is Nov. 2.

Arsenault said she did not think it should be the Governor who determines when school starts for the year,  but that decision should remain with individual school districts. She moved to submit a resolution to that effect.

Saulnier sought a resolution to amend SB 342 so that if a staff person is added to the budget, the position would go into the default budget as well.

McCoy asked the board to consider a resolution that would amend the RSA that requires a school district to get parent approval for an educational alternative that is proposed for students who opt out of assessments. The school would continue to provide an educational alternative but would not have to get parental approval for it. Arsenault proposed a motion to that effect.

Member Michelle Couture proposed a resolution that public funds cannot be used to support religious or private education.

All resolutions were approved.

• In her report, McCoy advised the board that Raymond High is now hooked up to Town water. She said a budget freeze goes into effect Sept. 7, and hopes it will be temporary. She also noted that she and Saulnier met with Town Manager Joe Ilsley to discuss mutual goals and ways the two entities could work together. She said Ilsley was very supportive of the school system and sees it as the heart of the community.

• The board heard that Keno money has come in and the first check totals about $20,000. The formula is $1,100 per Average Daily Membership of kindergarten, according to Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore.

• The board approved an overnight field trip for the Raymond High School Student Council to Waterville Valley for the Nov. 9 and 10 New Hampshire Association of Student Councils State Conference. The Council had asked the Board to approve the annual trip so that the group would not have to return to the Board each year, but that would involve waiving the overnight trip policy. The students will revisit the board to report about their trip.

Saulnier said he did not think the Board could waive the policy but it could consider changing it. Arsenault moved to approve the field trip and to ask the policy committee to look at its policy involving recurring field trips.

• Celeste Clark of the Raymond Coalition for Youth discussed her recent trip to Washington, D.C., during which time she and student Savannah Coomey met with President Donald Trump for the announcement of Drug Free Community Grants. The Coalition receives funding from this federal program and they were invited to attend to discuss their work.

Clark said the Coalition is starting year nine of the 10-year grant, and noted that out of 720 grants, Raymond was one of five coalitions invited to Washington.
Clark and Coomey discussed their experience in Washington and noted programs and successes of the Coalition.

• McCoy encouraged parents to attend a presentation on vaping, titled “Vaping Unveiled," from 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Raymond High School media center.

“I think it is emerging as a very serious health risk,” McCoy said of vaping. “It appears benign, and I do not think parents are fully are aware of the health risks.” A representative of Breathe NH will be the presenter.

Vaping involves “e-cigarettes” or “vapes,” and users inhale the vapor they produce, which includes nicotine; thus, they vape, rather than smoke.

 


On Split Vote, School Board OKs Hiring Youth Worker for Middle School
By Leslie O’Donnell    9-4-18

After extensive discussion and the urging of members of the audience, the Raymond School Board voted 3-2 on Aug. 29 to contract with a Youth Educational Employment Service (YEES) worker for the Iber Holmes Gove Middle School. The board hopes to be able to hire back the worker who held the position last year.

Fifth grade teacher Kristin Wallace, who is also a Raymond resident and parent, was joined by another fifth grade teacher, a special education staffer, and a parent with her son who had benefited from the services of the YEES worker, to plead with the School Board to find the funding for the program this year.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy explained, as she had at the Board’s July 11 meeting, that the position was included in the budget for last year for $62,000 but was removed after cuts were sought by the Budget Committee. In July she was asked to bring the matter back to the Board again this year.

McCoy noted the contracted staffer would work with up to nine at-risk students identified by the Student Intervention Team - students having major difficulties in such areas as attendance and achievement.

According to information provided for the FY19 budget, YEES is a New Hampshire state-certified adolescent therapeutic care program and a Medicaid provider, and can provide around-the-clock services including home visits and student transportation. Unlike other offerings in the state, YEES provides services to both students and families, and has data-proven success throughout New Hampshire in both student outcome and financial savings to school districts.

Middle school principal Bob Bickford has said the YEES worker is involved with students with the highest risk of not being successful. Attendance increased and disciplinary referrals were down for the youngsters served by the YEES worker, the board was told.

McCoy said at present, no grants are available to fund the position.

Wallace spoke to the need for the position, from the perspective of a teacher, a parent and a Raymond taxpayer. “As a taxpayer, I’m concerned that if we don’t find the money for this, some of these kids will need out-of-district services,” she said. “As a parent of a child with anxiety, I’m worried the counselors would have to take on the heavy-duty cases of the YEES worker.

“I’m asking to have this made into a motion to hire – our kids are waiting for help,” she said. “The kids who built a relationship with him are wondering where he is.”

Board member Beth Paris asked if last year’s YEES worker is still available for hiring and was told he is. “I know it will cost money, but the goal is keeping kids in the District,” she said, and added that his position “is definitely worthwhile.”

Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore said at present, salaries and benefits are $20,000 over budget, with about 10 more positions to be filled.

“If we can find the money in the budget to help a disabled child, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” board member Moe Titcomb said.

Wallace noted that the school budget is a bottom-line budget. “Can we eliminate something like bathroom tiles to save kids?” she asked, referring to an item funded under a Capital Reserve Fund, not the general fund.

One of the speakers was a student who had been served by the YEES worker. He articulately explained how the staffer helped him during the past year.

“I think this is a great program, but my problem is I’m new to this position and I don’t know right now if we have the money,” Whitmore said. “We’d be going back to the Budget Committee and saying, ‘you asked us to cut it and we added it back.’”

Board chair Joe Saulnier clarified that the position was not cut - it had not been in the budget the previous year.

“I heard every word you said but we don’t have the money for this in the budget,” board member Janice Arsenault said. “I would love nothing more than to fund it.” She explained that the Budget Committee last year wanted to cut $400,000 from the school budget, and school officials suggested lesser cuts - the YEES position and an online teacher for the high school - and the Budget Committee accepted this alternative.

After the meeting, Saulnier explained that on Jan. 18, the Budget Committee looked at three options involving the school budget – a cut proposed by committee member Joshua Mann for $392,093, a second option of cutting approximately $94,000 – Saulnier said that option “did not go anywhere” - and a third option he proposed: to cut the Long Distance Learning Teacher for $96,068, the middle school YEES program for $62,000, and $3,000 from the wage pool, for a  total of $161,068.

“I was specific because none of those roles that were cut were in the budget the previous year,” Saulnier said. The proposal to cut $161,068 was approved by the Budget Committee 5-1 and was later incorporated in the budget approved by the School Board.
 
Wallace told the School Board that if one child who would have been served by the YEES worker had to go to an out-of-district placement instead, it could cost as much as $160,000 per year.

Paris asked about holding off on unfilled positions, but McCoy said those are for IEP (Individualized Education Program)-required paraprofessionals.

Members of the audience noted that the District has repeatedly cut positions that help kids with emotional needs, and board member Michelle Couture responded, “I don’t care where we find the money, but we should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I absolutely am in support of this position.” She added that if the District does not pay to help these students now, the taxpayers will be paying for them later, via increased police and social services.

“The Town is constantly dinging us about the dropout rate,” Wallace said. “These are the kids you’re talking about.”

Paris asked what was budgeted for sports, but that information was not available that evening. She said, “I know I’m going to be crucified for this, but if we have the money budgeted for sports, money needs to go to fund the YEES worker.

“A position like this is absolutely necessary,” Paris said. “This would help the dropout rate. Taxpayers can’t complain about the dropout rate but refuse to fund it.”

Saulnier said he saw both sides of the issue – the need to have a YEES worker and the Budget Committee’s intent to cut the school budget. “I agree this is a very important program,” he said.

McCoy said she “definitely” supports the position. “I respect the budget process and am sensitive to the fact that a decision was made not to have the position, although it’s a bottom-line budget,” she said. “We can make it work if that’s the will of the board.”

She said if the position is approved, administration would likely freeze the budget early because so many factors are as yet undetermined, such as how much insurance costs will rise. She noted the district currently had a $175,000 surplus. Saulnier suggested waiting another week to see how the budget looks, but both McCoy and Whitmore said that time period would not make much of a difference. They also noted that freezing the budget would mean purchases would be cut.

Whitmore added, “We’ll make it work.”

Paris made a motion to fill the contracted position of a YEES worker at the middle school. The vote saw Couture, Paris and Titcomb in favor, and Arsenault and Saulnier opposed. Both Arsenault and Saulnier emphasized they understood the importance of the position.

“I never was against this position – I just couldn’t see where we’d get the money,” Arsenault said in explaining her vote.

In other business:

• Whitmore presented the year-end financial review for 2017-18. That shows General Fund revenues at the end of the school year were $50,940 over budget, mostly because of additional Special Education Aid (previously called Catastrophic Aid) and student tuition; General Fund expenditures ended the school year $191,934 under budget, mainly due to salaries and health insurance. A “significant” shortfall occurred in Special Education Contractual Services, which includes occupational therapy, speech therapy, assertive technology, and behavioral consultations and tutoring.

The General Fund contribution to the Food Service Fund was $66,633, an increase of $28,337 over the previous year.

Paris questioned whether the number of vending machines on lease could be cut and asked for a cost analysis for leasing the machines, which Whitmore said she would provide. Whitmore also noted that it is very hard to make money on a Food Service program, and very common to be losing money in that area.

• Whitmore said that in March, voters approved raising and appropriating up to $50,000 in surplus funds from the year-end undesignated fund to transfer to the Equipment, Facilities Maintenance and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund (CRF). The board unanimously approved transferring $50,000 from the year-end undesignated fund to the CRF.

The money goes for safety and security upgrades at the middle and elementary schools, a bathroom upgrade at the elementary school, and connecting the high school to the Town water line.

The balance in the CRF with the transfer is $488,111.41.

• The board discussed retention of surplus funds. The board voted to retain $20,000 in the unassigned fund and return $140,797 to the Town to offset taxes.

• The board discussed budget workshops and what the projected budget should be. Presently the District shows a projected 2019-2020 budget with estimated contract adjustments totaling $25,916,099. That would be an increase of 5 percent from last year, or an estimated tax increase, based on the most recent assessed valuation, of $1.32 per thousand. The projected budget shows increases, many not yet finalized, in health and dental insurance, bus contracts and fuel oil, as well as in Special Education out-of-district tuition and travel.

Arsenault said something needs to be cut. “(A) Five percent (increase) is way too much,” she said. “I don’t think we can support (a) 5 percent (increase).”

Saulnier said 90 percent of the budget consists of what voters approved and noted the Board has no control over many of the items, but Arsenault said she “strongly suggests” looking at the budget to make cuts to get it under a 5 percent increase. Titcomb agreed.

“We look to the board to see what is a reasonable increase,” McCoy said. Arsenault suggested 3 percent, and after further discussion, the administration was directed to look at increases of 3-1/2 to 4 percent. “Show us what the budget would look like with those cuts,” Arsenault said.

Departments will discuss proposed budgets with administration Oct. 10 and 11. The School Board budget meetings will be Oct. 24 and 25.

• The board will complete the superintendent’s mid-year evaluation documents by Sept. 28 and scheduled its meetings to discuss the evaluation on Oct. 10 and 11, at which time McCoy will not be expected to be present.

• The Board approved the hiring of Kimberly Capen for $52,000 annually as the transition coordinator at Raymond High School. The position is 100 percent funded by a federal IDEA (Individuals

 


Raymond School District Continues to Study Tuitioning High Schoolers
By Leslie O’Donnell   8-17-18

Raymond School District officials are continuing to examine what it would cost and involve for the Town’s high school students to be tuitioned to another school. The School Board had directed the Superintendent to research the matter, and in her report to the Board on Aug. 15, she gave a brief update.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said part of that research could involve information about converting the high school to an elementary school. “I know this is all very theoretical, but I don’t know if it is the assumption that if we tuition our high school students elsewhere, shall we also look into the feasibility of using the high school as an elementary school,” she said. “I’m looking for direction from the board.”

While cautioned that it should not involve spending a lot of money, the three board members present – chairman Joe Saulnier, Janice Arsenault and Moe Titcomb – said she could explore that possibility.

“The high school is our oldest building, so if we were going to redo a building, it might as well be the oldest one,” Saulnier said. Arsenault said she would never be in favor of converting the middle school to an elementary school.

“We would have to take into account the specific requirements for elementary schools,” McCoy said. “If the board is interested in gathering more information, the first step is to have someone look at the high school to see if there are any huge barriers to making it an elementary school.”

The board approved a motion directing McCoy to look into the conversion possibilities for the high school.

McCoy also said that of the 10 nearby school districts queried about their interest in taking all of Raymond High School students, only Pinkerton Academy, which is a semi-private high school in Derry; the Manchester School District and Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston expressed interest and had the ability to accommodate Raymond. Other districts could take some but not all of RHS students.

Students from Derry, Hampstead, Chester, Auburn, Hooksett and Candia are tuitioned to Pinkerton. Fremont, Newton and Kingston students attend Sanborn.

McCoy will continue talking with the three districts to look at costs, class offerings, and options to see if they would be viable alternatives to the local high school.

Saulnier also asked her to look at whether Epping would be interested in sending its high school students to Raymond.

Arsenault cautioned that all of the discussion is very preliminary. “People have asked for such a long time for this information, and now we are getting it,” she said.

In other business:

• Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore discussed legislative changes to the preparation of the default budget.

She noted that the new definition of a default budget is: “the amount of the same appropriations as contained in the operating budget authorized for the previous year, reduced and increased, as the case may be, by debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the operating budget and by salaries and benefits of positions that have been eliminated in the proposed budget.”

The salary statement is new this year.

McCoy explained that if a position is eliminated in the proposed budget, it cannot be included in the default budget.

A second change is in contracts, which now have to be “previously approved, in the amount so approved, by the legislative body in either the operating budget for the previous year or in a separate warrant article for a previous year.”

The final change highlighted requires the default budget to not only be “disclosed” at the first budget hearing, but “presented for questions and discussion.” That means “line item details for reductions and increases must be available for inspection by voters, and reductions and increases must identify the specific items that constitute a change by account code, and the reasons for the change.”

• After discussion, the board approved accepting the $47,052 bid and 48-month contract from Canon for copiers throughout the district. Technology Director Kevin Federico and Whitmore presented the bid analysis. The District has $57,500 in the budget for copiers.

Federico said the District currently has 19 copiers, and the new contract calls for fewer.

Arsenault asked about establishing a copy center and centralizing the location of the copiers, and Federico said they had talked about it but it would have required additional staff. He and Whitmore will examine the idea again.

 

 

• The board accepted a donation of $1,000 from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for Raymond High School’s Life of an Athlete program, and a donation of $1,904.65 from the Knights of Columbus from its Tootsie Roll drive for Lamprey River Elementary School’s Special Education program.

• The board approved a Class of 2019 field trip to Orlando, Fla., for April, running from a Friday through Tuesday. Students will attend a Grad Bash at Universal Studios, a water park, Daytona Beach, Disney Springs, and Sea World. Students have fundraising opportunities to earn the $700 cost per person of the trip, which includes airfare, hotel, some food, and admissions.

• The board approved the hiring of Carolyn Malo at a salary of $34,173 as a first grade teacher at the elementary school, and Katja Peltzer-Becksted at a salary of $34,173 as a Special Education teacher and case manager at the elementary school. McCoy said the District has openings for paraprofessionals.

• Saulnier reported on Budget Committee dates from the previous evening’s meeting. He said the proposed school budget is due to the Budget Committee on Nov. 27, and its public hearing at the Budget Committee is Dec. 4. He listed a series of budget hearing dates and also noted that on Oct. 9, the Budget Committee wants to see the final figures from the past year’s school budget.

He also said the Budget Committee wants to see the monthly revenue and expense sheet, the same document as sent to the School Board. McCoy said she thinks that should go to the School Board first, and Saulnier agreed.

• McCoy noted the first day of school is Aug. 27. The elementary school’s Ice Cream Social is Aug. 24, the elementary school open house is Sept. 13, the middle school open house is Sept. 18, and the high school open house is Sept. 12. Fall sports have begun.

• The board approved policies on fire drills, fire safety and prevention, and buildings and grounds security.

 


Bullying Policy, From Confidentiality to Appeals, Aired at School Forum
By Leslie O’Donnell   8-13-18

A public forum held by the Raymond School Board on Aug. 8 to discuss bullying, student safety and violence prevention attracted few parents but offered an opportunity to explain confidentiality requirements and discuss the School District’s bullying policy and appeals procedures.

School Board chair Joe Saulnier opened the hearing by saying, “we’re here as a community to listen, learn and help parents understand why we have a bullying policy.” He asked those present to “respect each other as the neighbors that we are,” and said he would not tolerate yelling or personal attacks. In addition, he issued a reminder that they could not talk about individual cases, and noted this might be the first meeting of its kind in the state.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy and the District’s attorney, Diane Gorrow, reviewed the District’s Student Safety and Violence Prevention policy on bullying and cyberbullying. Gorrow noted New Hampshire school districts are required to have an antibullying policy in place based on state statute. Both Gorrow and McCoy emphasized that the District’s policy cannot violate state and federal requirements.

Raymond’s policy defines bullying as “a single significant incident or a pattern of incidents involving a written, verbal, or electronic communication, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student which: (1.) Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property; (2) Causes emotional distress to a student; (3) Interferes with a student’s educational opportunities; (4) Creates a hostile educational environment; or (5) Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying shall also include actions motivated by an imbalance of power based on a student’s actual or perceived personal characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, or motivated by the student’s association with another person and based on the other person’s characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs. Cyberbullying is defined as any conduct defined as ‘bullying’ in this policy that is undertaken through the use of electronic devices. For purposes of this policy, any references to the term bullying shall include cyberbullying.”

Gorrow emphasized that the bullying policy is not intended to deal with all student misbehavior. Both Gorrow and McCoy noted the District has other policies about student behavior and harassment that may apply when bullying is not involved.

“The physical and psychological well-being of our students is our highest priority,” McCoy said. She explained that bullying that occurs outside school could come under the jurisdiction of the School District in terms of discipline if it impacts a student. “If it affects a child in school, it falls to the school’s purview,” she said.

The policy also specifically prohibits reprisals and retaliation. Gorrow said the policy is designed to use consequences to stop bullying from happening again, and explained that is why a zero tolerance policy may not work, as individualized consequences are more likely to succeed than blanket suspension or expulsion.

“We need to discipline but also to teach how to act appropriately,” McCoy said.

Resident Cassie Hammond said she thinks the policy takes control from parents and allows the school to act without guidelines in applying consequences of bullying. “I don’t feel safe as a parent,” she said. “If the school can’t share what they’re doing, it makes me feel unsafe.”

That led to a lengthy discussion of confidentiality. Gorrow explained that the state statute specifically recognizes FERPA – the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of public education records. “That is a limitation on what information can be shared,” she said.

“Schools would love to be able to say to the victim’s parents what the District is doing to the perpetrator, but federal law prohibits them from doing so without the written consent of the perpetrator’s parents,” Gorrow said. “The discipline cannot be shared. It’s a frustrating restriction imposed by federal law.”

The policy requires notifying parents within 48 hours of an alleged bullying incident and lays out a timeframe for investigating and resolving the incident. That can include a determination that bullying did not take place. The initial 48-hour report is sent prior to any investigation.

Board member Michelle Couture noted that if a bullying report form is completed, the District is required to investigate.

And Gorrow said the punishment is often the same regardless of whether the incident is determined to be bullying or other misbehavior.

Hammond asked what the School Board can do to make the victim’s parents and their child feel safe, and Couture asked her what would make her feel safe. She responded that she did not know, as confidentiality issues get in the way.

Board member Beth Paris apologized to Hammond for not feeling safe and for her child not feeling safe, and said that Hammond followed policy but was “let down.” She urged consistency in applying the policy in all three schools.

McCoy responded, “there’s policy, and there’s implementation of policy. If there are difficulties with implementation, it’s our job as a District to look into that. The Superintendent has the responsibility…to make sure policy is being implemented.”

Regarding cyberbullying, officials noted that they can ask the alleged perpetrator or his or her parents for copies of social media postings, but cannot ask for the password. “That’s imposed by state statute,” Gorrow said. “State law prohibits it, and there’s no way for you to force it.”

Officials noted that a bullying incident determination can be appealed to the Superintendent by either child’s parent. She would then review the decision and within 10 days, issue her own decision. Her decision can be appealed to the School Board, and from there, to the State Board of Education. Gorrow added that due process under both the state and U.S. Constitutions applies to expulsions, and the Board is not equipped to do its own investigation.

Saulnier noted the Board has learned there are limits to what they can do on an appeal. He also emphasized that in spite of complaints made to the Board about alleged bullying, the School Board has not received any official appeals regarding bullying. “I can’t go to the school and ask them to open their files for me, but a parent could make an official appeal,” he said. “I think the appeals process is one of the best parts of the bullying policy.

“If parents feel something is not being done or is wrong, please go up the chain,” Saulnier urged.

Gorrow said in an appeal to the Board, they could say they do not think the investigation was thorough enough and could ask for another administrator or outside person to conduct the investigation.

Gorrow also noted that the superintendent is only aware of substantiated bullying incidents, not complaints made where bullying was alleged but was not found to have taken place.

McCoy reminded the group that there are many types of misbehavior, not all of which can be classified as bullying. “Part of our job is to teach kids the proper way to act,” she said. She said that in the past five years, Raymond High School had 46 reports of bullying or cyberbullying, and 12 were substantiated; Iber Holmes Gove Middle School had 79 reports, with seven substantiated; and Lamprey River Elementary School had 36 reports, with nine verified.

“Something may or may not be bullying, but it’s still very wrong,” McCoy said, noting the elementary school had 29 out-of-school suspensions involving 14 students last year. “There’s a misconception that if something is not considered bullying, it’s not important. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Saulnier agreed, saying people think that if something is not determined to be bullying, there are no consequences. “That’s just not the case,” he said.

He suggested automatic appeals to the School Board if the same perpetrator has been involved in multiple incidents; McCoy asked whether that would be an automatic appeal or automatic review. Saulnier agreed with changing “appeal” to “review,” and said his concern was for parents not knowing a child had been involved in a previous bullying incident.

The attorney offered her view that if the concern was that the Board was not aware of substantiated claims of bullying, it can request the Superintendent report all substantiated cases. “My advice is to leave it to the parents to appeal,” she said. “You already have a process for appeals.”

Couture noted the Board does not have the right to recommend discipline, and added, “part of the investigation is to look at a student’s previous behavior.” Board member Janice Arsenault said she thinks the process is all right, and Couture said Saulnier’s automatic review was “beyond our scope. I don’t think we ought to be dictating actions for or against student behavior. I think it’s beyond our purview.”

Saulnier said he did not need names in a report about bullying incidents.

“Our responsibility is to make people know they have the right to appeal,” Arsenault said.

And McCoy agreed that the Board can require the administration to report every time a substantiated incident of bullying occurs. Couture said such a report of substantiated bullying incidents, which would not include names, could come to the Board. “Otherwise, it gets into privacy issues and tainting of appeals,” she added.

Gorrow emphasized that the focus must be on whether remedial discipline is enough to stop the bullying. “The Board and Superintendent would look at whether remedial measures are working,” she said of appeals.

Looking forward, Saulnier added that the district will now have a standardized letter to parents that would go along with the final determination; the letter will explain the appeals process.

Saulnier also said he wished more parents had attended presentations the District has had on bullying.”

McCoy cited a John Halligan program about his 13-year-old son, Ryan, who committed suicide after being bullied; the program was offered to students during the day and in the evening to the community. “He gave very constructive suggestions,” she said, McCoy said of the programs the District has hosted on bullying, two parents attended one program, fewer than 10 attended another.

“If we can prevent something from happening, that is the best option,” Saulnier added. “Talk to us. We have no problem listening.”

Paris asked about teaching empathy, and Saulnier said that was a good point. “People need to take advantage of what we offer, and I think we offer a lot,” he said.

In reference to whether the schools are teaching students coping mechanisms for bullying, middle school Principal Mike Chouinard said it was a major component of the TIGER presentation for students. “It’s part of the process,” he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Saulnier read an email to the Board from resident Dawn Leamer, who did not attend. “Wouldn’t it have been nice to reach out to the parents who have issues and see if they could be part of this meeting, or is that another way of hushing the community and making them have false hopes that you will actually be doing something,” she wrote. “We also know bullying happens in every district, however, not as much as in this district.” Her email also referred to issues from specific incidents.

Saulnier said the District has 2,400 parents and the Board made the effort to set a date for the forum before school starts. “We are always more than welcome to listen to any concerns,” he said.

In reference to a voice mail received by the District, Gorrow reiterated that the Board has to follow state and federal law, and cannot send a student to another school unless the student’s parent agrees and asks for the transfer.

While Hammond at one point said she considered the meeting a “waste” and felt frustrated, she concluded her comments by thanking the Board. “I’m not here as an angry parent,” she said, adding she wanted to point out loopholes in the bullying policy and try to understand it.  She thanked the Board for giving her the time to speak.

“The purpose tonight was to listen to concerns, and that’s what we did,” Arsenault said.

Asked after the meeting for her views on the bullying forum, McCoy said, “Our goal is to help people understand the policy. I felt that we achieved it.”

The School District’s bullying policy can be found at www.sau33.com by clicking on School Board and then on “Meeting Agenda with Backup” for the Aug. 8 meeting, and then on “JICDA Student Safety and Violence Prevention.”

In other business, the board approved the hiring of Elaine Burns at $63,034 as a special education teacher at Raymond High School.

 


Technology Funding Debated by Raymond School Board
By Leslie O’Donnell   8-6-18

The need to spend money to implement the Raymond school district’s new technology plan led to considerable discussion at the Aug. 1 School Board meeting.

While $30,000 had been placed in the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) for Chromebooks for one grade of middle school students to initiate the process, School Board chair Joe Saulnier said he would prefer the money went into the budget instead so that if the Capital Reserve Fund warrant failed at the polls and the budget passed, the technology plan could still move forward. A work session on the CIP was part of the Aug. 1 meeting.

Technology Director Kevin Federico presented the items in the technology CIP, which totaled $130,000 for the Capital Reserve Fund warrant article for 2019-20. It called for $25,000 per school for wireless improvements, $25,000 for computer labs for classroom instruction and testing at the high school, and $30,000 to start a rollout of Chromebooks for one grade per year, beginning in the middle school. With the removal of the Chromebooks to the budget, the technology CRF warrant article would be $100,000.

Board member Beth Paris asked about the six carts of Chromebooks at the middle school that teachers can check out for their classrooms, and wondered why that did not suffice. Federico responded that those computers get “100 percent usage.”

Paris then asked why a computer lab would be necessary in each building, and Federico cited the need for a PC-based computer lab in each school.

Paris also noted that many students have their own devices and asked if it had been considered to have students use their own devices at school.

“We talked about this on the technology committee,” Saulnier responded. “We saw the need to put our money where our mouth is.”

Board member Michelle Couture reminded the board that the technology plan is part of the district’s strategic plan.

At that point, Saulnier urged taking the Chromebooks out of the warrant article and putting them in the budget. “If this gets passed in the budget, at least it keeps us on schedule,” he said. “If it’s in the CIP and is not passed, we’re already one step behind.”

He added that putting the technology purchase in the budget would make it part of the default budget in the next year. “That’s why we put books back into the budget,” he said.

Paris said she was “struggling with the amount of money” involved. “I think technology is very important but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s as high a priority as everything else,” she said.

Saulnier responded, “it’s an area where we’re lacking. We are far behind a lot of other school districts.” And Federico noted that Chromebooks are used in about 85 percent of school districts in the United States.

Returning to the idea of students using their own devices, Federico said the high school has a Bring Your Own Device policy in place, but it requires considerable maintenance, especially to protect the infrastructure at the school.

Facilities Director Todd Ledoux presented the facilities portion of the CIP, which called for $248,440 to upgrade two bathrooms at the elementary school, for the second year of a four-year project; to upgrade air conditioning in the guidance, nurse and administration offices at the high school; to install new floors in four student bathrooms at the middle school; to purchase and install ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant bleachers at both the high school and middle school; and to upgrade the fire alarm panel at the high school.

Couture noted the omission of engineering work for a needed safety wall, and asked that its $20,000 cost be included, a position also favored by board member Janice Arsenault. “I want the engineering in,” Couture said. “If we’re looking at safety issues, that has to be in there.”

“The CIP has been underfunded for years, and that’s why we’re in this situation,” Couture said, with Saulnier adding that he “completely agrees.”

Ledoux said the middle school bathroom work at $33,075 could be taken out, as it is not a safety or ADA issue, and Paris favored taking out those bathrooms and putting in the engineering.

Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore presented the Food Service CRF, which calls for the purchase of a dishwasher at the high school at $22,711. She said the dishwasher may be original to the building.

Superintendent Tina McCoy said the Food Service proposal was conservative but forward-thinking, with the idea of replacing items before they completely fail. Paris questioned the cost of the dishwasher and said she had been checking for a commercial dishwasher on line during the meeting and found ones for considerably less.

During discussion, Saulnier asked to take out the $30,000 cost of Chromebooks and place that in the budget, which met with no comments. That brought the total cost for the CRF warrant to $358,076, an increase of $144,076 from last year.

When Saulnier asked what the board wished to do, Couture said, “I say we go with it. This is why we’re in this situation – we keep kicking things down the road but the expenditures have to happen at some time.”

“My only concern is if we push too hard, we get nothing,” Saulnier said. “But I’m all for going up. We’re severely underbudgeted.”

Couture asked about postponing the computer lab at the high school for a year, but Federico said he would prefer instead to take out the middle school wireless work – each is budgeted at $25,000. Couture agreed.

Paris said she still could not get over the cost of the dishwasher, and McCoy said they may be able to get by longer with the current dishwasher but are trying to avoid a breakdown. Paris said in that instance, they could wash dishes by hand, but it was pointed out that federal law likely would not allow that.

Removing the computer lab brought the total to $333,076. The board voted 4-1, with Moe Titcomb opposed, to recommend a Capital Reserve Fund warrant article for $333,076.

In other business:

• McCoy noted the resignation effective Aug. 3 of Lamprey River Elementary School principal Bryan Belanger. She recalled his three years of service as a “dedicated, energetic principal,” and explained that he gave the required 30 days notice of departure. The board voted unanimously to approve his resignation.

Later in the meeting, a resident spoke to say she was sad to see Belanger leave, and hoped his successor would be as positive and as welcoming to new ideas as he was.

McCoy asked to appoint Lamprey River assistant principal Laura Yacek as Acting Principal at the elementary school, and the board approved that motion unanimously.

• The board approved the resignation of second grade teacher Ashley O’Neill, and the hiring of Susan Kizler at $45,000 as registered nurse at the elementary school, Dorothy Franchini at $44,673 as reading specialist at the elementary school, and Suzy Gagnon to a new position, math interventionist, shared by the elementary and middle school, at $54,048.

• McCoy said she wished to establish a principal search committee for Belanger’s position and noted policy requires a selection advisory committee. The vacancy has already been posted internally.

She said the committee must include citizens, staff, and School Board representatives. She recommended a committee of no more than 12 members, and Arsenault volunteered to serve for the School Board.  Other members will be Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland as chair, Special Education Director Scott Riddell as alternate chair, two parents of very young or elementary school age children, one or two other community members, a Lamprey River veteran teacher, a Lamprey River teacher with three years or less at the school, a Raymond Education Association representative, and an RESS (Raymond Educational Support Staff) representative.

Letters of interest from community members must be received by noon Wednesday, Aug. 8 and may be sent via email to j.heywood@sau33.com, via fax to 895-0147, or mailed to: LRES Principal Search Committee, c/o Jennifer Heywood, Raymond School District, 43 Harriman Hill Road, Raymond, NH 03077.

 


School Board Seeks Facts About Tuitioning High Schoolers
By Leslie O’Donnell     7-16-18

Could Raymond high school students attend Pinkerton Academy at some time in the future? Saying they are regularly asked why Raymond does not offer tuitioned academy alternatives for its high school students, several Raymond School Board members advocated at the July 11 meeting for the administration to explore the option.

School Board chair Joe Saulnier placed the item on the agenda item and said the question has been raised several times and has not been examined for a long time.

Asked by School Board member Michele Couture to explain what he is seeking, Saulnier said he wants to know whether paying tuition to send Raymond students to area high school academies, specifically Pinkerton Academy in Derry or Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, would save money for Raymond taxpayers. Both are semi-public high schools.

Couture sought further clarification and asked, “Close our high school and tuition our students to another district?” and Saulnier agreed that was what he was asking, although he said Pinkerton and Coe-Brown are not part of individual school districts.

She immediately said she thought that would be a bad idea, but board member Janice Arsenault said the matter comes up every year at budget time, and should be examined. “We’re looking for answers,” Arsenault said.

Saulnier, saying he is seeking information, said, “I’d like to know the good, the bad and the ugly – how it would affect sports, class size, extra-curricular activities, etc.”

“We have no clue about the cost,” he added, noting that there would likely be extra expenses for such things as busing. Saulnier said in the past, he did not see any significant savings from such a proposal, but the information gathered could be presented to voters as an advisory warrant article.

“This would not be a vote this school board would have,” Saulnier said. “It would go on the ballot.”

Couture again said she considered the idea a “horrible option” and said she had been part of a school district where her children were tuitioned in and she had no voice in curriculum and other matters. “It was a huge issue,” she said.

Saulnier, however, said the matter should definitely be discussed. Arsenault suggested including other area high schools in addition to Coe-Brown and Pinkerton that might be receptive to having Raymond students tuitioned in.

“We need to let people know nothing is changing, but we’ll be looking into it,” board member Beth Paris said, and Saulnier emphasized it would be a several-year process.

Arsenault made a motion to have the administration investigate area high schools that might be willing to accept Raymond High students on a tuition basis, and Saulnier provided the second.

The motion was approved 4-1, with Couture opposed.

In other business at the July 11 meeting:

• Superintendent Tina McCoy discussed the Youth Educational Employment Service (YEES) caseworker position at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School. While the services of that contracted worker were described as invaluable, the position had been removed from the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

“We prepared it as part of the budget for last year but ultimately it was removed from the budget,” McCoy said. “I was asked to bring it up again and see if maybe we could share a YEES worker with Raymond High School, but they have so many students in need at the high school that it would not work. We haven’t been able to come up with a viable alternative to what was proposed last fall – and the money is not there.

“We’re going into a very lean year with high out-of-district placements, so it’s a challenge,” she added.

McCoy noted the caseworker works with up to nine at-risk students identified by the Student Intervention Team - students having major difficulties in such areas as attendance and achievement.

According to information provided for the FY19 budget, YEES is a New Hampshire state-certified adolescent therapeutic care program and a Medicaid provider, and can provide around-the-clock services including home visits and student transportation. Unlike other offerings in the state, YEES provides services to both students and families, and has data-proven success throughout New Hampshire in both student outcome and financial savings to school districts.

Middle school principal Bob Bickford said the YEES worker is involved with students with the highest risk of not being successful. He said he will ask to have the position included in the next budget. “Nine out of 10 times, it’s factors outside of school that put a kid with YEES,” he added.

Couture said she would like to try to find money to hire the YEES worker. “We have to be interventionist at an early age, because if we don’t do it now, we’ll be paying for it later,” she said. “If we can find the money, let’s do it.”

Couture asked McCoy whether savings in staff turnover, with long-term teachers retiring and teachers with fewer years of experience hired at a lower pay rate, would be enough to cover the position, and McCoy said that some hiring remained, so it was not yet clear. McCoy again noted that out-of-district placement costs would be a “challenge” this year.

“Eleven days into the new fiscal year, we don’t have the $62,000 available (for the YEES worker),” she said.

While Paris asked if the Town might have money for the position, McCoy said, “we really appreciate your support. We want to do this but I’m being conservative and the decision was made last year not to put money in for this, so it’s not available right now.

“I’m more than willing to look at every option we can,” she added.

• The board approved a motion to accept the 2018-19 Athletic and Extracurricular Eligibility Handbook. Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward said last year was the first for new eligibility requirements, and in spite of fears that they would decimate sports, that did not happen.

“No student at the end of the second quarter was ineligible,” he noted. “We raised the bar and our students responded to it.”

• The board approved a motion to accept the 2018-19 Employee Handbook. McCoy said the handbook is the product of several months of work to make a document that is consistent across the district. She said Jennifer Heywood, administrative assistant to the superintendent, and Karen Stuart, human resource coordinator, worked with the principals on the project.

Saulnier asked about the dress code and questioned whether a “no hat” requirement should be included for staff, as it is included for students in their handbook.

Couture responded that “we should treat staff as professionals, and I don’t want to go there.” Both the middle school and high school principals said staff wearing hats was not an issue and was covered under the “dress appropriately” policy.

Policy on wearing hats was not included in the handbook.

• The board discussed whether to approve a two-year extension of its bus contract or go out to bid. Board member Moe Titcomb advocated for going out to bid.

The board asked the administration to talk with its current provider to get financial details on the two-year extension, so it can then make a decision about whether to accept the extension or go to bid.

• The board approved an updated strategic plan, which McCoy said is different from those in the past because it includes a five-year vision and plan. The committee charged with coming up with the plan had the services of a facilitator from the New Hampshire School Boards Association.

The vision states: “uniting our school district and community to prepare students for future success; ready for anything.” The mission is: “to ensure high levels of learning for all. Through innovation and collaboration with our community, we will encourage and challenge each student with a rigorous and relevant program.”

One of the goals under curriculum is to develop and consistently implement a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program in Kindergarten-Grade 12. Curriculum Coordinator Michael Whaland said some teachers are using STEM kits and doing “good STEM things. It’s a case of putting it all together into a program. There are good things going on but to continue, we should focus on alignment from K-12.”

“I would add that we have a lot of wonderful things going on, but it’s all dependent on the teacher,” McCoy said. “We need to build sustainable programs with a philosophy and approach so that the program continues regardless of the teacher, to train people to be on the same page.”

• The board approved hiring Gwen Reed as English/language arts teacher at the middle school to fill a one-year leave of absence. Reed taught English in the district last year but her contract was not renewed because of a Reduction In Force (RIF).

• The board approved a staff/student identification procedures policy, school lunch program meal charges, and school year policy on second readings, and held first readings of policies on fire drills, fire safety and prevention, and buildings and grounds security, as well as the district’s Report Card to the Community. Saulnier asked that the Report Card include how much money the district gives back to the community (to put against the tax rate and into the CIP (Capital Improvement Program).

 


Part 1 - Raymond School Board OKs Technology Plan, Defeats Tech Funding
By Leslie O’Donnell   6-26-18

The Raymond School Board, with member Beth Paris absent, unanimously voted June 20 to approve the district’s three-year technology plan but defeated on a tie vote a proposal to fund current technology needs.

District Technology Director Kevin Federico presented the plan and said a committee had worked on the proposal throughout the past school year. He explained that as part of the process, the group reviewed the district’s previous technology plan, conducted a community survey concerning technology in the district, and then drafted the new plan with six goals.

Those goals are: a ratio of 1:1 digital devices to students; use of technology to promote parental involvement, enhance communication and foster collaboration with the community, other SAU (School Administrative Unit) 33 schools, the state and the global community; integrate use of technology and digital content with core curriculum and align with state and national standards to advance technology literacy and facilitate content learning; allow students in grades 5-8 to create and manage their digital portfolio, an electronic collection of their work; provide tools and training for all staff to establish a culture that effectively integrates technology and digital content into the curriculum; and conduct annual evaluations of action steps in the plan.

He described the plan as focusing on “catch-up” – replacing broken or outdated or failing hardware and software, and additionally, looking at updating district-wide software packages and funding a district-wide anti-virus program that currently does not exist.

“The committee identified the age and usability of the current hardware and made this a priority of the new plan,” Federico said. “They had significant concerns.

“The plan focuses on getting hardware and software and putting them on a life cycle,” he said. “Currently we have very old equipment.”

Superintendent Tina McCoy asked Federico to speak about the 1:1 program, which Federico explained can mean one device per student, with the student taking home the device and parents taking on liability for it. He said the committee did not think the youngest students needed such a program, and instead focused on that concept for fifth grade and up.

The plan states, “the Technology Committee firmly believes that a 1:1 computing environment is the most essential element to prepare our students for the future.” As a result, its first goal is to achieve a 1:1 digital device- to-student ratio, as developmentally appropriate.

“It would be a decision of the school board regarding how to approach 1:1 in Raymond – the committee did not want to choose a specific method,” Federico added, noting the committee instead outlined how that ratio could be reached. “It’s dependent on how much money you spend, and focuses on ramping up the number of devices in grades 5-8.”

He said that depending on student enrollment numbers, $30,000 was the placeholder used for the cost of buying Chromebooks for the middle schoolers.

“Over the last year, we’ve cleaned up a lot of the network deficiencies,” Federico added. “One of the biggest changes made this year was increasing bandwidth, with speed now one gig over one gig. “ As a result, he did not think the district would experience any impact from the proposed additional Chromebooks.

In response to a question from board member Michelle Couture regarding whether the committee looked at devices other than Chromebooks, Federico said that because the district uses Google Apps, using Chromebooks was cost-effective. He also noted that because the district uses Office 365, case managers and other staff would be able to run that program on a Chromebook rather than on a more expensive PC. Office 265 runs Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote.

Asked about the lifespan of a Chromebook, Federico said that depends on “use and abuse,” but said the average is four years. “My hope is to get four years,” he said.

Board member Janice Arsenault asked if the plan could start with grade 7 and be used through grade 12, but Federico reiterated that he did not see a Chromebook lasting more than four years.

The board also noted the importance of professional development programs for teachers to make the most out of the new equipment. McCoy said the district would have to develop an implementation plan in advance, with extensive professional development programs over a long period of time. “We would want the community to see the value of what we’re doing to enhance teaching and learning,” she said.

Couture added that in keeping with the increasing use of technology, she would like to see an increase in going paperless, such as turning in assignments electronically. “How can we be more green in our school?” she asked.

Board chair Joe Saulnier explained that the technology plan is an outline of “where we want to go. The last technology plan had no money associated with it so it didn’t really come to fruition.”

Federico said the plan was written to start in fiscal 2020, the 2019-20 school year, and go through 2021-22. He noted that the plan also includes hiring a technology integration specialist, a teacher who would work with other teachers to help them incorporate technology. That position is budgeted for $75,000 in its first year.

Couture moved, seconded by Arsenault, to accept the technology plan with amendments to the fiscal years involved to read 2019-2022, the addition of students in the “IT (information technology) is Fun Night,” and typo and formatting corrections. It was approved unanimously.

But the going was not so smooth for meeting current technology needs from the undesignated fund balance. Federico had been asked to outline current technology equipment needs that would align with the technology plan, and that might be considered for purchase if an undesignated fund balance were available and approved for use by the School Board.

Federico wrote in a memo and told the School Board that the technology plan committee had identified the age and usefulness of current hardware to be the greatest concern.

“The three-year plan focuses on getting both the hardware and software in the district to current standards and placing the hardware on a five-year life cycle schedule. This is emphasized as a budgeting priority over the three-year plan,” he wrote in his memo.

The areas identified were teacher machines, student Chromebooks, and administrative machines, and noted, with teacher machines, the need is to replace 110 devices at an estimated cost of $107,600. With less money, the district would replace fewer machines, with the new purchases replacing the worst machines first.

Federico said it would take three years to fully fund the district to current technology, and using unexpended funds would give the plan “a much needed jump start and move the district in the right direction. A significant portion of the 2018-19 technology budget will need to be spent on replacement parts…just to maintain a functional level throughout the district,” he wrote. “Replacing these machines proves to be more cost effective.”

He said that based on the approved 2018-19 budget, he would be purchasing 45 computers for teachers.

Arsenault spoke several times to express her discomfort with spending money she said the Town did not approve as part of the budget process, referring to the use of the unexpended fund balance. She said the funding for technology should be something the townspeople vote on.

Arsenault said she would like to see in next year’s budget something saying that if a surplus exists, a specific sum would be taken out and put into the technology capital reserve fund. “We put something in and the Town votes on it, yea or nay,” she said. Brickett said that could be done in a warrant article.

“I’m not denying your need at all but in my opinion these are budget items the Town can vote on,” Arsenault said.

Couture, however, said “part of our role is looking at what’s best for kids….We have the right to say we didn’t spend money (from the budget) here and want to reallocate it somewhere else. We are not asking for additional money.”

“It’s a bottom line budget,” Saulnier agreed.

Business Administrator Ron Brickett said that in his 12 years with the district, the board has not spent money out of the surplus except the previous week for ID cards.

He said he anticipates a surplus of approximately $150,000, minus the $50,000 already approved by taxpayers to put into capital reserve funds. “The surplus is much lower this year,” he noted, saying it was $835,000 last year and thus will have a “major effect” on the tax rate next year, possibly an additional 80 cents (per thousand). “

“If we had used the surplus in the past, we wouldn’t have had to increase the budgets at all,” Saulnier responded, noting that the surplus is part of the budget and thus was authorized by the voters.

Because that evening was the final school board meeting of the fiscal year, a decision on spending was required that night.

Couture moved, seconded by Saulnier, to expend $50,000 from the surplus to purchase teacher machines. The vote was 2-2, with Arsenault and Moe Titcomb opposed, sending the motion to defeat.

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Part 2 - New Elementary Unified Arts Schedule, New Handbooks in Raymond Schools
By Leslie O’Donnell   6-26-18

In the coming school year, Lamprey River Elementary School will have a new schedule for Unified Arts classes and each of the Raymond schools will have updated handbooks.

At the June 20 School Board meeting, Lamprey River Principal Bryan Belanger and staff highlighted changes to the school’s Unified Arts schedule for the coming year, expanding on a presentation made earlier in the year.

Belanger said he and Assistant Principal Laura Yacek visited other elementary schools as well as meeting with school staff to come up with creating
a rotating schedule, adding time for Unified Arts and classroom integration, renaming Health to Health Science, adding a social-emotional Unified Arts class with the guidance counselor, adding library support, and allowing for student choice.

The proposed schedule offers a six-day rotation, which alleviates the problem of Monday days off. “With a fixed schedule like we had, those who had PE (physical education), for example, on Mondays lost six class sessions this year, while those who had the class on Tuesdays only lost one class day,” Belanger said.

With the proposed schedule of a six-day rotation, the school could maintain its 40-minute classes with 5 minutes of transition time, and still add the social-emotional class, he said. In addition, the librarian would have time to collaborate with teachers.

He added that a big part of the proposal is the addition of the social-emotional guidance class with guidance counselor Laura Milner. She currently meets with grade 1 students once a week and other grades once a month.

“This model allows not just responding to a crisis but giving students a strategy before they need it – how to regulate emotions, how to deal with other students’ expression of emotions,” he explained, adding that the class would not be graded.

“The social/emotional needs in our school are tremendous, and this would be one way to help meet those needs,” Belanger said.

Board member Michelle Couture said she loved the concept of adding a social/emotional guidance class. She also emphasized that a para-educator could not by state law teach students, and Belanger said he hoped to provide the library with a para-educator for clerical support. “It is not our intention to have paras teach,” he said.

On a motion by Couture and second by Janice Arsenault, the board accepted the new schedule unanimously.

In other business:

The board heard presentations on new student handbooks for each of its three schools for the coming year. Superintendent Tina McCoy said she especially wanted to thank administrative assistant Jennifer Heywood for her work on the handbooks. The revisions were made to make the handbooks more uniform throughout the District in both content and format.

Changes include new vision statements for the elementary and middle schools, a grading section – updated for competency-based grading – for each school, the high school exam policy and procedure for exempting seniors from final exams, and the middle school dress code.

Concerning the final exam exemptions, the high school will allow seniors earning at least a 93, which is an A or “proficient with distinction,” to be exempt from taking a final exam in that course. The previous cut-off was 96.

Regarding the middle school dress code, the focus was more on avoiding public shaming and on giving students a chance to self-correct than on changes in attire. Middle school students took part in coming up with the revisions.

Arsenault noted the high school handbook fails to mention that hats are not allowed at the high school, which is board policy. That will be added to the handbook.

The board, on a motion by Arsenault, unanimously accepted all three handbooks with changes as discussed.

• The board held first readings on policies for staff and student identification, school lunch program meal charges, and the school year. The ID policy will state that students in grades 5-12 will be expected to wear ID cards at school during the school day. Concerning the school year, a change was made to state the district will adhere to a calendar based on the number of hours required by the state, rather than the number of days.

The lunch program charge policy is new, and addresses situations in which a student’s lunch balance is not paid. In elementary and middle school, a student requesting a meal will receive it – but not a la carte items – regardless of whether the student has money to pay for it or the account has an outstanding balance. In high school, students whose balance is $30 or above will not be allowed to charge any items. The policy explains how the district will seek to collect outstanding balances.

McCoy said that if the balance is not paid or a meal is not sent from home, she can pursue payment through small claims court.

Couture noted that the schools maintain a well-stocked food pantry in the nurse’s office, and a program is available in which food can be sent home for the weekend, when school meals are not available.

“It’s really important for the public to understand that the policy is not intended to keep food away but it is a matter of fiscal responsibility to the town, so that we don’t have to continually fund the Food Service budget because people are not doing their fair share,” she said.

• Business Administrator Ron Brickett presented the financial report for the 11 months ending May 31. He said the district collected $21,230,914 or almost 90 percent of receipts, with Medicaid reimbursements and indirect costs under budget. He said revenue is expected to come in very close to budget ($22,905,662) this year, with an anticipated $150,000 in surplus.

He said Special Education was about $400,000 over budget, and Food Services will receive a little over $46,000 from the General Fund.

• McCoy reported that the New Hampshire Executive Council approved an 80 percent grant for security projects at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School. The projects had been conditionally approved by the school board at the previous meeting.

• The board reviewed district investment policies, as required annually. Brickett did not recommend any changes.

• The board approved having the chairman sign the auditor engagement letter and the New Hampshire Department of Education general assurance letter.

• Arsenault told the board the district now has a proposed strategic improvement plan that will be presented at the July board meeting.

• Board chair Joe Saulnier thanked the board and district for a good academic year and again thanked Brickett, who is retiring June 30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lamprey River Elementary Fourth Grade Classrooms to Move to Main Building
By Leslie O’Donnell    6-20-18

A plan is coming for the new school year to move all fourth grade classes out of the portables and into the main building at Lamprey River Elementary School in Raymond.

At the June 13 school board meeting, Lamprey River Principal Bryan Belanger and Assistant Principal Laura Yacek discussed the plan, which has been in the works since winter vacation.

Belanger explained that the goal of the plan was to bring all five grade 4 classrooms into the main building. For the school year that just ended, five fourth-grade classes and one third-grade class were in the portables. The change will also mean bathroom and water access to grade 4.

In addition to moving the fourth grades into the main building, the plan calls for shifting speech, reading specialists, four case managers, a part-time math specialist and the mobile computer lab into the portables, putting all intervention teachers in a common area to work together, Belanger said. The portables will also house a conference room.

Superintendent Tina McCoy advised the board that the plan is an information item, not yet ”written in stone” and open to feedback. However, no board action is required.

As part of the shift, the preschool classrooms will be moved into the current computer lab and speech room in the front of the school to make room for two grade 4 classrooms. Belanger said the district would not have to do anything with the bathrooms other than moving stepstools from the current preschool bathrooms, and the only expense would be the addition of two changing tables.

Belanger added that they have identified areas in the main building to be used for preschool students and special education students whose needs mean they should not go outdoors to the portables.

“We believe moving the computer lab and the conference room outside into the portables makes more sense than having full grade classes there,” he said.

One parent told the board she was not comfortable with the plan, and noted issues with children who are “runners,” preschoolers, or youngsters with disabilities having to go to the portables for services.

Belanger responded that “a lot of thought” went into this proposal. It is not something that was just thrown together. The building will always have concerns, and as enrollment goes down, we should be taking additional steps to bring more programs inside.

“I think this is really an important step - to bring all the fourth graders inside,” he added. “We’re in a problem-solving mode, and that’s why we’re here.”

The presentation was followed by comments from resident Susan Caldwell, who had taken it upon herself to come up with a plan to eliminate the use of portables at the school. Earlier in the meeting, she had urged against moving the reading specialist to the portable.

She said that when she found out a plan was already in the works to take the fourth graders out of the portables, she was appreciative, and said she agrees with it. “Fourth graders should be part of the whole community,” she said.

“The biggest thing for me,” she said, “is that conservatively, there should be two more free rooms (in the main building) and two fewer teachers. She reviewed class sizes and said that putting fourth graders in four classes, rather than five, would bring class size to 22.5 students and could bring the reading specialist into the building.

She also questioned why the third grade had such a low student/teacher ratio. Board chairman Joe Saulnier explained that the class was the last one to have attended half-day kindergarten. And in terms of Caldwell’s urging that two more teachers be cut, he explained that the board cannot cut teachers at this time, as they have already re-upped their contracts.

“We’ll look at these numbers again at budget season,” Saulnier noted. “We cut two staff at the elementary school this year.”

Board member Beth Paris added, “A lot of people think things just happen arbitrarily, but there are rules that have to be followed.”

“Five classes for 85 to 91 students is unreasonable to the taxpayer,” Caldwell said.

However, board member Michelle Couture said that comparisons have to be made of apples to apples. “Some kids require a lot of extra attention and services, and that goes into the mix of a classroom and its size,” she said. “Our primary concern is what is best for students. What you are saying did not fall on deaf ears.”

Carol Watjus also spoke up to thank the administration for listening to residents and doing something about the portables. “I appreciate that you have come up with a solution that will help the majority of children in that school,” she said. “I want to thank you for listening.”

In other business:

• The board heard from several parents who protested the non-renewal of the contract of kindergarten teacher Michelle Blum. They offered extensive praise for Blum’s teaching and relationship with parents and students, and asked the board to reconsider its action.

One resident noted Blum was a union representative who spoke up for teachers, and had never been written up for any actions. Acknowledging the school is not obligated to give a reason for non-renewal, she said a number of teachers and parents are upset by the action, and pointed out that earlier that evening, Blum had been recognized for being nominated by her peers for the “You Make the Difference” award.

Her comments met with applause from the audience.

The board had no comment.

• After coming out of non-public session, the board opened the meeting with Saulnier noting that over the past month, many questions and comments had been made about bullying in the schools and the policy that governs the district. “We as a district take bullying very seriously,” he said, “and want to make the public aware of and understand our policy and the steps we take to protect our students and our district.” He said a public meeting would be scheduled at a future date on the district’s bullying policy.

During public input later in the evening, resident Tina Thomas said it was “disrespectful” that the school board had not made an effort to reach out to the parents who had spoken about bullying at the elementary school. She said the parents, who had withdrawn their students to homeschool them because of what they said were safety issues, had followed through with the board’s advice to request a non-public meeting, and said the meeting had been cancelled by the board at the last minute.

“Do their voices not matter anymore because they withdrew their children from the school district?” Thomas asked. “Do they not still pay property taxes?...The parents still want to have their say, and they want to listen to the school board’s response. Just because the families were being advised by legal counsel doesn’t mean they should not have been denied their voices. After all, the school board has access to legal counsel.

“The parents came to you, and you need to act,” she added. Saulnier interjected at that point to say it was a matter the board cannot talk about, to which Thomas responded that because it was being presented during public input, she had the right to speak.

When Saulnier repeated that the board could not talk about the matter, Thomas claimed the board could act on it and alleged that no one had reached out to the parents except to cancel the meeting. “That’s unacceptable,” she said.

And when Saulnier said he had done more than that, she responded, “baloney,” and said she would “follow that up when I get home to make sure that’s not a lie.”

Thomas also asked how many Facebook pages the district owns. She knew of the ones for each of the three schools and for the district, and asked about any other pages or groups sponsored by the district. Saulnier said as far as he knew, those four are the only ones.

She said she would “go out on a limb and listed other sites that she claimed were district sponsored. Saulnier said their administrators are not from the school district.

She concluded by telling Saulnier, “you need to get the kids out of the portables, you need to cut the budget for taxpayer relief, and you need to deal with these parents over bullying issues and talk to them and figure out how to fix the problem.”

• The board held a public hearing on several expenditures from capital reserve funds, with no one from the public speaking. Later in the meeting, following discussion, the board approved expending $70,282.92 to renovate two bathrooms and make them Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, and to install an epoxy chip floor, both at the elementary school; reconfiguration projects for safety measures at the middle school, for a total of $23,054; purchase of science textbook kits for Kindergarten through grade 5, for up to $16,000; a firewall replacement for $12, 515; and purchase of two ID printers and supplies, for up to $14,500.

Eighty percent of the cost of the safety projects at the middle school are expected to come from a Public School Infrastructure Grant that is anticipated to be signed by the New Hampshire Executive Council on June 20. That would leave the district cost at $23,054, and board approval was contingent on the awarding of the grant.

McCoy had requested three ID printers, but following discussion, the board approved purchasing two.

“We require students (other than elementary students) to carry a photo ID at all times,” she explained. “We don’t have to do this (printer purchase), but we have a policy making kids walk around with useless badges now, and I have a problem with that as an educator.” The proposed printed badges could be coded for lunch purchases and other uses.

Technology Director Kevin Federico elaborated on the printers and their cost. Paris suggested getting only one printer and keeping it at the district office as a pilot project.  Business Administrator Ron Brickett said if that were the plan, it should be paid for from the budget instead.

Couture moved to purchase two printers and supplies for up to $14,500, taken from the current budget.

 All expenditures were approved unanimously except for the ID printers; on that vote, Moe Titcomb was opposed.

• The board recognized six retirees leaving June 30: special education director Walter Anacki; para-educator Sandy Ellis, whom McCoy called “a true pillar of the community” and noted that she had been a school board member for 23 years; para-educator Barbara Gamelin; Judith Perry, a financial assistant in charge of payroll since 2015; middle school teacher Pat Popieniek, employed at Raymond since 1993, a former Teacher of the Year, and “mainstay” of the Lamprey River Ecosystem Project:” and business administrator Ron Brickett, leaving what McCoy called “the most important job in the district.” Employed since 2006, Brickett, who she said was “trusted and respected at the highest level,” will work part time in federal funds accounting for the district.

• Recognized the following employees as having been nominated by their peers for the “You Make the Difference” award throughout the year: Michelle Blum, Katie Bronson, Sandy Ellis, Julie Healey, Bob Lemoine, Lisa MacDougall, Ashley Meyer, Abigail Michaud, Joanne Morrison, Jessica Oakleaf, Emily Pattison, Alicia Rockenhauser, Laura Sforza and Dave Smith.

• McCoy reported on Raymond High School’s graduation and the 86 graduates of the Class of 2018.  She said 71 percent of the class applied to college; students received approximately $36,000 in local scholarships and more than $543,000 in scholarships from colleges.

• Research Assistant Sean McKinley of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center presented results of the town-school district survey. The survey results can be accessed at www.sau33.com and had a 14 percent response rate.

• The board heard a student-led presentation about the eighth grade trip to Ellis Island and Washington, D.C.

• McCoy noted that elementary school teacher Jessica Jortberg did not have her contract renewed because of a reduction in force, but with the retirement of Denise Santos, a position came open and Jortberg had the right to return. She will be back at Lamprey River for the coming year.

 


Raymond School District Hires Business Administrator
By Leslie O’Donnell     5-25-18

School Administrative Unit (SAU) 33 has hired a Business Administrator to replace Ron Brickett, who is retiring.

Marjorie Whitmore, who is currently business administrator at SAU 44 - a Kindergarten-Grade 8 district covering Northwood, Nottingham and Strafford – was approved for the Raymond post at the School Board’s May 23 meeting. She will receive an annual salary of $97,000, and will begin work July 1.

Superintendent Tina McCoy cited Whitmore’s experience in public school finance and said she comes highly recommended. “She’s just the right fit for this position,” McCoy told the School Board.

Earlier this spring the board had approved a replacement for Brickett, but she shortly thereafter turned down the position.

In other business at the May 23 meeting:

• The board, following a presentation by Lamprey River Elementary School and Iber Holmes Gove Middle School staff, unanimously approved a proposal to place those two schools on the trimester system starting in the fall. Currently, all core academic classes at Lamprey River are on the quarterly grading system; at the middle school that is the case as well, but with the majority of unified arts classes on the trimester system.

School officials noted that report cards are digital already.

Board member Janice Arsenault said the “days of paper report cards” are gone, and she noted that parents regularly check their children’s grades digitally. “There’s no more waiting for the report card to come home,” she said. “My hope would be to have the whole district on trimesters eventually.”

• Following a presentation by Raymond High School principal Steve Woodward, the board approved removing the Monday Morning Meeting from the high school schedule, and redistributing that time to classes.

• The board approved accepting donations from Hannaford Helps Schools for $1,000 to Lamprey River Elementary School, and a donation from Granite State Specialties of approximately 24 4x4 new tack boards and two 4x8 tack boards, similar to cork boards, with an approximate value of $2,800.

• The board waived policy to change the start of the June 13 board meeting to 6 p.m. The board earlier that evening held a first reading of a change in policy to start board meetings at 6 p.m.

Asked about the change by new board member Moe Titcomb, chairman Joe Saulnier said the meetings have consistently been lasting later. The change was approved unanimously.

• Arsenault noted that the Town-School District survey results have come in and are posted on the district and Town websites – www.sau33.com and raymondnh.gov - and a representative from the University of New Hampshire, which conducted the survey, will attend a future meeting.

• Arsenault also discussed a recent meeting of the District’s strategic planning committee, and announced that a community forum, with refreshments, will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. June 4. Residents are invited to attend at 5, 6 or 7 p.m. and meet with the committee to provide input on planning for the future.

• Raymond High School student representative to the board Jeffrey Rivard said the site council had been floating the idea of having a small greenhouse at the high school. He said the greenhouse could be attached to the school building and a gardening class and link to the science curriculum could be established.

The board members voiced approval for the idea, and Rivard said the site council will move ahead now that board interest has been expressed.

• Saulnier read into the record two letters of support for Lamprey River principal Bryan Belanger. At a previous meeting, three parents had expressed concerns about the school’s handling of alleged bullying incidents. The letters were written by Leann Hanson and Greg Dupuy, and cited a “positive upswing” at the elementary school since Belanger and Assistant Principal Laura Yacek have been there.

Hanson said that while people come to school board meetings to “gripe when they have a problem,” she wanted residents to hear about the good things that happen at the school. “I’m very grateful for all he does,” she said of Belanger.

• The board heard a presentation led by several fifth graders and fifth grade teacher Kristin Wallace about the fifth grade visit to Nature’s Classroom on Lake Ossipee in Freedom. Activities of the April 16-20 excursion including hiking, a science fair, science classes and experiments.

• Brickett presented the financial report for the month ending April 30, and said revenues continue to be in good shape, with 79.4 percent of the revenue in. He said lines over budget are special education services, special education out-of-district tuition, and food service contribution.

• Approved first reading of policies KD-R, School District Social Media Websites Regulations and IHCD Advanced College Placement. Following the second reading of policies ADB Drug Free Workplace and CCA-R Organization Chart, the board approved motions to accept the policies.

 


Teacher Cites Importance of Middle School Program Axed from Budget
By Leslie O’Donnell  5-18-18

Raymond resident Kristin Wallace approached the Raymond School Board at its May 16 meeting in an effort to clarify comments made at the previous board meeting about the YEES program at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School.

The YEES (Youth Educational Employment Service) program was offered at the middle school last year free of charge, but an effort to include it in the next budget was negated by the budget committee and it will no longer be part of the District’s
offerings.

At the previous School Board meeting, Special Education Director Walter Anacki had praised the YEES program, and Wallace said that may have left the erroneous impression that its work would be continuing.

Wallace, who teaches fifth grade at the middle school and has a child at that school, spoke during public forum. She noted that she heard Anacki talk about the YEES worker at the previous meeting and cite the “wonderful things he has done – and I’ve seen that first hand – and I want to make sure you know that you cut that position this year.

“As a parent, I’m concerned because the school counselor has lots to do already, and I’m concerned for the kids in my classroom who will miss the YEES worker,” she added. Later in the meeting she described the YEES worker as “invaluable” and “a really important person” at the school.

Board member Moe Titcomb asked why the position had been cut if the YEES worker were doing such a good job, and Wallace noted that residents tried to add funding for the post back into the budget at Deliberative Session, but that was not possible.

Superintendent Tina McCoy explained that YEES, which is not a grant-funded program, was operating at Raymond High School but did not provide all the hours planned. As a result, YEES offered to make up those hours by providing a free position at the middle school. The post had not been budgeted before for the middle school, and while it was proposed for the new budget, ultimately it was removed by the budget committee.

After Titcomb asked if the position could be added back, chairman Joe Saulnier noted the District operates on a bottom line budget and Titcomb could ask to discuss the matter via a Board agenda item.

In the report Wallace cited, Anacki wrote that “the YEES program at the middle school has had tremendous impact on the overall climate and culture in the school, as well as providing valuable and much-needed support to our families.”

According to budget documents from the School District, the YEES worker focuses 100 percent on students identified by the school’s Student Intervention Team as being in the greatest need for support and at the greatest risk of dropping out or not graduating with their class, and provides services to both students and their families to help the students meet the behavioral and academic goals of their IEP (individualized education program).

It was also cited as decreasing the likelihood of out-of-district placements (averaging $65,000 each). The proposed cost of the program is $62,000.

 


Raymond Parents Upset with Response to Alleged Bullying at School
By Leslie O’Donnell   5-5-18

Three parents addressed the Raymond School Board on May 2 to explain why they have removed their children from the School District and are now homeschooling them.

In an often emotional presentation during public comment, residents Dawn Leamer, Cassie Hammond and Nina Darisse said their elementary school-age children had been bullied, in some cases both verbally and physically, and when they complained to administrators, did not receive satisfactory results. The women said they felt compelled to homeschool their children to protect their safety.

Resident Tina Thomas, who had been a School Board member when the District’s anti-bullying policy was adopted in June 2012, brought the three parents to the School Board meeting. The District anti-bullying policy can be found on the School District website at www.sau33.com.

Board Chairman Joseph Saulnier repeatedly urged the parents to request a non-public meeting of the School Board to discuss their individual cases. He made it clear the Board could not discuss the accusations in public session.

“I implore anyone with an issue that is still going on, ask the School Board for a nonpublic meeting,” Saulnier said. “If you don’t come to us, we don’t know everything. We need to see both sides, and we’d be glad to hear any story so we can try to resolve the situation.

“We’re not really allowed to say anything right now because it should be in nonpublic,” Saulnier added.

Board member Beth Paris agreed with the parents that bullying is an issue in the Raymond District.

Among the accusations brought to the Board were:

• A child making threats to harm another child, with the resulting investigation saying the incident did not constitute bullying because it was not repetitive. A safety plan established as a result of the investigation was violated, the mother said, and her child was afraid to return to school.

• A child was allegedly verbally and physically bullied on the playground. The mother said the safety plan was repeatedly violated, so she removed her children from the Raymond schools, saying she did not feel safe sending her children there. She said the playground video was eventually shown to the Raymond Police School Resource Officer, who she said validated her concerns.

Thomas suggested that because Lamprey River Elementary School has relatively young and inexperienced teachers, that may play a part in what was being reported, and she suggested more teacher development time.

• A child was allegedly told by staff to stop “being a sneaky little liar” and to stop telling her parents “everything” after bullying incidents. The child’s parent said the incident was described by the school as an “altercation” or “misunderstanding,” not bullying. She also claimed a staff member grabbed her child’s arm.

Thomas reminded the Board of a lawsuit against the District involving bullying that occurred several years ago, and claimed that Lamprey River Elementary School has lost five children in the past two to three months to homeschooling because of bullying. She said residents contacted her and as a result, she brought the three women to the Board that evening, with more likely to follow.

“We have an issue in this District, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let this happen again,” she said, referring to the previous lawsuit.

When the parents concluded their remarks, Superintendent Tina McCoy asked to speak, but Saulnier said he would recommend she not do so, and she complied.

In other business at the May 2 meeting:

• John McDaniels, founder of Reach High Scholars, was recognized as the School District’s Champion for Children. McCoy said it would be hard to imagine any one person who has dedicated more time and creative energy to the youth of Raymond, and added that through that, the youth of Raymond have seen futures they did not think possible.

Reach High Scholars helps Raymond High School students gain acceptance into prestigious colleges, with significant scholarship aid.

McDaniels, who graduated from Raymond High, thanked the School District and those he calls his “posse,” who have worked with him on the program. He said that through the years, Reach High Scholars has worked with about 100 students, and 48 of them have gone on or will be going to top colleges, and all but one graduated on time in four years, which he said is “way beyond” the national average.

• Also recognized by the Board were Deb Dellas, administrative assistant at Lamprey River, who received the New Hampshire Association of School Principals; School Administrative Assistant of the Year award, and Veronica McNallen-Forman, guidance counselor at Lamprey River, who received the Excellence in Guidance award from the New Hampshire Association of School Counselors. Both women received flowers from the District.

• Tina Thomas spoke during public comment to ask the board to do something about what she said had previously been called “deplorable, horrible portables.”

“I’m hoping you will proceed to discuss options to get rid of the portables (at Lamprey River),” she said.

• Heard an update from Special Education Director Walter Anacki, He said there will be impacts on the budget from increasing Special Education student numbers. A report he submitted shows Special Education numbers higher than the state average, with a total of 287 students identified, a 1 percent increase.

Numbers as of April show 13.2 percent students identified with autism, compared to the state average of 10.1 percent; 13.9 percent with developmental delay, compared to the stage average of 12.7 percent; 3.9 percent with emotional disturbance, compared to 6.9 percent statewide; 2.8 percent with intellectual disability, tied with the state average; 16.1 percent with speech or language disability, compared to 14.8 percent statewide; 30.6 percent with a learning disability, compared to 31.4 percent statewide; 17.8 percent with “other health impaired,” compared o 18.2 percent statewide; and 2.1 percent in the “other” category, compared to 2.6 percent statewide.

His report noted that preschool referrals have increased “significantly,” requiring additional staff and resources, and an increasing number of students have been placed out of district.

• McCoy and Facilities Director Todd Ledoux discussed the ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) program, which would replace the District’s emergency response to potential violence.

McCoy said ALICE offers a different philosophy of response. Ledoux noted that Raymond schools have been using the traditional lockdown approach but would like to move toward the new system, which he said teaches children life skills that can be applied in a variety of emergencies.

The board approved the transition to the new program.

• Saulnier raised questions about the competency based grading program being implemented, and McCoy, Curriculum and Instruction Director Michael Whaland and Brittany L’Heureux from Raymond High provided responses.

• McCoy noted the District is starting a strategic plan update, and said the District needed a five-year vision. The administrative leadership team will meet May 11, with future meetings of the strategic planning committee set for May 22, June 4, and June 16.

• The Board accepted a donation of $1,509 to Lamprey River Elementary School from the Hannaford Helps Schools program.

• The Board heard a first reading of a Drug Free Workplace Policy revision, reflecting changes in state and federal law, and of a revised organizational chart.

• The Board heard from McCoy that Bonnie Sandstrom, who was under contract to start work July 1 as business administrator, had resigned. The Board accepted her resignation.

The Board also hired an eighth grade teacher for Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, to replace a teacher who is retiring.

• The Board heard a presentation from music teacher Randy LaCasse and students about the band’s recent trip to Philadelphia.

• McCoy told the Board that every teacher in the district, except for one who is retiring, returned contracts for employment this year. She noted that positions are open for a Licensed Practice Nurse, Registered Nurse, custodian, information technology technician, Title I tutors and para-educators, as well as business administrator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top of Page

     

Raymond School Board Members

Joseph Saulnier
J.Saulnier@sau33.com

Janice Arsenault
j.arsenault@sau33.com

Michelle Couture
m.couture@sau33.com

Beth Paris
b.paris@sau33.com

Moe Titcomb
m.titcomb@sau33.com

To email the entire Board: schoolboard@sau33.com.

Emails sent to more than one Board Member may be subject to disclosure under the NH Right to Know laws.


Click
Raymond SCHOOL DISTRICT website
for more information.


Click
Raymond High School
for RHS news & information.


Click
Iber Holmes Gove Middle School
for IHGMS news & information.


Click
Lamprey River Elementary School News
for LRES news & information.


Raymond School District
   Job Postings.


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RHS Alumni Association News
for Alumni Assoc information


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