2019 Raymond School Board Meetings


School Opening August 28, 2019 Was Successful
By Penny Williams   9-9-19

The Raymond School Board heard from the three Raymond school principals, on Wednesday, September 4, regarding the opening of school and overall it was a successful opening.

Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward said  there were 107 students involved in athletics or 30 percent of the high school students.

Board member Janice Arsenault asked for a future breakdown by sport of the number.

Woodward said there were new staff including teachers Marc Belanger - Social Studies, Jennifer Deardorff -  REAP (Reserve Educational Assistance Program), Emily Denn - Connections Program, Barbara Gamlin and Gaybriel Stevens - Para-Educators, Graham Phillips - Case Manager, as well as a new school nurse, Mark Hastings, and ELO (Extended Learning Opportunity) Coordinator, Holly Longo.

He was asked to provide the board with what the ELO would be offering this year at a future meeting.  ELO  refers to programs and learning experiences that allow students to earn academic credit inside or outside of school

Woodward admitted there were a few minor issues but they were resolved and it went well. He indicated that Competency Based Grading would be implemented this year and refined at the end of the year based on the year's experiences. He said lunch times had been tweaked and that Open House was scheduled for September 17 at 6 p.m.

For enrollment he said 9th grade has 115 students, 10th grade has 105, 11th grade has 86, and 12thgrade has 61 for a total of 367 students.

There was an extensive discussion about getting student picture ID's with the probability student id's won't get new pictures until October. Several suggestions were put forward as to how to handle this differently so next year student ids would have their current pictures at the beginning of the school year, not two months into the year.

Superintendent Tina McCoy said that with the state changes in regulations regarding days counted and make up days she is able to set the 2020 graduation date right now, It will be held on June 12.

Iber Holmes Gove Middle Principal Bob Bickford said school got off to a good start with 20 more students than predicted and 13 new staff. He said he has 401 students with 91 in fifth grade, 107 in sixth grade, 101 in seventh grade, and, 102 in eighth grade. He said he was pleased with the new IT teacher but that he was still in need of some para-educators.

He said he had reviewed the school's philosophy of Responsibility, Cooperation, and Respectfulness with the students.

Lamprey River Elementary School Principal Laura Yacek said there was a huge turnout for the PTA Ice Cream Social on Tuesday, August 27.  She said she is starting the year with 3 new classroom teachers, 3 new case managers, 1 new school counselor, 1 full time math interventionist, 7 para-educators and 1 LPN.

She indicated that STAR and Dibels benchmark testing would begin immediately and the Foundations Reading Program was being implemented in PreK through 2 grade. She also said the school is moving to a 5 day rotation for Unified Arts.

The LRES Open House is scheduled for September 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Her enrollment includes 46 students in PreK, 108 students in Kindergarten, 107 students in grade 1, 83 students in grade two, 84 students in grade 3, and 89 students in grade 4. This is a total enrollment of 517 students, up from 500 last year.

School Board Chair Joe Saulnier said the overall enrollment is up by 26 students with the high school down by 18, middle school up by 21 and elementary up by 17.

Curriculum Director Michael Whaland said ALICE,  Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate,  had been presented to the faculty and the new approach to student-teacher interaction is being implemented throughout the district that involves students being greeted at the door by teachers with instructional outcomes being evident in classrooms, and all educators are being expected to actively interact with students.

Celeste Clark, Director of the  Raymond Coalition for Youth  gave a presentation demonstrating the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for the Middle and High School.

     She reminded the board the Coalition had been created because at the time Raymond students were found to have a very high rate of drug and alcohol involvement. Her presentation reported that the alcohol, and marijuana use trends are headed down with cigarette use down but vaping up 3 percent and 41 percent of students admitted to having used vaping material.  The vaping will need to be monitored but the overall area was considered to be headed in a positive direction except for vaping.

Suicide showed that 14 to 17 percent injured themselves, 15 to 18 percent did so seriously and 6 to 8 percent actually committed suicide. Support for students in this area is critical.

Clark indicated that safety infractions and bullying were trending down, with onsite bullying and electronic bullying both down. She said vaping in bathrooms is being monitored. There are plans to address the students at Middle and High School on the vaping issue and it was thought that using student experiences with vaping would be one way to raise awareness.

   In other business:

• The board discussed the Superintendents evaluation dates and decided that the forms, which are available now, are due to be returned by the board members by September 27 and the Evaluation hearing will be held on October 3, at 7 p.m. in the middle school. The board approved these dates.

•There was a discussion of the New Hampshire School Board Association call for Resolutions. The NHSBA is now accepting proposed resolution submissions by its member schools. Saulnier shared a letter he had received on the subject and asked members if they had any resolutions they wanted the board to recommend at the NHSBA meeting. Arsenault and other members said they would like to see something put forward that made the Legislature and the Governor support Education. Suggestions should be submitted to Saulnier.

•The board reviewed four policies for a second read  and approved the changes as presented for policy ADC Tobacco Products Ban and the language change to policy IQ Class Size. The other two policies were approved and there were no changes. The board then looked at the new and revised policies put forward for the first read. There was a brief discussion regarding policy KEE Website Accessibility and Grievance.  

This proposed new policy represents the NHSBA model policy in its entirety. As per NHSBA "this policy was created to reflect the legal requirements of the ADA and other state and federal laws website accessibility for individuals with disabilities or who are members of other protected classes." This proposed policy has been review by the Technology Director and a Website Accessibility Complaint/Request Form will be developed upon policy approval.

•The board learned about a donation from Timothy Boynton, son of a longtime elementary school teacher, Susan Boynton. He wants to establish an annual award for an LRES employee to be put toward classroom or school supplies.

The board was asked to approve the acceptance of the $1,000 donation in supplies to LRES  and the board approved it. There will be a later discussion and consideration of a plaque regarding the donation.

•The board approved acceptance of Palmer Gas and Oil recommended bid amounts for propane and heating oil for the period October 1 through April 30, 2020 presented by Marjorie Whitmore, Business Manager.  Propane would be a fixed price of $1.60 per gallon which is 10 cents less than last year and #2 heating oil would be a fixed price of $2.599 per gallon which is 20 cents less than last year.

•The board was given the bus route information and apprised of the minor changes that were put in place. The board approved the routes as presented and checked beforehand by the Superintendent.

 


Vacant Raymond School Board Seat Filled
By Penny Williams   9-3-19

        The Raymond School Board interviewed three candidates to fill the open slot on the board Wednesday evening, August 28 and after a brief non-public session emerged to appoint the candidate.   

        The Board had previously voted to direct its attorney to go to New Hampshire Superior Court to seek Moe Titcomb’s removal from the Board because of his  poor attendance and his refusal to resign. However, Board chairman Joe Saulnier announced July 29 that Titcomb had resigned. He went on to add that it was the Board’s responsibility to appoint a replacement member; if it failed to do so, that duty would fall to the Board of Selectmen. The Board at that time decided to make a nomination decision at its Aug. 28 meeting. The new Board member would serve until the March election, when a one-year term would be open. Qualifications to serve are Raymond residency and being at least 18 years old.

The board Wednesday evening asked the same questions of each of three candidates, Anthony Conchiglia, a young college student who had gone through Raymond schools, Josephine Marotte, a resident interested in giving back to her community, and Melissa Sytek, a teacher from another district.
      
Afer the board came back from non-public Saulnier announced the decision of the board was to appoint Melissa Sytek to become a board member and invited her to stay through the meeting although she couldn't participate until she was sworn in.
 
   In other business:
     • Michelle Horowitz was nominated to fill the open Iber Holmes Middle School  Music position at a salary of $43,703. The board approved the appointment and Horowitz will start immediately.
   
     •Business manager Marjorie Whitmore reviewed the MS-25 and the DOE-25 for the board. There were no figures provided but after both were reviewed in summary fashion, the board voted to approve and sign the MS-25 and the DOE- 25. The board did ask for additional information regarding why special and regular programs differed at the three different schools. That information wasn't available but the board was told they would receive information on this at a future meeting.
    
   •  During the review, it was noted that the Food Service costs have risen by about $20,000 annually and board members raised concerns about being over budget. There was a discussion about whether food the students really will eat would be less expensive to buy since there would be less thrown away but it was pointed out the issue isn't the disposal of  food but rather the need to get more students and staff to buy the meals. It was suggested that a focus group  be created made up of students and staff to work with food service to address the issues of food selection and how to increase meal purchases by both students and staff.

    It was also noted that there have been donations received from Raymond residents to offset the student meal debt. The donations have to be applied to that debt. It was also noted that Food Service has made some adjustments to ensure that it is not over staffed and that staff is actually located where they are needed.
 
     • There was a discussion about the unassigned fund balance that is at $555,776 from which $75,000 was previously transferred to the Equipment, Facilities and Maintenance  Capital Reserve Fund leaving $480,776 in the unassigned balance fund. The board can retain $195,000 which would leave $285,776 as the unassigned fund balance. The board voted later not to increase the amount retained.
  
 
     • The Budget Development Planning Work Session reviewed the current budget of $23,937,215 which when the $577,956 for food service is added plus $720,000 from federal grants is a total of $25,230,571that was approved last year.
  
     • Looking ahead Whitmore reviewed costs for the coming budget including the contract for the Raymond Education Association which would add a 3.3 percent increase for the third year of the contract; a 9.81 percent increase for the second year of the Raymond Educational Support Staff contract; a 4.5 percent increase for the Dail Bus contract; a 3 percent increase of the Durham Bus contract; and, a 3 percent increase for Dental insurance costs. The Palmer Oil Company oil costs are expected to be at $2.599 per kilowatt hour if the board votes to approve that contract at the next meeting. Also included was a decrease in bond interest of  are $8,000 as well as increased out of district costs of $109,000 and increased transportation increases of $25,000 due to move ins. The estimated overall increase comes to 3.7 percent which would have a tax impact of $1.01.
 
  The board discussed when the delivery of their budget information would be provided to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee wanted the information early, by or before November 15 but the board decided to stick to their plan to have the information to the Budget Committee by the day before Thanksgiving of November 27.
 
  The next School Board meeting will be September 9.


Raymond High School Receives Accreditation Through 2029
By Leslie O’Donnell   8-19-19

School Board members heard a review of the accreditation process for Raymond High School at their Aug. 14 meeting, with RHS Principal Steve Woodward announcing that the school is accredited through 2029.

The review, conducted by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), resulted in the accreditation status. The full report issued by NEASC is available at the RHS website at www.sau33.com/RHS under “our school.”

Woodward said preparations for the NEASC review began on Election Day 2016. “It was a long journey for us,” he said, “and overall, it was a really beneficial process. It caused us to reflect on everything we do. The bottom line and the good news is that we are now accredited until 2029.”

The school will be coming up with both a two-year and a five-year plan for addressing issues pointed out by NEASC. The review process allows the school to find out what it is doing well, in addition to areas needing work. “There were a lot of recommendations, and a lot of commendations,” he said.

Evaluators considered teaching and learning standards – core values and beliefs about learning, curriculum, instruction, and assessment of and for student learning, as well as support standards – school culture and leadership, school resources for learning, and community resources for learning.

Recommendations included providing students with more cross-disciplinary learning, which Woodward said is being worked on with English/social studies and math/science combinations.

“Our electronic doors and badges impressed them,” Woodward said of the evaluators. “And we offer as many courses as schools like Sanborn, which are bigger.” Freshman Academy and freshman orientation also received commendations, along with JumpStart, which Woodward hopes can be moved into the school year from summer, to attract 100 percent of the class.

“We have a lot of things to celebrate, and a lot of things to improve,” he concluded.

In other business:

• Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore presented a summary of year-end financials for the 2018-19 school year. General Fund revenues ended $139,454 over budget, mainly due to receiving additional money from tuition and impact fees.

Expenditures from the General Fund ended the year $155,216 under budget, mainly due to salaries and benefits, the result of hiring people at lesser pay than their predecessors and not hiring for certain positions.

However, the General Fund contribution to Food Service totaled $81,798, an increase of $15,165 from the previous year.

Board member Janice Arsenault asked what could be done to cut the amount of General Fund transfer for Food Service, and chairman Joe Saulnier responded, “we either sell more food or raise prices 30 percent.” He termed it a Catch-22 situation.

Whitmore said she wondered whether the price increase for meals last year contributed to a reduction in the number of meals sold, and board member Beth Paris asked whether the reason could be food choices.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said the deli at the high school is very popular, and she has asked about instituting a deli bar at the middle school as well, although that would require more staff.

Referring to an effort a few years ago to outsource Food Service, which was strongly defeated at the polls, Paris asked if that could be examined again.  Saulnier said Food Service staff comprise the biggest group of Raymond residents working for the School District, and said that had been an emotional vote.

Whitmore said she could explore the possibilities of outsourcing.

• The Board discussed with Whitmore the retention of surplus funds, and voted unanimously, with Michelle Couture absent, to transfer $75,000 from surplus funds to the Equipment, Facilities and Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund.

• The Board discussed possible changes to the Superintendent Evaluation Policy, and examined policies from other districts as well as from the New Hampshire School Boards Association. McCoy will continue to look at the policy and see about including stakeholder feedback, and conducting the evaluation annually. The proposed policy changes will go back to the policy committee to put toward their final recommendation before the board votes on it, Saulnier said.

• The Board held first readings of policies on Nicotine/Tobacco Products Ban, Class Size, Change of School or Assignment, and Manifest Educational Hardship.

Concerning class size, after some discussion, the policy will state that minimum class size would be 12, with exceptions to that number possible for good cause by the action of the Superintendent, in consultation with the Board. The proposed policy change had stated minimum class size would be 10 percent of the number of students at that grade level.

The policy also states minimum class size guidelines will not apply to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, upper level foreign language classes or other “specialized instructional” classes. That latter category was changed by the Board to “remedial “classes.

The Board also held second readings and unanimously approved policies on Minutes, Public Participation at Board Meetings, and Emergency Plans, as well as repealing the policy on Crisis Prevention and Response.

• The Board approved the hiring of Marcie Nee as special education teacher/case manager at Lamprey River Elementary School, at an annual salary of $62,643, effective Aug. 14.

• The Board accepted the retirement of Deborah Potter as music teacher at Lamprey River Elementary School, effective Aug. 14, and accepted the resignation of Emily Pattison, second grade teacher at Lamprey River, effective Aug. 14, upon payment of liquidated damages. Staff must let the District know by a specific date whether they are leaving, and if they do not do so, a $1,000 payment – liquefied damage - is due to the District unless waived by the School Board.

• McCoy noted the Lamprey River Building Committee has met for the first time, and reviewed its charge, from the Board; took part in a detailed tour of the elementary school, led by Facilities Director Todd Ledoux; and elected Carlos Maldonado as chair, Ken Hajjar as vice chair, and Beth Clark as secretary. Because the Board has an even number of voting members, the group decided that in the event of a tie, Ledoux, who is also a Raymond resident, would cast the deciding vote.

• Saulnier announced that Sarah Maldonado has resigned from the Budget Committee, leaving one vacancy.

• The Board will hold budget discussions Oct. 21 and 23.


Applicants Sought for Raymond School Board Vacancy
By Leslie O’Donnell     8-5-19

Raymond residents wishing to fill the School Board seat vacated July 29 by Moe Titcomb can submit applications to the School Administrative Unit (SAU) office by 8 a.m. Aug. 23. The Board hopes to appoint a new member at its Aug. 28 meeting.

At its previous meeting, the School Board voted 4-0, with Titcomb absent for the seventh consecutive meeting, to direct its attorney to go to New Hampshire Superior Court to seek Titcomb’s removal from the Board. He had been repeatedly asked to resign because of his poor attendance and declined to do so.

Board chairman Joe Saulnier announced July 29 that Titcomb had resigned that day. Saulnier said Titcomb submitted a letter of resignation that he asked to have read verbatim, in spite of its personal content, at the July 31 Board meeting. In that letter, Titcomb said his decision to resign before his term was up was “very hard,” but explained that his wife had “decided to go behind my back and see other men.” He said she left him, and he has had to work extra hours to pay their bills.

“I want to apologize to the Board and to the citizens of Raymond,” he wrote, adding that he intended to move out of town.

Saulnier said it was the Board’s responsibility to appoint a replacement member; if it failed to do so, that duty would fall to the Board of Selectmen. The Board settled on making a nomination decision at its Aug. 28 meeting, and called for letters of interest to be in the hands of Jennifer Heywood, administrative assistant to the Superintendent, by 8 a.m. Aug. 23 at the SAU office. Applicants will be interviewed in public session by the Board at the Aug. 28 meeting, after which the Board will enter non-public session with the intent of selecting a nominee.

The new Board member would serve until the March election, when a one-year term would be open. Qualifications to serve are Raymond residency and being at least 18 years old.

The Board also discussed its CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) needs.  Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore presented spreadsheets on the CIP showing proposed expenses now through the 2028-29 school year, and noted the Textbook fund had been zeroed out and closed this year; textbook purchases now come from the General Fund.

Among projected expenditures from the CIP for the 2020-21 school year are a wireless environment district-wide, food warmers at the high school and Point of Sale terminals for Food Service.

Energy Efficient Investments (EEI) were listed separately, as well as work needed at Lamprey River Elementary School, the latter due to the establishment of the LRES Building Committee. An EEI representative will be asked to attend a School Board meeting in September or October.

Whitmore said she just learned Raymond High School needs a new fire pump, costing $25,000 to $30,000, which would pump water into the school. Facilities Director Todd Ledoux said the water system was designed around the fire pump because Town water capacity is not enough to supply water to the school. The Board agreed to put the fire pump in the CIP.

Saulnier said he would like to see the CIP funded at last year’s amount, which was $333,076.

“I’d rather put money in instead of having it go up and down,” he said.

“If we do that, we can build it up slowly, which is more in the spirit of what we want to be doing,” Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said. “That way we can save money for projects.”

Also discussed were upgrading water fountains in the three schools to those that fill water bottles. That would cost $2,000 each, and $1,000 for installation. Ledoux said the middle school has one such fountain already; the high school and elementary school have two each. “They’re used quite a bit,” he said, adding in response to a question that there are 14 water fountains that are not currently  water bottle fillable.

Couture said this type of water fountain is part of the Go Green effort, and all Board members said they were in favor of adding them, although Couture said they do not meet the 10-year threshold for the CIP and may have to go in the General Fund.

Ledoux will research the lifespan of the fountains and whether the $21,000 cost should be in the General Fund or CIP.

Technology Director Kevin Federico said the District now has new wireless at the elementary and high schools, and on Aug. 2, it would be installed at the middle school. “I anticipate getting at least five to seven years for them,” he said.

He would like to look at hard-wiring and cleaning up the wiring at the high school, which would cost $40,000, and would fall into the CIP’s “non-recurring rehabilitation of a facility” category. The sum of $25,000 that had not been used in technology would be reallocated toward the $40,000 wiring cost, meaning an increase of just $15,000 for that work.

McCoy noted that some computers were taken out of the technology budget and put in the General Fund, in the spirit of transparency.

The Board also decided to move the remaining two elementary school bathroom upgrades to Americans with Disabilities (ADA) standards to the 2020-21 school year.

Saulnier summarized that with the changes discussed, the proposed CIP now stands at $295,025, with Ledoux to bring back the cost of paving the bus lanes and staff parking area at the elementary school and information about projected lifespan for bottle-refillable water fountains. The goal is to keep the CIP at last year’s level.

In other business:

• The Board unanimously approved a proclamation calling on Governor Chris Sununu to support immediately the increased education aid outlined in House Bills 1 and 2 of the 2019 Session of the General Court. The proclamation was requested by Board member Michelle Couture.

Sununu had earlier vetoed the proposed state budget, which, had it passed, would have provided Raymond with just under $1.3 million in additional education funding. “That would have made a tremendous difference for our students and for property tax relief in town,” Couture said. “As School Board members, we have an obligation to stand up for public education. I think we need to take a stand and tell (Sununu) he needs to stand up for the children of this state, and to ask him to support increased education aid in HB 1 and 2.”

The proclamation notes that “the responsibility of funding an adequate education currently falls disproportionately on local property taxpayers,” and also states “the state continually downshifts costs onto local municipalities and school districts.”

The proclamation concludes that “the increased aid is needed by local property taxpayers, New Hampshire’s school children and as required by the New Hampshire Constitution.’

• The board approved with regret the resignation, effective immediately, of Alicia Rockenhauser, band and chorus teacher at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School. She has accepted a position as band director at Bow High School.

“We’re all sorry to see her leave,” Saulnier said, and his fellow Board members echoed his comment. “She has improved the middle school band tremendously.

• The board approved the hiring of Mark Hastings at an annual salary of $45,000 as nurse at Raymond High School; current para-educator Denise Bissonnette as math teacher at RHS at an annual salary of $34,506; and Jennifer Deardorff as special education teacher/case manager at RHS at an annual salary of $49.825.


Raymond School District Seeks Board Member Following Resignation of Titcomb    7-29-19

Chairman Joe Saulnier reports that the Raymond School Board will be seeking a new member following the resignation of Maurice Titcomb.

Titcomb submitted his resignation to the School Board on Monday, July 29,
citing personal reasons.

"We are thankful for the time Moe was able to give this board and the
citizens of Raymond," School Board Chairman Saulnier said. "We are sorry he
had to leave because of personal reasons and wish him the best in all his
future endeavors."

Titcomb's term began in March 2018 and was scheduled to end in March 2021.
He previously served on the Board from 2007-2010 and 2012-2013.

The School Board will discuss the next steps to fill the open seat at its
meeting on Wednesday, July 31, which will be held at the Raymond High
School Media Center at 6 p.m.

Anyone with questions is encouraged to call School Board Chair Saulnier at
603-560-2051.


School Board Goes to Court to Seek Titcomb’s Removal
By Leslie O’Donnell     7-26-19

After Raymond School Board member Moe Titcomb missed his seventh consecutive meeting July 24, his four fellow board members unanimously approved motions that evening to amend the agenda and to ask their attorney to go to New Hampshire Superior Court to ask for Titcomb’s removal from office.

The removal motion was made by chairman Joe Saulnier and seconded by Janice Arsenault, and was approved 4-0.

“We have not seen him,” Saulnier said. “It’s time for us to take action.”

Saulnier said Titcomb had sent him emails saying he planned to attend a particular meeting and then did not show up. “We sent him a letter about this, and he refused to accept the letter,” Saulnier added.

Titcomb has a year and a half left on his term, Saulnier noted. He said after the meeting that Titcomb has missed about 42 percent of the meetings since he was elected, and has attended only one out of eight meetings this term.

As previously reported in Raymond Area News, the School Board took action May 15 to address Titcomb’s repeated absences. At that time, Saulnier said he had made it clear to Titcomb that he would ask him to resign, so he could leave on his own terms, but Titcomb declined to do so. Titcomb had said he would attend the May 15 meeting but did not do so, instead saying he would sign a letter stating that if he missed one more meeting, it would be considered his resignation. The Board had voted 4-0 to support writing such a letter. Titcomb declined to accept that letter.

Titcomb’s repeated absences were mentioned by a member of the public at the March 6 School Board meeting. Saulnier said that after that meeting, Titcomb said he would do a better job of attending, but did not do so. At the May meeting, Saulnier said the lack of attendance shows neglect of Titcomb’s oath of office and was a “gross dereliction of duty.”

School District policy states “the School Board recognizes that the consistent attendance of Board Members at Board meetings is essential for the efficient, effective operation of the Board’s duties as well as fulfilling our individual obligations as elected officials….The Chair and Vice Chair will formally question any Board Member who misses three consecutive regular meetings or more than 30 percent of meetings, of reasons for absences. The Board may then take such action that is appropriate.”

Additional policy states “Each member is obligated to attend Board meetings regularly.”

Asked after the meeting whether Raymond residency was required of a School Board member, Saulnier said it was indeed required. He said Titcomb’s legal residency is Raymond.

And asked about School Board members’ stipends, Saulnier said each member receives $1,500 per year; payments are made twice a year, in March and September, and are signed off on by the School Board.

Saulnier said the Board has looked at both of the above issues in this matter.

A call by Raymond Area News to Titcomb for comment was not returned.

In other business:

• School will be in session starting Wednesday, Aug. 28.

• The Board approved appointing residents Michael Manley and Beth Clark to the Lamprey River Elementary School Building Committee. That brought the number of community members on the committee to six, which Saulnier pointed out could result in a tie. The Board also voted to change the community membership from five to six.

The community members on the committee, in addition to Clark and Manley, are Ken Hajjar, Carlos Maldonado, Shelley Roy and Richard Senecal.

After discussion, Board member Beth Paris suggested talking about the number of members at the committee’s first meeting, and establishing procedures for breaking a tie.

• Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland presented an update to the Board. He reviewed preliminary New Hampshire Statewide Assessment System (SAS) results for Raymond, although the state percentages and comparable school percentages were not available yet. The percentage of Raymond third graders scoring proficient or above was 47 percent in math; and stood at 48 percent for Grade 4, 38 percent for Grade 5, 25 percent for Grade 6, 49 percent for Grade 7 and 45 percent for Grade 8. On the College Board test, the percentage of Grade 11 students scoring proficient or above was 33 percent.

In English Language Arts, the percentage of Raymond third graders scoring proficient or above was 41 percent. In Grade 4, it was 41 percent, Grade 5, 62 percent; Grade 6, 40 percent; Grade 7, 57 percent; and Grade 8, 55 percent. For Grade 11 on the SAT, it was 58 percent.

In science, 40 percent of Raymond fifth graders were proficient or above; while 46 percent of eighth graders and 23 percent of 11th graders were proficient or above.

Saulnier asked Whaland about the sixth grade’s low math scores and noted that the number of sixth graders on the honor roll was quite low as well. Whaland said he was aware of the numbers and was looking into it

• Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy and Whaland discussed the District’s Strategic Plan. Minor adjustments to the plan were discussed and approved by the Board. The first year of the five-year plan is complete.

Among the items discussed was McCoy’s interest in designating a volunteer coordinator in each of the schools. In response to a question from Arsenault, McCoy said she had not made up her mind as to whether that should be a stipended position.

The main goal of the plan is that by 2023, at least 80 percent of all students in Kindergarten-Grade 12 will demonstrate mastery of grade level standards in reading, writing and math.

Saulnier asked if the plan’s expectations were so high that they could not be achieved, but both Whaland and McCoy said they did not think they were. “It’s  not an easy goal, but it’s not unreasonable to set high goals,” Whaland said. McCoy added that it generally takes at least three years for meaningful change to occur.

• The Board approved the hiring of Brian Person as a special education teacher/case manager at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, at an annual salary of $42,350.

• The Board approved the resignation, effective Aug. 2, of Amy Michaud, special education teacher at Lamprey River.

• The Board unanimously approved the second reading of policies on a Drug Free Workplace/Drug Free Schools, and on Data Governance and Security.

• The Board held a first reading of policies on Minutes, Public Participation at Board Meetings, and Emergency Plans, and repeal of a policy on Crisis Prevention and Response, as the substance of that policy is included in the Emergency Plans document.

• The Board accepted the annual Report Card to the Community as presented, with the understanding that additional financial information and a report from the state would be added when they came in. Paris said she thinks the report is “great and really well done.”


Raymond Special Education Numbers Remain High
By Leslie O’Donnell   6-23-19

While some numbers are declining, the percentage of students in Special Education in the Raymond school district continues to exceed the state average.

Special Education is defined in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” Federal law guides what is to be provided.

Special Education Director Scott Riddell presented a report on the state of Special Education in Raymond at the June 19 School Board meeting, where two members were absent – Moe Titcomb and Michelle Couture.

While Riddell noted that in pre-kindergarten through Grade 12, Raymond has 290 students identified with special needs, a 23.5 percent average, the state average is 16 percent. However, he emphasized that the state only counts students in Grades 1-12, excluding pre-K and kindergarten youngsters.

“The figures are misleading because of pre-K and kindergarten numbers,” he said. “We need to look at the Grades 1-12 figures.”

He also cited out-of-district placements for Special Education, which stood at 16 district-wide in September and finished the year at 14. Those numbers are broken down to three for the elementary school, four for the middle school and seven for the high school. “There were 15 significant move-ins since the beginning of the school year,” he stated in his report, noting that four of those were unexpected move-ins and two were court-ordered.

Riddell is initiating a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) program for para-educators for the District. “Starting in July, 12 paras will be taking a 40-hour course to be certified as RBTs,” he said. “That will build capacity within the district and is a way to minimize (out-of-district) support.”

Riddell said that of the 333 students enrolled in Grades 1-4 at Lamprey River Elementary School, 74 students are identified with special needs, or 22 percent of the student body. With pre-K and kindergarten included, that percentage jumps to almost 30 percent. Of the Grades 1-4 identified students, 26, or 35 percent, have a specific learning disability.

At Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, of the 381 students in Grades 5-8, 101 or 26.5 percent are identified with special needs, and of that number, 43 students (42.5 percent) are identified with a specific learning disability.

At Raymond High School, of the 359 students in grades 9-12, 63 (17.5 percent) have special needs, and of that sum, 17 students (27 percent) have a specific learning disability.

In other business:

• Superintendent Tina McCoy nominated Raymond High long-time science teacher Fiona Coomey to the post of assistant principal at the high school. She will receive an annual salary of $82,000.

• The principals of each of Raymond’s three schools gave end-of-year updates. RHS Principal Steve Woodward noted that 89 students graduated this June, and more than 130 awards and recognitions were presented to the graduating seniors.

Middle School principal Bob Bickford said 16 bullying incidents were reported for the year, with three substantiated. No incidents of cyberbullying were reported.

He also noted that eight students were selected to participate in the Southeast District Music Festival – Olivia Moats, Payton Hartlen, Caitlyn Fournier, Lily Dellas, Spencer Lassard, Lydia Cramer, Tehya Tenasco and Jonathan Pasterczyk.

Elementary school principal Laura Yacek said that STAR assessments were given to students in reading and math in May, the third administration of the tests during the year. For math in grades 1-4, 36 percent of the school’s students were below proficiency in May, compared to 62 percent in the fall and 38 percent in the winter. For reading in grades 2-4, 47 percent of students were below proficiency in May, compared to 57 percent in the fall and 54 percent in the winter. And for early literacy in kindergarten and Grade 1, 65 percent of the students were below proficiency in May, compared to 63 percent in the fall and 57 percent in winter.

Yacek also noted that 10 bullying episodes were reported for the school year, with five substantiated.

• The School Board approved a data governance plan in accordance with HB 1612. Technology Director Kevin Federico presented the plan, which is intended to protect information. He said kindergarten-Grade 12 schools have become the target of identity theft, as children would not have poor credit history. Federico noted that several schools have been hacked, which led to the idea of HB 1612. He added that the data governance plan is an unfunded mandate; he hopes it will cost in the $30,000 range.

Federico also reviewed the District’s Technology Plan, which extends to 2024, and said items not completed for the first year will be included in the upcoming second year. Federico said the Technology Committee is requesting surveys be conducted among parents and staff to see how the community views the direction the District is pursuing in technology.

Board chairman Joe Saulnier requested that the three schools’ websites be updated more often, and Federico said he would work on that with the three principals.

• Bickford presented the RTI (Response to Intervention) schedule for the coming year at the middle school. Math teacher Jezza Oakleaf also spoke about the program, which McCoy said was “very much warranted.” Bickford said the program was modeled after a program instituted in Belmont Middle School, which went from “school in need of improvement” status several years ago to “huge gains and middle school, principal and teacher of the year awards” after its implementation. Teacher teams will have a content specialist at each level.

Bickford said under the new schedule, the seventh and eighth students will have four core academic classes and a lab class – six weeks of math lab and six weeks of English Language Arts lab, repeated through the year. The lab classes would replace the current RTI classes.

• Richard Senecal, Shelley Roy, Ken Hajjar and Carlos Maldonado were appointed by the School Board to the new Lamprey River Elementary School Building Committee, and the committee’s charge was approved as well. A seat is open for a fifth member. Saulnier asked that an August date be set for the committee to meet. The advisory committee is charged with developing a plan to provide Raymond students with safe, healthy and efficient buildings.

• Business Manager Marjorie Whitmore presented the monthly financial report, noting that 80.2 percent of current appropriations has come in. She noted that 51.1 percent of Medicaid reimbursement has been received.

Whitmore said a lot of people are retiring from the District this year, causing an impact in severance package payments. She said the District is about $65,000 over budget in the area of retirement severance.

• The School Board approved the resignation of eighth grade teacher Courtney Simonds effective June 30. The Board also approved the hiring of Erica Stack as special education teacher/case manager at Lamprey River, at an annual salary of $40,672; of Matthew Thompson as social studies teacher at the middle school, at $39,064; of Alexandra Roschewski as middle school social studies teacher, at $36,256; and of Casey Bly as Raymond High nurse, at $43,000.

• The School Board approved a donation of $1,500 from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Life of an Athlete program.

• The Educator Effectiveness Plan was discussed, and a Board motion was approved to include four new components on the effectiveness form. Updates to the employee handbook were also approved by the Board.

• First reading of policies on drug free workplace/drug free schools, and data governance and security were approved by the School Board. Second reading of policies on nondiscrimination/equal opportunity, and on wellness were approved as well.

• School Board signatures were provided for the auditor engagement letter, auditor board member questionnaire, and New Hampshire Department of Education general assurances, and as per RSA, the School Board reviewed and approved its investments and investments of School District Funds, without changes.

 


Lamprey River Elementary School Lunch Prices to Rise
By Leslie O’Donnell   6-13-19

The Raymond School Board approved a 10-cent-per-meal increase in lunch costs for Lamprey River Elementary School students starting in the 2019-20 academic year.

The board vote was 3-1, with chairman Joe Saulnier opposed. Board member Moe Titcomb was absent.

Food Service Director Judy DiNatale and Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore discussed lunch prices for the coming year. They said the Paid Lunch Equity tool provided by the Food and Nutrition Service indicated Raymond needs to increase lunch prices by 5 cents for the coming year; they were increased by 15 cents at all three schools for the current year.

Saulnier said he would like to reach an average price of $3 per meal, and suggested adding 10 cents to meal costs at the elementary school and 5 cents at both the middle and high schools. He referred to the shortfall of approximately $40,000 in food service costs.

DiNatale, however, favored going up in price only for meals at the elementary school, noting there would still be a gap of 25 cents between meals at the elementary and middle schools.

DiNatale said the middle school is the only one of the district’s schools that has not regained participation following the current year’s price increase.  She preferred letting the middle school regain participation and raising prices by 10 cents only at the elementary school. Whitmore agreed with her, and said that would protect growth in a la carte purchases at the high school

“I’m a firm believer in leaving things to the experts,” said board member Beth Paris.  She made a motion to increase lunch prices at the elementary school by 10 cents, and the motion passed 3-1.

In her Food Service report, DiNatale said she would love to see “grab and go” breakfast meals at the middle school, but noted there had been an issue with food in the classrooms.

She said overall, this had been a good year, and the district had regained its average participation levels from 2017-18, before this past year’s price increase. “That’s our biggest accomplishment,” she said.

She also noted that a new menu template on the District website has helped with visibility, and more than 100 children participate in the breakfast program at the elementary school. An increase in the a la carte program at RHS has also occurred, which she said is partly because of expanded hours of availability and partly due to a larger selection in the New Wave Deli. She also said vending machine use is up at the high school, following the arrival of new machines.

In other business:

• Following a public hearing that attracted no comments, and an update from Facilities Director Todd Ledoux, the School Board unanimously approved spending up to $224,078 from the Equipment, Facilities Maintenance and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund to upgrade the fire alarm panel at RHS (bid awarded to Impact Fire of Hudson); upgrade the air conditioning in the Guidance, Nurse and Administration offices at RHS (bid awarded to Alliance Mechanical); upgrade two bathrooms and install an epoxy chip floor at the elementary school (bids awarded to JBC Construction of Londonderry), and make the bleachers ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliant at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and RHS (bid awarded to Hussey of North Berwick, Maine). No bid was received for engineering costs for a safety wall. While some projects were over budget, others were under budget, and the total fell within what was approved by voters.

Ledoux said the RHS fire alarm panel had been hit by lightning last year and was replaced; the CIP money will go for fire alarm devices to get them up to the current standard. He noted some of the current devices date back to the opening of the high school and use antiquated technology.

The Board also approved spending up to $75,000 from the Technology Capital Reserve Fund to update the computer labs for instruction and testing at the high school, and to update the wireless environments at both the elementary and middle schools (bid awarded to CDW-G). Half of the wireless work will be reimbursed by Erate funding.

And the board approved spending up to a total of $22,711 from the Food Service Capital Equipment Fund for a new dishwasher at RHS, awarded to Kittredge FoodService Equipment & Supplies.

In his update, Ledoux said the new parent pickup process at Lamprey River has worked better than expected and he has received positive feedback from parents, with vehicle backup eliminated on the road.

Saulnier said he wants to publicly express thanks to the maintenance team for keeping the schools clean.

• Superintendent Tina McCoy told the Board she would like to start talking with neighboring high schools, particularly Epping High School, to determine whether partnerships could be developed between the two districts to both save costs and increase opportunities for students. The Board gave her the go-ahead to start those conversations.

• Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland provided the Board with information about potential vendors for a computer science emphasis in a Kindergarten-Grade 12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

Whaland noted he had spoken with White Mountains Regional High School in Whitefield, which uses Project Lead the Way for computer science for STEM, the program local officials were favoring, and White Mountains officials said they were happy with the success of the program.

Whaland and McCoy will continue to gather information, with the goal of having a program balancing quality and cost identified and funding for it ready for the 2020-21 budget proposal.

• RHS business teacher Mike Brazeau congratulated the high school’s Financial Literacy Team, which won first place in the New Hampshire Financial Capability Challenge recently. Brazeau and RHS science teacher Tom Koch are the team advisors.

Brazeau said the New Hampshire JumpStart Coalition founded the program to promote the teaching of financial literacy, and RHS has fielded a team for 15 years and made the state finals for 14 of those years. He explained that teams qualify by taking an online test, and the top six scoring schools go on to a live competition, which took place April 30.

The six qualifying schools were Raymond, Bow, Concord, Newfound Regional, Winnicunnet and Founders Academy. RHS won the championship after defeating Bow 166-82.

Board member Janice Arsenault said she “couldn’t be prouder,” and McCoy said it “was an impressive victory, to say the least.”

• At public comment, Saulnier read a letter from resident Anthony Dickerson, who said the Board should not remove Titcomb, who has missed a large number of meetings. He wrote that he would rather have someone who attended sporadically instead of someone who was appointed, not elected. He said he does not consider absence from a meeting as a resignation, and would not vote for anyone who removed a member and replaced that person with someone who had not been elected.

Saulnier said he had responded to Dickerson that the board did not want Titcomb to resign but instead wanted him to attend meetings, in accordance with the oath of office that Titcomb took.

• McCoy introduced district staff who are retiring this year; they were given a gift bag from the school board. Retiring are:

Charlie Bolduc, secretary at the middle school since 1987, including 29 years as secretary to the principal.

Liz Downes, Raymond High English teacher since 1993. She was also Raymond Education Association president.

Richard Gordon, Raymond High para-educator for 14 years, including time as the restriction room monitor and special education substitute.

Betty-Ann Leclerc, Lamprey River second grade teacher, with the District for 43 years and holding the current record for the most years in the District. She will stay on as a Title 1 tutor.

Veronica McNallen-Formon, Lamprey River counselor. She started with the District in 1999.

Karen Paulsen, with the District for 32 years, since 1987. She is a fourth grade teacher and has also taught third grade.

Georgine Williams, Raymond High social studies teacher for 19 years, since 2000. She has served as department head and taught Advanced Placement U.S. History and AP Government.

Deb Wood, with the District 37 years as a Title 1 reading and writing teacher at the elementary school.

Linda Zimmel, Lamprey River first grade teacher for 22 years.

• McCoy announced the employees nominated throughout the year by their peers for the You Make the Difference award. They are: Abigail Aldous, Kim Capen, Amy-Leigh Dumas, Mary-Jo Holmes, Krystal Kebler, Kaleigh Liupakka, Joanne Morrison, Amie Payette. Abigail Samsel, Chris Witham, Charlie Bolduc, Michelle Dowling, Kim Giroux, Ann Ingalls, Allyson Lewko, Ashley Meyer, Kaitlyn Nadeau, Joann Plender and Elaine Verne.

• McCoy announced the resignations of middle school special education teacher and case manager Kevin Burke, and speech and language pathologist Noelle Cox at the elementary school, both effective June 30. The Board approved both resignations.

• McCoy announced the hiring of Jessica Webster Jones as second grade teacher, at an annual salary of $40,672; Casey Matthews as a first grade teacher at $34,506 annual salary; Felicia Formisano as eighth grade math teacher at an annual salary of $35,722; and Catherine Johnson as a fifth grade teacher at an annual salary of $38,714. The Board approved the hirings.

Board member Janice Arsenault announced that the search committee to for the high school assistant principal had forwarded its top candidates to the superintendent.

• Board members noted dissatisfaction with the current document used to evaluate the superintendent. McCoy will come up with different options and present them to the Board. Board member Michelle Couture said she would like to see what other districts are using and find out if there are national recommendations.

McCoy said she hoped to have that information by the first Board meeting in September, which would give the policy committee time to come up with a new evaluation form.

• McCoy announced that the strategic planning committee would meet at 1 pm. June 18 in the middle school media center. The meeting is open to the public.

• In her report to the Board, McCoy noted that the District has received a Title IIA math grant for $5,723 for math materials, to be used by Sept. 30.

She also said the LEAP (Learning Enrichment Afterschool Program) summer session has openings. Those seeking information should contact youth program development coordinator Patrick Arsenault.

• McCoy said Iber Holmes Gove students had produced a film on the dangers of vaping, and it premiered at the recent Granite State Film Festival.

• McCoy noted that interested applicants are sought for the elementary school building committee by June 19.

• The Board approved the second reading of a policy on Administration of Federal Grant funds, and first reading of policies on Nondiscrimination/Equal Opportunity, and Wellness.

 


Raymond School Board Addresses Titcomb’s Lack of Attendance
By Leslie O’Donnell 5-20-19

The Raymond School Board took action May 15 to address member Moe Titcomb’s repeated absences from its meetings.

Board chair Joe Saulnier said the matter was placed on the agenda to address a concern regarding member attendance. He said he had expected Titcomb to attend that night’s meeting but he was absent.

“Over the past several weeks I’ve asked each individual School Board member about this, and after consulting with our attorney, I made it clear I would ask Moe to resign, so he could leave on his own terms, before a public meeting was held about it,” Saulnier said. He said he asked Titcomb for his resignation and Titcomb declined. He had expected Titcomb to attend the May 15 meeting.

Saulnier said Titcomb called him an hour before the May 15 meeting, the second time they had talked that week, and during that most recent conversation, Titcomb agreed to sign a letter stating that if he missed one more meeting, it would be considered his resignation.

Saulnier noted that Titcomb’s repeated absences were mentioned at the March 6 School Board meeting by a member of the public. He said Titcomb told him he would do a better job of attending after the March 6 comment – he had missed 36.9 percent of the meetings at that point - but since then he has missed 60 percent of the meetings. Saulnier said this lack of attendance shows neglect of Titcomb’s oath of office and a “gross dereliction of duty.”

Saulnier said Titcomb told him he was looking to resign in September, but Saulnier told him that was putting the Board in a “very precarious position” at the start of budget season.

Noting that the Board action is needed to remove Titcomb, Saulnier said he would write him a letter stating that if he missed one more meeting, it would be considered his resignation. The Board voted 4-0 to support his writing the letter.

School District policy states “the School Board recognizes that the consistent attendance of Board Members at Board meetings is essential for the efficient, effective operation of the Board’s duties as well as fulfilling our individual obligations as elected officials….The Chair and Vice Chair will formally question any Board Member who misses three consecutive regular meetings or more than 30 percent of meetings, of reasons for absences. The Board may then take such action that is appropriate.”

Additional policy states “Each member is obligated to attend Board meetings regularly.”

In other business:

• The Board voted 4-0 to approve the resignation, effective the previous day, May 14, of Raymond High School Assistant Principal Peter Weaver.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy, contacted after the meeting, said Weaver had submitted his resignation letter May 13. She said his exit was abrupt and she had not expected him to leave at this time of year. “I think he’s looking at other options for work,” she said. “I hope he finds a position that is more to his interests and strengths, and wish him well in his endeavors.”

Weaver, who had applied for the superintendent’s position to which McCoy was hired in 2017, was primarily in charge of discipline at the high school. While McCoy acknowledged that complaints about discipline at the high school had been made, including at a recent School Board meeting by Board member Beth Paris, McCoy emphasized that Weaver had not been compelled to resign.

While McCoy said she wished Weaver had finished up the school year, she noted that Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland and Special Education Director Scott Riddell were “very familiar” with the high school and Weaver’s duties, and will work with Principal Steve Woodward for the rest of the school year. The job opening was posted May 16.

• McCoy discussed a proposed new job description for Safety and Facilities Director. She emphasized that current Facilities Director Todd Ledoux is not leaving – “he is doing a great job,” she said – but she wanted to bring up a new job description because over the years, his work had changed as Ledoux took on more and more duties.

“There’s a great deal more to that position than just taking care of the buildings,” McCoy said, noting that the current “Maintenance Director” job description was last reviewed in 2002. “We want to update the job description to say what it does.”

Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore said she called other districts and found only two in which facilities and safety were part of the same job. In many cases the safety responsibilities fall to an assistant superintendent.

Proposed changes include incorporating responsibility for security of all buildings. The educational requirement was moved to “college degree preferred” from high school graduate.

“We are very fortunate that we have someone who can do all of this,” McCoy said of Ledoux.

A motion to approve the new job description was passed 4-0.

• The Board discussed school building rental fees, which must be established by policy each year by the School Board. Whitmore has compared Raymond policy with Deerfield, Epping and Fremont, and said, “we are in line with these charges” and no changes are needed.

She added that the charges should be clarified to show the amount charged is for “up to eight hours,” and noted some districts charge by the hour. Raymond charges $100 for the media center, $250 for gym use, $100 for the cafeterias and dining area, $250 for the cafeteria and kitchen use, and $75 for classrooms.

Board member Janice Arsenault said she would like to have the policy committee review the rental policy. The Board asked that fees be revisited as well.
 
• Whitmore presented the monthly financial report, and noted that current revenues are at 82 percent and impact fees from the Town came in during May at approximately $90,000, which is $72,000 more than budgeted.

Whitmore said Food Service revenue is 10 percent more than expected, and at present the District is looking at a deficit of $40,000, as opposed to the $45,000 deficit budgeted for Food Service. She has encumbered an additional $20,000.

She said about $40 is coming to the unpaid lunch account from school payroll deductions, and a $25 donation to that fund has come in from the public.

McCoy also noted the District will be receiving a substantial amount of additional special education funding. The superintendent said Riddell will be looking at how to use that money, which can only be spent on special education needs. The unexpected federal money to be divided among New Hampshire school districts comes from an agreement signed by federal and state education officials, announced May 14, and covers money unspent over the past 10 years in federal grants made to local school districts for special education.

• Much of the meeting was taken up by discussion of proposed 2019-20 changes to the student handbooks for each of the District’s three schools. The principal from each school reviewed new information in the proposals, and following discussion and changes, each of the handbooks was approved.

Among the Lamprey River Elementary School changes were the listing of preschool hours as 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and a note that after 10 unexcused tardies, a meeting with the elementary student’s parent would be scheduled with the principal. Principal Laura Yacek said the school is seeing an increase in tardies.

Iber Holmes Gove Middle School principal Bob Bickford noted the addition of a statement that students who arrive at the middle school before 7:35 a.m. will have to wait in the lobby.

Arsenault, looking at the school schedule, said, “I think it’s a lot of time that kids are not in academic classes, noting the eighth grade appears to have 80 minutes of such time. Bickford clarified that RTI (Response to Intervention) classes are structured and academics based.

Arsenault asked that a future agenda include discussion of the middle school schedule, and McCoy said she expected they would look at the schedule in June.

Bickford noted the dress code would state that rips and tears in clothing were allowed except in areas of the body that would normally be covered by clothing.

Questions also arose over the grading scale. “I’m afraid that starting with a 50 would discourage kids from retaking a test,” Arsenault said.

“If a student does not do an assessment, he would get a 50,” McCoy clarified. “If the student took it and got a 40, he would get a 50 in the grade book. So how do you differentiate between students who try and those who do not?” Bickford said anyone receiving less than a 70 is required to retake the assessment.

“I don’t think giving a kid 50 points for doing nothing is doing the kid a favor,” Arsenault said. “We will agree to disagree.”

Saulnier said he thinks the same standard should be applied at the middle and high schools. RHS principal Steve Woodward noted the high school uses a 0-100 scale, and if a student has not completed the assignment, the teacher is to enter a zero. “It becomes a motivation and the parent gets involved,” Woodward said.

Arsenault made a motion to remove the 50-100 scale from the middle school handbook, and Paris seconded it. Board member Michelle Couture asked for input from the administrators present. The board later voted 4-0 to remove the 50-point scale.

Regarding the high school handbook, Woodward noted the school’s site council, consisting primarily of students and some teachers, had looked at the dress code, and Arsenault pointed out that it allows hats, which are forbidden by District policy. A motion to remove allowing hats was approved.

Paris said she did not like the idea of allowing students to wear pajamas to school but Couture disagreed, saying she thinks dress codes are “inherently discriminatory.” No action was taken.

The board also discussed yearbook photos, and noted District and yearbook policy conflict over whether students can take yearbook photos with their pets, cars, or other items. The two policies will be made to coincide, removing “no props.”

The handbook will also state that any outstanding balance of $30 or more must be paid for seniors to attend the class trip. “We shoot for a zero balance for graduation,” Woodward said.

• The board unanimously approved the hiring of Amy Rocci as math interventionist at Lamprey River at a $64,633 annual salary, and Jennifer Hayes as school counselor at Lamprey River at a salary of $36,256,

• The board heard a presentation from Bickford and two students about the recent eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. Bickford said one of the tour guides told him the Raymond students were the best group of youths seen in 17 years.

• The Board accepted a $1,000 donation to Lamprey River from the Hannaford Helps Schools program.

• The board approved the second reading of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the School District and the Raymond Police Department relating to safe school zones, as well as an addendum to that MOU, and approved the first reading of a policy on administration of federal grant funds.

• In her report to the board, McCoy noted that about 60 percent of Raymond High students participated in the Town cleanup, organized by the Raymond Coalition for Youth. She said Tuckaway Tavern donated the food for the cleanup barbecue.

• McCoy announced that graduation is June 14, and the last day of school for other students is June 17.

 


Raymond Board Establishes Elementary School Building Committee
By Leslie O’Donnell   5-8-19

The Raymond School Board will be looking at the future of Lamprey River Elementary School.

At its May 1 meeting, the Board voted to establish a Lamprey River Elementary School Building Committee, and is seeking members from the community. The committee will function in an advisory capacity only.

A motion to establish the committee was approved 3-0, with board members Moe Titcomb and Michelle Couture absent.

The board also looked at deciding on a charge to the committee. Board member Beth Paris said she would like to see the committee look at options, and when Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy asked whether the board wanted the committee to look at renovating the school, building a new school or comparing those two options, the board said they wanted the directive to be open-ended.

“We owe it to ourselves and to the town to show both options,” board member Janice Arsenault said.

Board chairman Joe Saulnier added, “We need to keep an open mind to every possibility.”

The Board decided that the committee would be established in August of this year, and would be expected to submit a report to the School Board no later than October 2020. Committee meetings would be open to the public, and McCoy recommended the committee update the Board quarterly.

The Board also settled on having five voting committee members and five non-voting members, the latter being the superintendent, business administrator, Lamprey River principal, facilities director, and town manager.

McCoy said the District will put out a letter seeking persons interested in serving on the committee, and should have a list of potential members to the School Board by its June 19 meeting. The Board unanimously voted to accept the details of the committee charge.

The Board also heard a presentation from Raymond High School principal Steve Woodward on expanding honors course options at the school. He explained that honors academic content is “either broader in scope or deeper in examination than in a comparable assignment” and requires a student “to delve more deeply into methodology, structure and/or theory; address more sophisticated questions; and satisfy more rigorous standards.”

Increasing honors options would provide students with more opportunities, would address scheduling conflicts – particularly with Seacoast School of Technology classes – and would provide both student “ownership” of learning and meet class size guidelines. His proposal would increase the number of students who can choose honors level work and would foster a culture of high achievement, Woodward said.

He recommended offering the embedded honors option for upper level electives that have previously not had honors sections; for students who cannot fit an offered honors course in their schedule; and for students for whom no honors class is available due to insufficient numbers registered. He said the recommendations were made in collaboration with McCoy and Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland.

Woodward said he took into consideration community input, looked at what other schools are doing about embedding an honors curriculum in a standard class, and reviewed research on the subject. He said RHS currently offers 20 different classes that are multi-level, such as Spanish 2 and 3, Spanish 3 and 4, and chorus.

He also noted that honors classes are sought by students who have a high interest in a particular area or who are striving to attend a Tier 1 college such as Holy Cross or Tufts.  “Honors classes increase student opportunities,” he said. “Not every student is cut out for honors-level work, but there’s something to be said for exposing other students to that level of achievement. It’s more rigorous.

“I would prefer to run an honors class (separately),” he said, but embedding an honors curriculum in a standard class is “a way to get students what they want.”

The issue of honors classes arose after the School Board established a minimum high school class size of 12, which curtailed the offering of Honors Physics and Honors American Literature for the coming year. After student and parent protests to the Board, those classes were reinstated and an extensive discussion began about embedding or integrating honors offerings in standard classes.

Woodward said he found that embedded honors classes are offered elsewhere at the high school and college level but there did not seem to be any “rhyme nor reason” to them. Some high schools, including Bow and Souhegan (in Amherst), allow them in every subject, he noted, adding that other schools offer them only for upper level electives, “which typically we don’t run because of our numbers (of students).”

At Raymond, upper level electives such as honors drawing and woodworking, which were previously not run, could be offered, Woodward said.

“This is an opportunity in terms of electives, and it’s about us providing opportunities for students,” Woodward said. “I’m not OK with saying, ‘too bad, so sad.’ There has to be a way to get students what they want so they can go on with their learning.”

“Our intent and recommendations are not to take away any honors classes from the schedule,” McCoy added.

Saulnier said he would like to see every subject have an honors option in the curriculum – not for next year, but as a goal for the future. He said he would like to have one ore two classes with an honors option next year.

“If we can run an American Literature honors class by itself, we should, but we need a backup plan,” he added.

Woodward suggested “baby-stepping” the change, moving forward to address the most critical need of students who want honors classes and have scheduling conflicts. “Running an honors section in a standard classroom is better than not running it at all,” he said.

“I think you’re going in the right direction,” Arsenault said of Woodward’s recommendations.

“I think it’s a great idea, but what is going to be done with disruptive students in an embedded honors classroom,” Paris asked. “I don’t think that’s dealt with enough.”

Woodward responded, “I challenge that. These are buildings you manage and you are welcome here at any time. My expectation for a disruptive student is that the teacher removes the student from the classroom and the administrator deals with him.”

Paris repeated that she did not think disruptions were handled appropriately. “It impedes kids who want to learn, and I want to know what you are going to do,” she said.

Woodward reiterated that teachers were expected to remove the disruptive student and administration was expected to deal with the student.

Arsenault interjected that she wished to go on record that embedding honors classes in standard classes and disruptive behavior are two separate issues.

“One student being disruptive is too many,” Woodward said, and noted that the recent NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation study pointed out how quiet the high school was during the day – except for lunch.

“I think the more engaged and challenged kids are, the better they do, even behaviorally, but behavior and honors are two separate issues,” McCoy said.

In other business:

• Pat Arsenault, director of LEAP (Learning Enrichment Afterschool Program), discussed the after-school program as well as the soon to be implemented before-school program.

He said he had received new information since his original presentation to the Board several months ago. He recommended lowering tuition as a way to serve more students, a process that eventually should lead to an increase in students, and recommended tuition of no more than $150 per month for 10 months. “Even in the worst-case scenario, it will break even,” he said.

The Board approved charging before-school program tuition at $150 per quarter, with a 2-0-1 vote, with Janice Arsenault abstaining.

McCoy noted the YMCA will not be running a before-school program but is interested in continuing a concurrent after-school program with LEAP.

“We worked together very well before the change in YMCA leadership,” Pat Arsenault said. “It reflects poorly if we are shutting a community group out. I think it’s beneficial to give the YMCA a chance to work with us.”

Saulnier asked what the YMCA would charge, but that information was not available. McCoy noted liability issues with the YMCA using the school building, and pointed out the YMCA was never charged a fee for building use, although it was profiting from the arrangement. “We could consider changing that,” she said. “I don’t see a real value of having the Y program. We’re better off expanding our own program.” About 10 children use the YMCA afternoon program.

Pat Arsenault advocated for giving the “new regime” at the YMCA a chance to make things work together with LEAP under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

• The Board heard a presentation about Project Lead the Way, an approach to implementing a Kindergarten-Grade 12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program. McCoy noted the District’s strategic plan calls for selecting, piloting and implementing a K-12 STEM program over the next three years.

The recommendation was to select Project Lead the Way’s computer science strand to implement in K-12 and to phase it in over the next two to three years, to allow sufficient time for budgeting, obtaining needed equipment, teacher training, and adjusting the curriculum. Pilots of some modules could begin next year.

McCoy said the cost of the program would depend on how the project is implemented – whether the District enters at the high school level or starts in pre-kindergarten. Whaland said he recommends starting at the elementary school level, and said professional development money may be available to train teachers at that level.

“We think we’re headed in the right direction,” McCoy said.

Janice Arsenault said she has heard Project Lead the Way issues considerable and significant updates frequently, which would add to its cost.

While McCoy said Project Lead the Way was the top choice from research available, administration will come back with more information at the Board’s first meeting in June.

• A presentation on peer coaching was offered to the School Board from a committee charged with coming up with a recommended approach. Led by Raymond High assistant principal Peter Weaver, the committee members explained that they had looked at different options before selecting their preferred recommendation. The District strategic plan includes strengthening and supporting the workforce and states the District leadership team will provide opportunities for employees throughout the District to be supported “to continuously increase their skills and knowledge.”

The committee would like to see a stipended building level team teacher leader for each of the three schools.  They are also asking for a one-day workshop retreat this summer.

While a peer coaching model existed previously, it faded away, the committee said, and added that it had included a lot of paperwork and administrative oversight. Under the proposed model, they hope to have a teacher leader in each school who has been trained in the process and would do the paperwork and be a liaison with administration. “The position won’t have the same impact without a stipend,” Weaver said.

Committee member Kristin Wallace, a fifth grade teacher at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, said teachers could request a peer coaching opportunity for a one-time visit or over several weeks. She said a “reflection” would be required concerning what the teacher learned during the experience.

Weaver said a job description would be developed this summer for the teacher leaders.

Middle school assistant principal Mike Chouinard, a committee member, said research shows that the role for administration is to “stay out of the way. The role of administrators is to support. They need to be careful not to send messages that this is an evaluative process.”

Janice Arsenault said she would like to see a schedule developed with a period of time for professional development for teachers. ‘I look at this as a long-term goal,” she said.

McCoy said she appreciated the work the committee has done and noted the program could be piloted next year. “It has to be voluntary, non-evaluative and building trust,” she said. “I think it will be a great step forward.”

Other committee members are Lamprey River assistant principal Dorothy Franchini; Marlene Jones, a first grade teacher at Lamprey River Elementary School; and Pat Nardone, a social studies teacher at Raymond High School,

• The board held a first reading of a Memorandum of Understanding between the School District and the Raymond Police Department, and a first reading of an addendum to that MOU.

• After hearing a report from Janice Arsenault about the Budget Committee’s recent meeting, Saulnier said he would like to stay with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as the date for presenting the School District budget to that committee. The Budget Committee had hoped to have that take place Sept. 24.

• The Board approved the retirements, effective June 30, of Georgine Williams, social studies teacher at Raymond High, and Karen Paulsen, third grade teacher at Lamprey River; and the resignations, effective June 30, of Elaine Verne, Special Education case manager at Raymond High, and Joanne Morrison, Raymond High nurse.

• Raymond High senior Nick Brazeau, a senior class officer, discussed the senior class trip to Florida, which took place in April.

 

 


Resident Criticizes Class Size Decision of Raymond School Board
By Leslie O’Donnell    4-22-19

Carol Watjus, who served as chairman of the Raymond Budget Committee this past budget season, addressed the School Board in the role of what she termed “a concerned citizen” at its April 17 meeting, speaking to comments made at the March 20 and April 3 School Board meetings.

“I think it’s to the benefit of the town that I voice these opinions,” she said, noting that her comments about class size and integrating honors into the regular class curriculum were meant as constructive criticism and were not to be argued with. “I’m not here to debate,” she said.

At the April 3 meeting, following extensive public comment, the School Board reversed an earlier decision and added back Honors American Literature and Honors Physics as separate, stand-alone classes, even though 12 students had not signed up for either class. The board had previously voted to set a minimum of 12 students for a class to run, excluding advanced language, AP (Advanced Placement) classes, and remedial courses. The board had said an effort would be made to include honors classes without 12 students in regular classes in an “integrated” setting. The original board decision did not take into consideration the overall size of each year’s class, and that only a less rigorous Physics Concepts class was scheduled.

“In my opinion, you were trying to do what you were elected to do – work with the school administration – all of them – and make hard decisions,” she said of the Board’s decision to adopt the minimum class size of 12. “You were going to combine honors classes with regular classes and seemed to be going in the right direction, working with the administration. But the board alone, without any further discussion from the administration – the superintendent, the curriculum coordinator, the finance director - voted to reverse” that decision after parents and students spoke against it April 3.

“There is more to the town than just the ones who have children in the schools,” Watjus said.

Watjus mentioned some of the reasoning cited against integrated classes, as stated by residents – “it won’t look good on my college application, “ “it was not good for me or my (child),” “disruptions in the classroom,” “teachers not prepared to teach a combined class,” and “it’s not fair to the kids,” and countered, “If you want to go that way, how about it’s not fair to the taxpayers or the voters.

“What about the effect on taxpayers?” she said. “How about the efficient use of public money? Your decision affects all voters and taxpayers. There are more people in town than people with kids.”

She added that people choose to live in Raymond with the knowledge that it has a small school district. “Nobody should expect to get all the bells and whistles that a larger district has,” she said. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Why do (they) feel entitled to all these extras? Everything that (they) want is not necessarily what can be received. People need to step back and accept the parameters of the choices they have made.”

Watjus said the School Board has the responsibility to educate the public about the “why” of its decisions. “Balancing cost and academics needs to be evaluated by the professionals, not just the School Board, in hopes they will look at all sides, not just the academic side. Teaching small classes is not an optimal learning environment, nor is it an efficient use of public money,” she claimed. “You should not just be pro-educator. You need to balance fiscal responsibility along with education.

“It was wrong to reverse your decision so quickly without talking about both sides with the superintendent, curriculum director and finance director,” she concluded. “All of you know it is not a fiscally responsible decision to run a class with so few students. These decisions are not yours alone. Professionals were hired to do that.

“It comes down to responsibility and entitlement,” she said. “Why do parents of students think they are entitled to extras, no matter what the cost?”

Contacted after the meeting to address the question of fiscal responsibility, School Board chair Joe Saulnier said there is no financial impact in putting the two classes – Honors American Literature and Honors Physics – back in the schedule.

“Putting these classes back will not increase the bottom line either,” he said, pointing out that later in the meeting (see below), “we are looking to repurpose a councilor to an ELO (Extended Learning Opportunity) Coordinator and possibly add a computer integrator-type position. With that and a possible cut of two half-time teachers, we will not be looking to add a cent to the bottom line, and in doing so (we will be) moving Raymond forward for the future.”

Watjus also expressed concern about disrespecting other boards and committees, and claimed she is not the only one with these concerns, although no one else spoke. “You can’t have a board blame another board or committee for their actions or decisions,” she said, saying that has occurred many times. “It is your responsibility to express the real reason for your decisions.” She called the blaming behavior “divisive, toxic, unacceptable to the budget process. Don’t use another board or committee as a scapegoat.”

Saulnier said the board will discuss integrated classes – placing honors and regular curriculum in one class – at its next meeting. But he added, “we’re not getting rid of separate honors classes – that’s just not going to happen.” Instead, he said the board will be looking at ways to accommodate students when perhaps one can take a class only in the morning and the other only in the afternoon.

In other business:

• The Board received the monthly financial update for March from Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore. She said 71.3 percent of the revenues for the year are in, and in April the District received the remainder of state adequacy and kindergarten aid. The Town has not yet sent in impact fees.

Whitmore said Medicaid reimbursement continues to “trickle in,” and she continues to work with Special Education staff to have them submit reimbursement requests in a more timely fashion.

She also noted that Food Service is looking “pretty great right now.” The General Fund transfer column to Food Service for March was a negative, but she said sales are likely to slow in April because of vacation week. Whitmore added that the District received a large sum of money to repay a past lunch balance, as well as money coming in from payroll deductions to go toward unpaid lunch balances.

• The District’s media specialists – Abigail Samsel of Lamprey River Elementary School, Sarah Arsenault of Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, and Bob Lemoine of Raymond High School – presented proposed library media program changes for the coming school year. A Library Media Workgroup has been meeting since September 2017, and the group’s ultimate goal is to create a Library Commons in each school to serve as its cultural center.

Library class is currently part of the Unified Arts rotation at the elementary and middle schools – under the proposal, this fixed schedule would change to a flexible schedule, with teachers instead scheduling time to bring their classes to the library as the need arises. Currently, classroom learning does not connect to learning in the library, the library specialists said; under the flexible schedule, teacher and librarian can collaboratively plan and teach lessons.

Curriculum coordinator Michael Whaland said a goal is to make sure educators are accessing the library, and noted that taking library class out of Unified Arts is not saying that the library is not important.

Samsel said changing to a flexible schedule would open up the library to be used at any time, rather than at a specific time. Library class would be removed from the Unified Arts rotation at both the elementary and middle schools.

At RHS, Lemoine said, changes would go from a “kitchen” to a “grocery store” approach. He said the library is not a warehouse for storing books but would be a workspace.

All three libraries would involve the room space becoming the resource. As such, mobile furniture and shelves would be sought, with Samsel noting some of her school’s library shelves are inaccessible for students and are falling apart. Lemoine said he has been told RHS library chairs and other furniture are about 30 years old.

 And Sarah Arsenault said one of the biggest goals for the middle school would be “genre-fying” the collection - making it more like a bookstore and more user friendly, with books organized by subject rather than the Dewey Decimal System.

Samsel said ideally, the computer lab and the library would be joined. And she said she would love to have tablets available for use. Saulnier asked whether she would choose Chromebooks or tablets if she had the choice, and she responded that it would be Chromebooks.

• The Board heard a preliminary proposal for an Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) Coordinator, with a job description presented and prepared by Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said such a position is included in the strategic plan for the District, as well as in its vision, and one of the core values of the plan is to increase collaboration with the community.  “We have found we need someone to be in charge of that goal,” she said.

Funds would be repurposed from guidance positions, she added.

Board member Michelle Couture said she wanted an expectation of the position to be that the person would be out in the community and would have a flexible schedule so he or she could work with community groups.

Woodward said he worked with the Winnicunnet High School job description for ELO coordinator to create the proposed one for Raymond, and said that part of the job would be to visit local businesses and build connections with the school for job shadowing, internships and other relationships. “We want students to be ‘choice ready’ when they leave here,” he said. “We have college representatives come to the school and meet with students – why not bring in a plumber, for example, to talk with students who are not in the college track to learn what can occur beyond these four walls.”

Board member Janice Arsenault said she had talked with an ELO coordinator at another school and suggested the person hired should work to develop a community advisory board.

McCoy emphasized this would not involve creating a new position but would be a reallocation of duties. Woodward added that with the current enrollment, the school has more counseling staff on the payroll than is needed, so duties can be reallocated to the ELO coordinator.

 • The Board heard discussion of hiring a software support specialist. This too would not be a new position but would repurpose already approved funds if they become available. The goal would be to move the District forward in its use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

McCoy said the position is not budgeted and no particular fund is available for repurposing, but with current efficiencies, she thinks the District w ill save two half-time positions, with those funds then available to pay salary and benefits for the potential new position.

Technology coordinator Kevin Federico said the specialist would be a hybrid position who would be a subject material expert in such areas as Smart Boards and PowerSchool.

Saulnier said such a position would definitely help, especially in integrating classes that include both honors and traditional curricula.

• Federico presented an update on the District’s technology plan. McCoy noted that last year, a five-year technology plan was developed by a technology committee, and Federico said at the end of the school year, the committee will meet again to look at progress.

“We’re still robbing Peter to pay Paul, but the budget was approved, and we should feel the benefit of that a year from now,” Federico said. “I’m very thankful to the Town for approving the budget, especially for technology, which has been lacking for some time.”

Saulnier emphasized that the District is trying “to play catch-up, so we’re not maintaining.” Federico added that “we’re moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”

• The Board heard an update of the District’s strategic plan. Whaland said one of the main goals at the heart of the plan is to attain a proficiency or better level of achievement for 80 percent of all Raymond students by 2023. To date, those figures predicted for the end of the current school year are 51.9 percent District-wide in English language arts and 39.6 percent District-wide in math. That breaks down to 45.1 percent at the elementary school, 60.7 percent at the middle school and 50 percent at RHS in English Language Arts, and 43.8 percent at the elementary school, 33.7 percent at the middle school and 41.2 percent at the high school in math.

• Woodward presented the quarterly report from Raymond High School. He noted that 23 percent of the student body earned Honors or Principal’s List status, with 64 students on the Honor Roll and 19 on the Principal’s List. Eleven students were named Student Athletes by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

One cyberbullying incident was reported in the last quarter, as well as two bullying incidents. Five out-of-school suspensions occurred in ninth grade, as well as two each in 10th and 11th grades and none in 12th grade. The largest number of referrals for problem behavior was for tardiness (102), with the next largest for defiance (15).

• The Board approved the resignation, effective June 30, of fifth grade teacher Jennifer Datilio, who is moving to a different part of the country.

• Samsel, two reading specialists and a student from the elementary school discussed the March 27 Family Fun Night at the school, which featured STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenges, games and books.

 


Residents Are Heard: Honors American Lit, Honors Physics Reinstated as Separate Classes
By Leslie O’Donnell     4-8-19

Parents and students received a lesson in how government works when they packed the Raymond School Board meeting April 3 and asked for reinstatement of two separate honors classes for the coming school year. Striving to present their views in a polite and well thought out manner, they insisted that the Board was obligated to provide classes for its top students as well as to everyone else, and urged reinstatement of the omitted classes.

And the School Board listened, voting at the end of more than 90 minutes of public comment to reinstate Honors American Literature and Honors Physics as separate classes, not integrated into regular classes. The vote was 3-1, with Janice Arsenault opposed and Moe Titcomb absent.

Opening up public comment, Lamprey River Elementary School music teacher Alison Welch LaCasse spoke for her daughter, who was on a bus returning home from a softball game, as well as herself. She said her daughter had chosen to pursue an honors diploma as a member of the Class of 2021, the first class able to do so. She noted the honors diploma requires a specific number of credits, not a specific number of honors classes, and asked to have that changed.

Turning to the issue of the eliminated separate classes, LaCasse said her daughter had signed up for both Honors American Literature and Honors Physics, both of which were cut as separate classes because they fell below the School Board’s newly established minimum class size of 12. The Board instead said they would be integrated into regular classes in those subjects, although the only physics class on the schedule was Physics Concepts, a less rigorous offering than standard physics.

LaCasse said her daughter had taken Honors English in her freshman and sophomore years, and without Honors American Literature, would be stepping down from the honors track.  “Will colleges know that students didn’t take honors classes in their junior year because they were not offered?” she asked.

“If this stays in place, in 2021 there will not be any eligible students to take AP (Advanced Placement) English as seniors,” she noted, explaining that they would not have met the prerequisite. In similar fashion, the eliminated Honors Physics is a prerequisite for AP Physics.

“Why is the Board cutting classes that are prerequisites for AP classes?” she asked. And she noted that the only physics class to be offered next year is Physics Concepts, which is, for example, less demanding in terms of math than a standard physics class.

“I hope you continue to provide all students with appropriate challenges,” LaCasse said.

The School Board had previously discussed moving the students who signed up for honors classes that were eliminated into the regular subject offering, with the teacher instructing both subjects at the same time. Arsenault said she had a list of 20 high schools in New Hampshire that offer integrated classes, and when asked, said she thinks student transcripts reflect that they were in honors classes.

Randy LaCasse, Alison’s husband and the Raymond High School music teacher, said such integrated classes are thought by teachers to “rob Peter to pay Paul. The attention they can give to students is divided, and teachers do not think it is ideal. Elsewhere it happens as an exception to the rule.

“I don’t think it’s right for students to have to go to extraordinary measures to receive a rigorous education at Raymond High School,” he added, when it was suggested that juniors could enroll in AP English, although they would not have had the prerequisite curriculum. “How would a junior know that taking AP English was an option when the Program of Studies lists it as a senior elective?”

LaCasse also emphasized that 80 percent of the high school’s students will not choose an honors or AP class, but “we need to support the 20 percent who do.”

His comments were met with applause, as were those of others who spoke.

Board member Michelle Couture agreed that only Physics Concepts was slated to run next year, and said she had a problem with that; board member Beth Paris agreed.

Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy emphasized that the schedule for next year is not finalized. “Honors courses have not been eliminated, but several that had lower enrollment sign-ups were not running,” she explained.

“I want to make sure we are not saying Honors American Literature is not important, and I’m all for increasing rigor,” Paris said. “Quite a few of us wanted Honors American Literature to run but we were told repeatedly that five of the nine (enrollees) were likely to drop out. I don’t think it’s fair to change things for kids who were asked as freshmen to make a four-year plan of studies. And I don’t think it’s fair and equitable for teachers to teach honors in (the middle of) another class.

“If 20 percent of our students want to aim higher, we should try to help them,” she added, saying she would like to maintain Honors American Literature as an offering for next year.

Ed French, a former School Board and Budget Committee member whose children attended Raymond schools, said the School Board ”has injected itself in a huge way to micromanage the school. We hire professionals that we hope and expect to make recommendations, and I have not heard input from the administration as to whether this is an academically sound thing to do.

“The tail can’t wag the dog,” he continued, referring to board comments at previous meetings and during budget season that if the School Board does not make cuts, the Budget Committee will. “You were elected to run the school district and to do what is in the best interest of students, and the Budget Committee has a very different role. You should listen to them, but the decision on what to cut should not be that the Budget Committee wants us to do something, but on what is academically sound. As you start cutting classes, you will lose students.”

Arsenault, who months ago raised concerns about classes running with too few students, responded that no one should assume she makes decisions to make the Budget Committee happy. “But if we’re paying a teacher to teach three kids, that is under the jurisdiction of the Board,” she said.

Arlene French told the Board, “When you decided to drop classes because of low numbers, I have never seen a school board devolve to that level of micromanaging. The school board sets policies and the administration executes them. Did the students know that honors classes were in jeopardy – were they told the classes would be cancelled? Were teachers told about teaching both levels in one class? Did students know that dropping those classes would jeopardize them getting into top colleges? Did you look at students’ four-year course plans? The Budget Committee can’t cut classes – that’s the administration’s job, not the Board’s.”

She urged reconsideration of cutting the two free-standing honors classes and pointed out the District was not saving any money by their elimination - it was only hurting the students.

“This is our future,” she said of the impacted students, and noted some parents are looking at moving their children to charter schools. And she cautioned that people considering a move to Raymond would go elsewhere if honors classes were not available.

“Don’t play the game – these kids are our future,” she concluded.

Cindy Townsend, a parent of a sophomore and a senior, also expressed concern on her own behalf and on that of her younger son about removing Honors American Literature as a separate class.

“He has been in honors classes since eighth grade,” she said. “In issues like this, we need to speak up and say, ‘this is not the way it is supposed to be.’ The curriculum is different in Honors American Lit than in the regular American Lit class – the guidance counselor told me that. They discuss different books. How will my son be challenged?”

And she said she thought board members’ tone of voice suggested they were going against what the parents were saying.

Couture agreed the American Lit curriculum would have to be reviewed for an integrated class because at present those classes have “totally separate” curricula. “They would have to use the same books with different assignments,” she said.

“In that case, all classes at the school should be integrated,” Townsend responded. “I don’t think it’s going to work out, and I don’t think it should be done this way. Nine students is plenty for Honors American Lit. I hope you change this. I voted to support the school, and now what do you think people are going to think? People thinking about coming to town will go somewhere else.”

Student representative to the School Board Jaeda Bastien said the Board appeared to have made decisions without reading course descriptions. Referring to the Music Performance Lab, which was also cut, she explained it is an honors music class.

Corynne Hart-Cunningham and her daughter, Anya, also addressed the Board, and questioned why honors classes were considered in the same grouping as regular classes. The Board had previously made exceptions for minimum class size for AP, upper level foreign language, and remedial classes, but not for honors classes.

Hart-Cunningham pointed out that statistics show class numbers go down through the years, and said the sophomore class stands currently at a total of only 60 students.

“I don’t know how you picked the (minimum class size) number,” she said. “Students did not know that what they chose would affect the class offerings. No one told my daughter that Honors American Lit would not run. Having them out of the loop is a big disservice to them.”

Her daughter spoke about the integrated Spanish 3 and 4 class she is taking, and said the teacher is teaching two curricula. “It does not work,” she said. “I’m learning half of what other Spanish 3 classes are learning. It’s not fair to us. We’re learning half of what we should. While she’s teaching Spanish 4, we are sitting with nothing to do because she has run out of work for Spanish 3. When we’re taking a Spanish 3 test and trying to concentrate, she’s teaching Spanish 4 (out loud).”

Leanne Robinson and her daughter also spoke. “If we’re doing this now, will it be a regular practice that we lose honors classes over the next few years? Why are we providing less challenging classes and not encouraging people to sign up for honors rather than assuming kids will drop out of them? I want to make sure my daughter is ready for college, and she wants and needs honors classes.”

Her daughter said she wants to push herself, and taking honors classes is important to her as she prepares for a career in the biomedical field. “Colleges look at the junior year classes,” she said, noting they would wonder why she had stopped taking honors classes.

“We should be encouraging and challenging students,” her mother added.

Tara Bilodeau Hone questioned how the District arrived at a point where it was not offering a regular physics class. “How do we not have that? It’s completely unacceptable,” she said. “You can’t leave out a basic science course and think every course has an equivalent on VLACS (online Virtual Learning Academy Charter School). Science needs labs, math needs teacher interaction.” Her daughter added that labs on VLACS were animated cartoons.

“My daughter is self-driven and wants to be the best she can be,” Hone said. “You’re taking that away from her. She was told by colleges that she needs to take all the math and science classes she can. These kids need to be taught what they need.”

On a different tack, Paris pointed out that “a lot of teachers” at RHS have no control of their regular classrooms. “I don’t think this is going to work for us right now,” she said of the integrated class idea.

Hone repeatedly asked why the decision was made to cut low-sign-up classes. “We passed the budget,” she reminded the Board.

“You pulled the classes without the kids being able to re-request a class based on this new information,” Randy LaCasse said. “The process was changed this year and the Board got involved. Maybe you should look at revising the Program of Studies. I think there’s lots of work to be done in the Program of Studies. I think that’s where your work really is needed. This is jumping in the middle of a process.”

Another parent noted that many students are at RHS only “to get a diploma and move on. I have no idea why you would put kids who are striving to work hard, with everyone else. These kids are jumping over the bar rather than crawling under it. Integrated classes are just nuts. It’s telling kids all the hard work they did does not matter. You should be looking at these kids and making sure they have the opportunity to be the best.” His comments were met with loud applause.

Kate Tristaino Brooks said she is the parent of a 10- and a 13-year old, and has been looking ahead to what Raymond High offers. She asked if the Board took into consideration, when it selected 12 as the minimum class size, that the sophomore class has only 60 students, noting that requiring 12 students out of 60 for honors classes is different than requiring that same number out of a class of 100-plus.

When questioned, the Board said it did not consider the size of the incoming junior class.

“And if the schedule is still in flux, why was Honors American Lit pulled?” Brooks asked.

Board chair Joe Saulnier said he has met with McCoy about asking teachers and guidance counselors to talk with students about taking honors classes. That has been done, Randy LaCasse said, but only after the schedule was spun and classes were cut.

One student advised the Board that about eight students are not attending RHS this year because they were worried about classes being cut, and even more are considering leaving. Saying she too is looking at attending another high school, she added, “A lot of them want to go to Ivy League colleges and most of my grade are doing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and are worried about missing critical information.”

When the audience members had spoken, Couture made a motion to reconsider the Board’s previous decision to cut Honors American Lit as a separate class, and reinstate Honors American Lit and Honors Physics as separate classes. Paris seconded the motion, and RHS Principal Steve Woodward said it would still be possible to run those two classes.

Couture also proposed looking at the proportionate number of students at a given grade level if a minimum class size were to be set.  “I did hear those who spoke, and we need to take that into consideration as a board,” she said.

Following the 3-1 vote, McCoy said she appreciated all the residents who attended the meeting and gave input, and noted she, Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland, RHS guidance department head Sue Puchacz and Woodward have already been talking about looking at the Course of Studies, work that will begin in earnest this spring.

“All of us need to encourage kids to strive as high as they can,” she said. “And we’re selling other kids short by offering all the Concepts classes.

In other business:

• The board welcomed Bastien as its student representative. She replaces graduating senior Jeff Rivard.

• The Board signed its collective bargaining agreement, extending through June 30, 2022, with RESS – the Raymond Educational Support Staff. Raymond voters approved the agreement in March, and both sides expressed pleasure with its contents.

• Raymond Coalition for Youth Executive Director Celeste Clark discussed the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that will be given at the middle school level. She said the survey is completely anonymous and students do not have to answer the questions. Data from the survey is used by some of the Coalition’s funding sources.

Discussion centered on Board policy interpretation, as the District’s attorney said parents should have to opt in to the survey. Couture said she disagrees with that interpretation and made a motion to approve the survey without the opt-in. Parents are able to opt out of having their children take the survey, she noted.

The motion passed 3-1, with Arsenault opposed, saying, “I have to have faith in our attorney.”

• Principal Laura Yacek presented the Lamprey River Elementary School second trimester report, and Principal Bob Bickford presented the Iber Holmes Gove Middle School second trimester report.

Yacek noted that in the second trimester, the number of students in grades 1-4 scoring at or above proficiency in math went from 48 percent to 62 percent from the first trimester, the number of second through fourth graders scoring at proficient or above rose from 43 percent to 46 percent; and the number scoring at that level in Early Literacy (kindergarten and grade 1) went from 37 percent to 43 percent.

She said three bullying incidents were investigated and all were determined to be non-substantiated. In discipline matters, there were 29 out-of-school suspensions involving 16 students, and 31 in-school suspensions involving 18 students.

Bickford said 159 out of 382 students achieved honor roll status for the second trimester. He said seven bullying incidents were investigated for the term, with three substantiated; there were no cyberbullying incidents. For the second term, there were seven out-of-school suspensions involving five students.

He noted that the leadership team at the school is working on a plan to implement the new technology plan, set to bring computers for all students in one grade next year, with the plan to give all students access to a computer all day within three years.

• Woodward presented volunteer Art Wolinsky with a gift for his work on a video for the recently completed New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation evaluation of RHS.

• McCoy said the preliminary report from NEASC “validated where we are going,” adding she hopes to receive the final report in June.

• The board approved a motion to accept a new RHS bell schedule as proposed by Woodward and asked him to look into a lunch period rotation.

• The board agreed that administration should look at integrating CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), AED (automated external defibrillator) and perhaps Stop the Bleed and other first aid training into the curriculum. Paris said she has been in favor of this since joining the Board. Saulnier said he would like to see the Raymond Fire Department be part of the training.

• The board approved a proposed 20-year agreement with Seacoast School of Technology (SST). McCoy noted that SST has hired Sharon Wilson, an assistant principal at Nashua North High School, as its new principal. SST, located in Exeter, is the regional Career and Technical Education (CTE) center for high school students from Raymond, Epping, Exeter, Newmarket, Sanborn Regional and Winnacunnet high schools.

• The board approved the retirements, all effective June 30, of Elizabeth Downes, RHS English teacher; Betty Ann Leclerc, second grade teacher at Lamprey River; and Linda Zimmel, first grade teacher at Lamprey River.

• McCoy noted that students in the RHS JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program attended the recent Career Development Conference and were recognized for their achievement.

• Middle school music teacher Alicia Rockenhauser and several of her students performed for the School Board.

 


School Board Reviews Course Offerings for Class Size
By Leslie O’Donnell    3-25-19

At its March 20 meeting, the Raymond School Board heard a presentation on 2019-2020 course offerings for Raymond High School, and sought to dispel rumors that the proposed offerings, with a minimum class size of 12 in most cases, was intended to cut staff.

Presenting the course offerings were RHS Principal Steve Woodward and RHS guidance department head Sue Puchacz. They noted that based on Raymond School Board policy, classes are generally capped at 25 students, while chemistry is capped at 23, computers at 20, foods and nutrition at 16 and technology education at 16. The smaller sized classes are based on space and safety needs.

Woodward also noted that per School Board action, classes with an enrollment of 12 would not run, except for Advanced Placement, upper level foreign language, and remedial classes, without discussion and approval of the Board.

Woodward explained that students were asked to select classes earlier this year and were to list their first through third choices. As a result, several classes – about 3 percent of the offerings - were removed from the schedule because of low enrollment.

Woodward displayed the departmental offerings, and in cases where classes were cut or numbers were low, discussed them with the Board.  In Art, for example, Sculpture and Open Studio Workshop were removed. Board chair Joe Saulnier asked if Sculpture, which had five sign-ups, could be combined with Pottery, which had 13 and is being offered. Woodward said he would discuss that with the Pottery teacher.

Accounting III and IV had no students sign up and was removed from the Business schedule.

In Computers, Computer Program II had been removed after only six students signed up. Woodward said the teacher was maxed out with the offerings as they stood, and noted that the number of requests for classes in that department has escalated.

In the English department, all classes were slated to run except for Honors American Literature, which had nine requests. “In all reality, that number will likely go down,” Woodward said. The Board was in agreement with not running Honors American Literature.

All Health, JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) and Physical Education classes were slated to run.

Math Department offerings raised some concern for both Woodward and the School Board, with the understanding of the need to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning. “We’re offering new classes in hopes the students will buy in to take more math classes,” Woodward said.

Honors Pre-Calculus had 11 sign-ups, and Probability & Statistics had 10, while Trigonometry had three. Board member Janice Arsenault said she thinks Honors Pre-Calculus and Probability & Statistics should run, and board member Beth Paris agreed. It was suggested that Trigonometry could be offered through VLACS  (Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in Exeter).

Saulnier also questioned why students would take Algebra II Concepts rather than Algebra II, and Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said there are other math courses those students could take if the concepts class were removed.

Summing up the discussion, Arsenault said Honors Pre-Calculus and Probability & Statistics should run, Trigonometry should not, and administration should try to find students an alternative way to take that class. She also said Algebra II Concepts should not run. As it is a semester rather than year-long class, Woodward said he would probably run Probability & Statistics second semester.

Music raised other issues, and Arsenault said she did not know of any other teacher in the District who teaches as many students in a day as the music teacher, whose Concert Band class has 63 requests, Raymond Singers has 28, and Guitar I has 27. “That has to be taken into consideration,” she said.

Drumline attracted eight, and Topics in Contemporary Music, Performance Lab, and Music Theory each had three; as a result, none of those were included in the schedule presented.

Board member Michelle Couture said she would like to see something else offered in music, and noted that combining the classes that did not attract enough students was not really plausible. Arsenault wondered if a new curriculum could be developed to mesh classes that were not running. Woodward said he would look at the students who signed up for Theory and Topics and see whether they would consider Drumline.

Both Saulnier and Paris said they would like to see Drumline and Theory offered, and Arsenault and Couture said they would be all right with that.

In the Science Department, Advanced Placement Biology, with two students, as well as Honors Physical Science, with four students, and Honors Physics, with five students, were slated to be cut. While Environmental Science had only 10 sign-ups and Earth Science had eight, Woodward said he expected them to be at 12 by the start of the school year.

Arsenault said she did not share Woodward’s optimism about Earth Science.  Puchacz noted that students are taking extra science classes as electives, “and that’s wonderful.”

Woodward said the school is not “meeting the gap between Conceptual Physics and Honors Physics, and the Board agreed that a straight Physics class should be offered. Woodward said it would be hard to change the course offerings at this time, and noted that VLACS could possibly be used for Physics.

“I do not think Honors Physical Science should run,” Arsenault said, adding she is also not in favor of Honors Physics running this year.

“The discussion needs to be about how to offer Physics,” Couture said. Woodward said that would involve a conversation with the Math department because Physics requires math comprehension.

Arsenault said they should discuss offering Physics next year rather than Conceptual Physics, and McCoy agreed that Physics should be offered.

Concerning Social Studies offerings, World Geography with four students and In the News with two students will not be running. In Technology Education, Fine Woodworking with five students, and Wood and Construction wit h 22 students, will not be running because they are full-year courses and the school does not have an instructor for a full year.

All classes in World Languages had the requisite number of students except for French III and IV, with two. Saulnier said that class should run, and Arsenault added that she “would look at upper level French with the same eye as Advanced Placement classes.”

Paris then said she had been hearing rumors that teachers would be losing their jobs as a result of the imposition of minimum class size. “The plan never has been to eliminate teachers,” she said.

Woodward said morale among teachers is the lowest he has seen in his years in Raymond. “Teachers feel under the microscope,” he said, and cited uncertainty about class offerings and class size. “That’s leading them to feel under the gun. I’ve had a record number of requests (from teachers) for recommendations this year. “Add to that the talk about tuitioning to Pinkerton Academy, and there’s a lot of things to be anxious about.”

“I can certainly understand how someone would be uncertain, but the class schedule has never been about eliminating teachers,” McCoy emphasized.

“I believe, at least in recent years, the Board has always supported its teachers, but we would be doing a disservice to the teachers, the community and the District if we did not look at efficiencies,” Saulnier said, noting it is better to look at making changes at this time of year rather than during budget season.

“We’ve working very hard to have a diverse program of studies,” Woodward said, adding that RHS offers more classes than some schools that are considerably larger. “And that program of studies is still intact.”

“I never want to take away something that a student needs, but we can’t take taxpayer money for things that we don’t need,” Arsenault said. “I feel much better about this now – you did an excellent job.”

In other business:

• McCoy presented a graduation date of June 14, a Friday evening. She said the District had to get through the worst of the winter and snow days before being able to set a date, and noted there have been three snow days so far. Paris, however, said she and others have seen a District calendar on the school website that said June 7 was the date for graduation, and have made plans accordingly. That calendar is no longer posted.

McCoy said she was unaware of the calendar posting. Paris read a letter submitted by student School Board member Jeff Rivard, who was absent from the meeting, that does not support changing the graduation date. “Changing the date and expecting more learning to take place is optimistic,” he wrote.

Arsenault noted that June 12 is the first legal date graduation can be held, and as the Board had previously discussed holding graduation on a Friday, that date would be June 14.

The board voted 4-1, with Paris opposed, to hold graduation on June 14.

• Re-elected Saulnier as chairman, Arsenault as vice chairman and Paris as secretary for the coming School  Board year. Board member Moe Titcomb said he had intended to nominate Arsenault as chairman, but she said she supported Saulnier’s re-election.

• A public hearing was held on grant funding that came in higher than expected. Grants awarded totaled $1,160,926.48, with $720,000 budgeted, or an unanticipated amount coming in of $440,926.48, Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore explained. In addition, she noted that impact fees were budgeted at $26,374 but came in, per the Town, at $98,802, for unanticipated revenue of $72,428.

The Board unanimously approved motions to accept the unanticipated grant funding and to accept the additional impact fees, which will be used to offset bond principal and interest.

• Whitmore discussed the monthly financials, and noted that Medicaid reimbursement is coming in more steadily than it had been. “We’re looking pretty good in regards to revenue,” she said. “I’m working with the Special Education staff to bill Medicaid so that we are not falling behind.”

She added that in spite of vacation and the shortness of the month, “we are holding our own” on February Food Service income.

Whitmore said they were able to approve purchase of a computer for the high school because the current 12-year-old computer could not run necessary programs for a class. McCoy said the budget was being run conservatively but was unfrozen.

• A sophomore and a senior from the JAG program visited the Board with instructor Lisa King and discussed their classes. The students noted they take field trips to job fairs, businesses and leadership conferences to get a sense of what might be available when they graduate. Public speaking, resume writing, and mock interviews are all part of the offering.

• Board members discussed what they would like to see as future agenda items, including CPR training, protocols for physical altercations between staff and students, problematic lessons involving racial equity, efficient use of time and resources in all three schools, development of a process for training teachers in the use of the technology available to them, formation of a curriculum committee led by teachers to provide oversight when new classes are developed, making sure classes offered are complementary, not contradictory, to each other, and forming a committee to look at the elementary school building, including upgrading its water fountains.

• The Board discussed its summer meeting schedule with McCoy. The Board approved a motion 4-1, with Titcomb opposed, to hold regular Board meetings July 24 and Aug. 14, to hold a work session on the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) on July 31, and to hold a budget work session on Aug. 28.

• The board accepted the resignation of Jillian Hoffman, a seventh grade English and social studies teacher at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School. She is on leave this year and will not be returning next year.

• McCoy noted she was “very pleased with the outcome of voting and sincerely appreciates the support of the community” in passing all warrant articles, except for the Pinkerton study committee.

 • Board members were appointed to the following committees: Policy, Paris and Couture; Technology, Saulnier; Strategic Planning, Arsenault and Couture, with Paris as alternate; Competency, Couture; Raymond Education Association Sick Bank, Paris; Seacoast School of Technology, Arsenault, with Paris as alternate; Transportation, Titcomb, with Paris as alternate; Wellness, Couture and Paris; Budget, Saulnier, with Arsenault as alternate; Cable, Paris; CIP, Arsenault and Paris; Conservation, Couture; Raymond Coalition for Youth, Arsenault, with Couture as alternate; Student Mentor, Arsenault; New Hampshire School Boards Association, Paris, with Arsenault as alternate.


Board Questioned About Minimum Class Size at High School
By Leslie O’Donnell     3-11-19

Randy LaCasse and John Harmon both addressed the Raymond School Board March 6 to express displeasure with proposed increases in class size at Raymond High School.

Identifying himself as a parent, taxpayer and RHS music teacher, LaCasse said those roles could not be separated in his comments. He noted that he considers his job secure, and he thus was not speaking out to protect job security.

“I want to be clear that as we decrease teachers, particularly at the high school, class size will go up, and an unintended possible hole in that thinking is that with fewer teachers and fewer class sections,” students will face conflicts in their schedule for classes they need for graduation.

“I want people to understand that with decreasing staff and increasing class size, there can be unintended consequences and conflicts,” he said.

He also asked the board if it was its intent not to run an honors class if it had, for example, only eight students, and noted that it had been mentioned that both honors and regular classes in a subject could be taught in the same class at the same time.

“Are you going to ask a teacher to deliver two curriculums in the same class period?” he asked. “I do now, and it’s overwhelming. I hope we don’t get to the point where this board asks the administration to ask teachers to teach two very different curriculums in the same number of minutes.

“And if we can’t offer an honors class, what happens the next year when the student wants to sign up for AP (advanced placement)?” he added.

Board member Janice Arsenault, who had started the discussion months ago by stating her desire to set a minimum number of students for a class to be offered, said she thinks both honors and regular curriculum could be taught at the same time. “We’re letting numbers decide what classes will be held,” she added.

LaCasse responded that his music theory would never be offered under that guideline, which would likely mean no RHS student could be accepted into a music education major at college. “Without that class, they wouldn’t be able to pass the music entrance exam,” he said.

Board chair Joe Saulnier said the minimum of 12 students for a class to run was not a ”drop dead” number.

LaCasse cautioned the board that when they talk about class size, they are also talking about programs.

“The number of kids who sign up for a class will build the schedule,” Arsenault said. “I’m not going to agree that we should run classes with three students. I want a program that runs efficiently and serves students. We’ve had too many classes with too few kids.”

Saying she taught high school in a district where honors and regular curriculum were taught in the same class, she asked Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy to obtain information about other districts that have one teacher instructing two different classes at the same time with no extra compensation.

Arsenault said combining the honors and general classes would place a lot of responsibility on the honors students, who would receive additional work.

“Education is also about feedback from the teacher,” LaCasse said. “You can’t give the same feedback as you could in a separate class.”

Harmon, a former long-time School Board member as well as a parent and taxpayer, also spoke to class size. “I’m disappointed the board is taking a minimum class size of 12,” he said. “That’s too aggressive” he said. “If French 2 has six students and it’s the only section offered, it would not be held.

“I’m disappointed about taking this position when we have class sizes at the middle school that could be cut, and we could have cut a fifth and an eighth grade teacher,” he added.

Harmon also raised other issues, and cited what he termed a “disparaging” remark made by board member Beth Paris at a previous meeting, when she referred to some honors classes at RHS as a “joke.”

“I was shocked that no other board member or administrator took exception to that comment,” Harmon said. “What classes are the jokes and are not worthy of   being taught at the high school? It’s frustrating that we have this kind of comment at a board meeting.”

Harmon asked the board to step back and digest the current high school schedule, and to seek student and parent input. He expressed concern about reducing Ram time, and suggested that if board members are concerned about how Ram time is used, they should visit the school to observe what goes on and discuss how to make it better.

He acknowledged that the board had said it would have an appeals process for undersized classes, but said that does not mean the class would be offered.

Harmon also noted that Paris had missed nine out of 32 school board meetings, and board member Moe Titcomb had missed 10 out of 32.

“To do justice as a school board member and elected official, to me that is tragic,” he said of the absences. “Don’t sign up, or resign if you can’t do the job.”

Paris defended her record by citing “extenuating circumstances,” noting dying family members. And concerning her “joke” comment, she said her child moved to a non-honors class because work in that class was more extensive than in the honors section.

“Things aren’t as black and white as you made it out to be,” she told Harmon.

Titcomb spoke up as well, and said he was absent because of his own and family illnesses and marital issues.

In other business:

• Technology Director Kevin Federico presented his quarterly report, and in response to a question from Saulnier, noted what items had broken down or were beyond repair in the past year. Saulnier also spoke to a complaint he received that day from a parent whose student could not take part in a class because of incompatible software.

“This is a critical need for us. We need to start updating. If we can’t run our curriculum, something needs to be done,” he said, praising Federico for doing a “fantastic job” in working to rectify the problem.

“We’re trying to get the money reallocated to address the (compatibility) issue Joe raised,” Federico said.

Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward noted that he had recently observed a CAD (computer-aided design) classroom with “pretty impressive offerings,” but because of a lack of equipment and outdated equipment, one machine was being shared by every two to three students.

“Students have outdated equipment, and it’s just not ideal,” he said. “We’re starting to offer things that we do not have the technology for.”

• In a related matter, Saulnier noted the election is Tuesday, March 12 and raised the issue of the default budget, which is lower than the proposed budget. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into our budget and don’t tack on extra money,” he said.   “This year’s budget has so much more technology in it because we’re so far behind. To be honest, our technology needs to be upgraded, and in my mind, if the default is passed, we would have to look at possible cuts – fifth and eighth grade teachers, music, JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates), YEES (Youth Educational Employment Service) – cuts we looked at before and will have to look at again.

“We never rubber-stamp our budget,” he added. “In the last three years, we’ve made about $1 million in cuts.”

Saulnier also noted that staff contracts make up about 70 percent of the budget, and emphasized that those contracts were approved by Raymond’s voters.

Paris emphasized that while she has been very vocal about the expense of technology in the past, she considers it important. “I am concerned about the default and don’t think a lot of people understand the ramifications if it passes,” she said.

• Woodward presented a draft proposal for the 2019-20 RHS schedule, proposed because of the School Board’s expressed wishes to see less unstructured time for students. Currently students who have a study hall on a day when Ram time is scheduled could have three-plus hours without an instructional period.

The proposal eliminates RAP time (30 minutes daily) four days a week, stating it has not been used constructively, and shortened Ram time from 83 minutes while increasing its frequency. In addition, an eighth period was added, although this would likely mean more students have a study hall.

Woodward also noted that the class failure rate has dropped by double digits and is continuing to drop, thanks to Ram time data.

As an alternative to the proposed schedule, he suggested keeping the current schedule for next year and taking more time to consider changes.

McCoy said the administration is not pushing to change the schedule, but was responding to board discussion.

After hearing Woodward’s presentation, Paris said she thinks a committee is needed of teachers and students to look at the schedule. “I like Ram, and the data shows it is helping our kids,” she said. “I have a problem with the amount of time when kids are not doing anything, but I think it’s premature to change the schedule.”

Thanking Woodward for his “haste and effort,” Arsenault said she does not think the issue can be solved in two weeks, and remains concerned about Ram time. “I don’t think I’m ready to accept the new schedule,” she said.

When LaCasse noted that students who fail to do work on time can use Ram time to make it up, Arsenault said, “what are we teaching kids if we give them time each day to make up work they didn’t do by deadline?”

Saulnier agreed, saying “kids who do not bother to do their work shouldn’t have Ram time to do it during school.”

“This is where we have to teach responsibility,” Arsenault said.

She noted the proposed schedule does not alleviate any of her concerns about Ram time, study hall, and seniors who come to school late or leave early for no legitimate reason. “For Ram to continue, it has to convince me its being used responsibly,” she said. “Rather than changing the schedule, let’s come up with a plan.”

• The board heard a presentation from Lamprey River Elementary School students and counselor Laura Milner about the first year of the school’s social emotional learning curriculum, part of its Unified Arts program.

• School meal prices were discussed, but the matter was tabled to a future meeting, as guidelines from the National School Lunch Program have not come in. School breakfast and lunch prices were raised during the current year by 15 cents and are currently $1.65 for breakfast at the elementary and middle schools, $1.90 for breakfast at the high school, $2.70 for lunch at the elementary school, $2.95 for lunch at the middle school and $3.20 for lunch at the high school.

• In keeping with School Board policy, Patrick Arsenault, who directs the after-school program, requested Board approval of a survey of students in the program. The survey is required by the New Hampshire Department of Education annually for students who participate in the program, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.

He will obtain parental permission for students to take the survey, which is non-academic and conducted by an outside agency, thus requiring School Board approval.

The Board approved the survey 3-0-1, with Janice Arsenault abstaining and Michelle Couture absent.

• Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland presented the quarterly curriculum update.

• McCoy praised Whaland for his work with the Elliot Hospital, which had contacted the District about offering its Stop the Bleed program, and provided training and first aid kits free for staff to learn to identify life-threatening bleeding and how to react to it.

• McCoy reported that a bus accident had occurred that morning, with no injuries. The accident occurred at the first stop for the bus, after a child had just gotten aboard and while the child’s parent was still present. Another bus arrived after 15 minutes.

• McCoy noted misinformation appearing on social media about School District decisions and emphasized that there is no minimum class size for AP classes, and no change in high school class sizes for students with all varieties of learning styles. She also said it is false that the District is reducing staff to 3-1/2 teachers per high school department.

• The board unanimously approved a second reading of Access to Student Records – FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) policy.

 


Elementary School to Get Safety Improvements, Minimum High School Class Size Set
By Leslie O’Donnell    2-25-19

Lamprey River Elementary School will be implementing a new afternoon dismissal parent pick-up arrangement, which was explained to the School Board at its Feb. 20 meeting.

Lamprey River Principal Laura Yacek and Facilities Director Todd Ledoux presented the new plan, which Yacek said provides a way to have student accountability, matching a parent to a particular child.

“We also want to decrease parent wait time,” Yacek said. “Currently we load four cars at one time, and we want to increase that to eight.”

She noted that parking on Old Manchester Road creates a problem for fire and police vehicles and blocks the view of bus drivers exiting the parking lot.

Ledoux said staff spent time observing the parking lot, talking with parents and watching camera video of the area. He said on average, 82 students are picked up in 62 cars each day during the 3:15 p.m. to 3:29 p.m. time period. “The problem is in the first five to seven minutes,” he noted.

The plan involves converting to two lanes for pickup, with concrete barriers installed to prevent traffic from entering the playground and to keep parents from parking on the Dumpster side of the building and getting out of their cars.

Yacek has set up numerous means to notify parents of the change, and said police will be present for the first few days of implementing the new system.

Parents will be given tags to place on their rear-view mirrors with their child’s name and grade, and students will wait in the cafeteria for dismissal; they currently wait outside. The tags make it possible to match students to the correct vehicle. Parents will be asked to remain in their cars and students will be brought to them, with eight cars loaded at a time.

The anticipated implementation date will be in mid-March.

In another safety effort at Lamprey River, Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy said the District plans to reconfigure the school’s main entry to make it more secure and comfortable, much as has already been done at the middle and high schools.

A public hearing was held to consider expenditure of funds from the Equipment, Facilities Maintenance and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund (CRF) for the secure front entry reconfiguration at the school.

Ron Brickett, federal funds accountant for the District, said staff have been working on the plan for several months. He said the state Department of Education approved a $40,000 grant for the project, and after the District found the work would cost considerably more, the grant was raised to $68,800, subject to the School Board’s approval of matching funds before April 1.

He said a Request for Proposals went out in November and in December four bids came in, all much higher than anticipated, ranging from $128,000 to $164,000.

“We felt that was unreasonable, and Todd worked with the lowest bidder to see what we could do,” Brickett said. That resulted in a proposal for $86,259, offset by the $68,800 grant, leaving a $17,459 cost to the District. The lowest bidder was JBC.

Ledoux explained the current front entry doors will be removed and replaced by ADA-compliant (Americans with Disability Act) doors. A secure waiting area will be created where the secretary currently sits, and Ledoux and maintenance staff will do some of the work. He hopes for construction to take place this summer.

Brickett noted that taking this money from the CRF would leave $494,000 in the fund for future projects.

The Board approved a motion unanimously, with Moe Titcomb absent, to take $17,459 from the Equipment, Facilities Maintenance and Replacement CRF for the project.

In other business:

• The School Board discussed class size guidelines for Raymond High School and unanimously approved a motion to establish a minimum class size of 12 for grades 9-12. AP (Advanced Placement), higher level foreign language and remedial classes would be exempt from minimum class size, but Honors classes would not be exempt.

School Board chair Joe Saulnier said after the meeting that the motion is similar to the current policy on maximum class size and will serve as guidance for administration and future boards. He said the Board looks at maximum class size during budget season, and will look at minimum class size at the high school in March from now on.

The Board discussed the matter extensively before taking a vote. Board member Michelle Couture said she would like to see an appeals process in place, in which a student could appeal to the board to offer a class that did not meet the minimum number of students.

RHS Principal Steve Woodward reminded the Board that minimum class size is a process and has a ripple effect, and said the final course numbers are not available until the week after school starts.

While board member Janice Arsenault, who raised the issue of minimum class size earlier in the year, said she would go along with that number being 10 students, if it would be revisited the following year, and board member Beth Paris agreed, with the stipulation of adding an appeals process as Couture had suggested. She termed that process a way for students “to take ownership of their education.”

As discussion continued, Saulnier said he was thinking of 12 as the minimum number, and Arsenault said she had wanted 15 but would settle for less.

Jeff Rivard, the RHS student member of the school board, asked about Honors classes, and noted he would not have been able to take some of the Honors classes he has taken because of the minimum class size numbers being discussed. Woodward noted that at least one Honors class has already been pulled from the schedule because it was below 10 students.

Paris said some of the Honors classes do not live up to their name, while Saulnier said he thought Honors classes would be exempt.

McCoy pointed out that the maximum class size policy has guidelines and flexibility, and she would like flexibility with minimum class size as well. She noted that if a student moves into the District in the middle of the year, “we have the flexibility to go over that maximum class size number (25 students per class at the high school). I’d like to see the same thing with minimum class size, so that if three weeks in, a student drops the class and it goes below the minimum, we do not have to cancel the class.”

She also emphasized the need for flexibility in finding ways for students to take classes that fall below the minimum. Couture said if RHS cannot offer a particular class, perhaps it could connect with another institution or VLACS (Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in Exeter).

The Board also discussed AP numbers, even though those classes are excluded from the minimum size. Woodward said AP classes in U.S. history and government usually run to 10, while English usually attract four or five. Sciences vary by topic.

Couture said she has taught AP classes with as few as four and as high as 12 students, and found that six to eight students are best.

Some discussion took place on whether to apply minimum class size to the middle school, but the Board determined to keep the motion to the high school only.

• The Board heard a presentation from Woodward about the school schedule and course sign-ups.

The school operates on a seven-period day, and freshmen, sophomores and juniors are required to take seven classes. He noted that high school teachers teach five periods per day.

Paris said she would love to see the RAP (advisory) time go away and considers it a total waste of time. She considers the Ram period, however, to be valuable.

Ram time can be used for a humanities lab, math and science lab, online learning, computer work, directed study or self-directed study. Its goal is to provide intervention and support for students within the school day, and to provide enrichment to students who are in good academic standing. Ram time occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Discussion focused on study halls, which would not be available to grades 9-11 with seven required classes per day, although the Ram period could be used in that manner.

Arsenault raised concerns about seniors taking a small number of academic classes, and Woodward said he would like to see Personal Finance be mandatory for graduation, something Paris seconded. He said that could be made a senior requirement, but Rivard, a senior, said he thinks the class would be useful to be offered to sophomores.

“I’m still tremendously concerned about the lack of time students are attending class,” Arsenault said, noting that some seniors take just two classes. “I’d really like to see a schedule with more structure.”

Students can leave school early for work – and Woodward said Raymond has more students who work than at other high schools with which he is familiar – but RHS does not require a sign-off from the employer.

Couture suggested unscheduled time for seniors could be used in a fruitful way, for internships or ELO (Extended Learning Opportunities). “You do not have to be in the building to be learning,” she said.

• Iber Holmes Gove Middle School Principal Bob Bickford discussed the school’s Response to Intervention (RtI) program. He said the program improves education for all the middle school students.

Bickford explained that in the past, teachers referred to the Student Intervention Team students who were struggling behaviorally or academically, but he has seen over time that some students were not necessarily improving and repeated their behavior year after year.

“The data showed we need to do something different,” he said.  In fall 2017, “(we) came to the conclusion that we couldn’t continue doing the same thing and expect different results.”

As a result, he began to research academic intervention models that had data to support their success. He talked with other middle school principals regarding Response to Intervention models, and visited Amherst and Belmont middle schools to observe their current RtI models. He returned to Belmont this fall after making changes in the local model.

“Because we’re so far below our goal of 80 percent of students proficient in reading and math, every student at (Iber Holmes Gove) is in RtI,” he said. “Every student in every grade at the middle school has 45 minutes of RtI.”

Students are placed in small groups based on their fall STAR benchmark assessment scores in reading and math. Students are assessed at the end of each six-week session in the subject of their group, i.e., reading or math.

He noted that reading intervention groups focus on comprehension; reading enrichment groups focus on persuasive speaking. Math intervention groups focus on math facts, while math enrichment groups focus on problem solving.

Asked by Saulnier if RtI gives homework, Bickford said it does not. “The vast majority of teachers want to be there working with the students,” he explained.

He added that reading scores are up because the District has focused on literacy for years. “It has a very solid base in literacy,” he said. “It’s a solid curriculum. We now need to do something similar in math.” A full-time math interventionist for the school is included in the proposed school budget.

• McCoy presented the finance update, and said year-to-date revenues are mostly on target, and an effort is being made to get Medicaid reimbursement requests processed by staff in a more timely manner. She also noted that impact fees will be coming in higher than expected.

Couture said they need to start thinking differently about “how we feed kids,” and called the rising number of unpaid lunch charges a national crisis. McCoy said they are considering providing the opportunity for people to donate a small amount from each paycheck, and said there has been interest in the community to donate funds.

• The Board accepted the retirement of Lamprey River guidance counselor Veronica McNallen-Formon effective June 30.

• The board held a first reading of a proposed revision to Access to Student Records – FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and encouraged parents to read the document. The proposed changes are based on the school attorney’s recommendation, to better align the policy with the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. The proposed policy is available at www.sau33.com on the School Board Meeting Feb. 20 working agenda.

• The board approved the second reading of a policy on physical examination of students, and approved the second reading to rescind policies on family physician’s report of physical examination, school health service communicable diseases, confidential student information for nurse’s office and use of inhalers.

• Arsenault discussed a recent Raymond Coalition for Youth meeting she attended, where ACERT (Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team) was discussed. The idea is to work with first responders so that when a child comes to school after an incident at home, the school is aware that something has happened and will “handle with care.” Cards saying “handle with care” would be brought to school by the student voluntarily, and the child could be linked up with appropriate resources.


School Board Denies Request to Remove Instructional Material
By Leslie O’Donnell    2-11-19

Raymond School Board members, in a 4-1 vote on Feb. 6, supported school officials in denying a parent’s request for reconsideration and removal of instructional material from the seventh grade English curriculum.

Parent Tracy Paradis informed the Superintendent of Schools that she was unable to attend Wednesday meetings but asked that the matter be presented to the Board and submitted correspondence in support of her request. Both Iber Holmes Gove Middle School Principal Bob Bickford and Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy had previously reviewed her request and each found the material in question to be appropriate. The final step according to District policy is the School Board.

Paradis’s concerns and the District administration’s response can be found on the District website at www.sau33.com under “School Board Meeting Agendas with Backup” for the Feb. 6 meeting. They relate to a personal narrative writing assignment titled “How Do You Turn Yourself into a Character? – Lopate’s Tips.”

In her request for reconsideration of instructional materials, Paradis claimed to represent “all parents (responsible ones).”

Bickford said that Paradis’s concerns focused on one aspect of the instruction, the Lopate Tip sheet. “She expressed her concern that the questions were too personal in nature and should not be asked of seventh grade students.”

In her reconsideration request, she described the questions as “flawed” and said they “ask deep self reflective questions that lead to negative analysis,” and added that their emphasis on self-worth would result in “self harm.” She said the questions were appropriate only for a college psychology class and noted that they are an invasion of privacy to families. Self-worth for seventh graders should only concern “positive thoughts, not ‘flaws,’” Paradis said.

After the parent had met with the teacher and with Bickford, both of whom supported the assignment, Bickford convened a committee that included two parents, the two seventh grade English teachers and himself to review the request.

Bickford and McCoy said the determining factor in their decisions was that students were not required to respond to the essay questions the parent objected to. They explained the questions served only as “thought starters” or writing prompts. In addition, students were not required to share their answers with classmates or the teacher, and the teacher had provided alternative ways to start their essays.

“The determining factor was that it was not required for the students to answer the questions, and we believe it is not necessary to remove that lesson from the unit of instruction,” Bickford said, noting that was his as well as the committee’s decision.

The assignment states, “You may not be able to answer all questions. That is okay. Everyone has different conflicts in their lives. Some people don’t have any conflict in their life. Just answer the questions you can and skip over the questions you can’t answer.”

Questions range from “when are you charming, pushy, moody, ridiculous, etc…How do you act in social situations?” to “What sets you apart from the majority of your peers? What are your quirks?” to “Ethnicity, age, gender, religion, class, geography and politics are all strong determinants in the development of character. Do you have challenges brought about by your life circumstances such as your age, gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, where you live, or your political beliefs?”

McCoy said she asked the school psychologist, in light of the concerns the parent had raised, to review the material when the appeal reached her desk, and both she and the psychologist found the material appropriate. “It was not mandatory or shared,” she said. “We’ve been doing this lesson for years. With all due respect to the parent’s concerns, I denied the appeal and think the material is appropriate.”

McCoy also noted that the teacher had collaborated with faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy on the lesson.

The parent’s concerns centered on Lopate’s Tips. Paradis’s letter to the school board claims Sharrow overstepped her role as an English teacher and “is not here to have students ‘think about their life.’” She also claims no adult would ever answer those questions, which she claimed are “all negatively based.”

“I also find this assignment a cheat,” she wrote. “It is an imposter for some other agenda, but mostly, it cheats the children from their childhood.” She also requested parent consent be obtained for the assignment.

She concluded, “Assignment is inappropriate, crosses boundaries, dangerous and shameful. For the sake of all future children, please discontinue this assignment.”

The School Board disagreed. student member Jeff Rivard, a Raymond High School senior, pointed out he is closest in age to the 12-year-olds in the class in question, and said, “I would have benefited from those questions when I was 12.”

“I have to agree with Jeff,” said board member Beth Paris. “The assignment says the student doesn’t have to do this or answer the questions or share, so I support your decision. It says right in there that you don’t have to answer, you don’t have to share.”

Chairman Joe Saulnier said he sees no reason to take this assignment out of the curriculum. “I even answered some of the questions myself,” he said. “They ask you to look at yourself; it’s a personal writing experience. I thought this was a fantastic assignment.”

“To me, there’s no better time to be thinking of these kinds of things. I think it’s a healthy and very helpful assignment,” McCoy said. “It’s really just to get them thinking, with the overall goal of improving their writing so they can become better writers and more compelling writers.”

Board member Janice Arsenault said that if students had been required to answer the questions and to share, she might have looked at it differently, “but I don’t see any harm here.”

Board member Michelle Couture noted the parent’s concern that the materials produced in the creative writing assignment would be used for some other purpose, and asked McCoy for reassurance that this was not some type of psychological test or “insidious plan” to identify students.

“That is absolutely not the case or the goal in any way, shape or form,” McCoy responded.

Bickford noted that eighth graders at the school visited the seventh grade class and expressed how much they had enjoyed writing the essay in question.

School board member Moe Titcomb said the student told the parent the teacher had said to answer the questions, adding that a 12-year-old is “very impressionable.” Rivard responded that the assignment says to “try to answer.”

A motion by Couture, seconded by Arsenault, was put forward to support the Superintendent’s position and findings on the request for reconsideration. Titcomb then said he supported the parent’s right to come to the Board and said he would not vote for the motion.

“I didn’t even read this,” he said of the supporting documents, which include the parent’s response and description of the assignment. “I’m not going to vote for it. I think parents have the right to come here.”

Saulnier explained that was not the purpose of the motion. “We’re not saying a parent doesn’t have the right to petition the board,” he said. “We’re voting on whether to take this out of the curriculum.”

“Oh, is that what we’re doing?” Titcomb responded. “I haven’t read the material in question. I don’t know if I even feel comfortable doing that.”

The vote to support McCoy’s decision was 4-1, with Titcomb opposed.

In other business:

• Raymond High School math teacher Bill Hayes and students from the High School Plunge for Special Olympics discussed last Saturday’s event in Hampton and the school’s Unified basketball team.

Raymond High raised $25,106 for Special Olympics through the High School Plunge, the most money of any school in the state, and had the most participants of any school at the High School Plunge – more than 80.

Hayes said participation of Raymond students was “absolutely remarkable. Raymond High School is one of the smallest schools to participate and we raised more than any other high school in the state. Their exuberance and caring for each other was better than from any other high school in the state, and I could not be more proud of this group of young people.”

He referred to the recent preliminary study comparing costs of tuitioning RHS students to Pinkerton Academy, and said RHS students “exemplify what is truly important in education. These students have become a family, and they’re what community is. Students that follow them should be afforded the same opportunity.”

Paris said she missed the School Deliberative Session last Saturday because she was attending the High School Plunge. “I was so proud of our town,” she said of the event and RHS achievements.”

“The impact you’ll make on Special Olympics is very important,” Saulnier said. Thirty percent of the money raised by RHS will come back to the Unified program at the school.

RHS band teacher Randy LaCasse also spoke of the Unified basketball program and said its games focus on “sport. It’s an amazing thing.”

• McCoy announced that Brittany L’Heureux is the new school board clerk.

• Affidavits of Completion were signed for the middle school’s secure front entry reconfiguration and middle school’s secure gymnasium entry reconfiguration to affirm completion of those projects.

McCoy said the projects enhance safety and security at the middle school.

• In Raymond High School Principal Steve Woodward’s second-quarter report, the Board learned that students are currently in the process of choosing their courses for next year; 24 percent of the RHS student body earned honor roll or principal’s list status, and seven students were invited to participate in the Granite State Music Festival.

He also noted that 109 students and parents attended the recent Eighth Grade Open House; Special Education Case Manager Michelle Dowling is the second quarter recipient of the Starfish Award, given to faculty or staff in recognition of going above and beyond to connect with students; and Nick Brazeau was chosen as this year’s Mr. Raymond.

The school’s discipline report for the quarter showed no cyberbullying incidents and one bullying incident, along with 68 discipline referrals in Grade 9 out of 119 students, 55 out of 84 students in Grade 10, 47 out of 97 students in Grade 11, and 19 out of 70 students in Grade 12. Total enrollment at the school is 370.

• Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore presented the 2017-18 audit from Certified Public Accountant Sheryl Pratt of Plodzik & Sanderson, PA of Concord. Whitmore said she will attend to two deficiencies, one found with old account balances for student classes dating back to the Class of 2009 and another with signing off on student money at the elementary and middle schools.

• The School Board held the second reading of two policies – on HIV/AIDS policy guidelines and First Aid – and approved them unanimously.

• The School Board held first readings of a policy on physical examination of students, and the rescinding of policies on family physician’s report of physical examination, school health service communicable diseases, confidential student information for nurse’s office, and use of inhalers. The changes are a result of review by the school nurses. The forms to be rescinded are no longer in regular use, and their information is collected through different means.

• The Board unanimously accepted a donation of $1,291.46 from the Knights of Columbus to the Special Education department, and an anonymous donation of $500 for lunch program balances.

• McCoy noted the recent visit of Frank Edelblut, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, to Raymond’s schools, where he talked with teachers and students and met with the Student Council.

• McCoy said work continues on an ASERT (Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team) for Raymond, which would involve coordination with the Town Manager, Police, Fire and Ambulance. Celeste Clark, executive director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth, is serving as coordinator.

 


School Board OKs Four-Day Preschool, Raises Preschool Tuition
By Leslie O’Donnell   1-21-19

Raymond School District Special Education Director Scott Riddell, along with Lamprey River Elementary School principal Laura Yacek and preschool staff, presented a recommendation to the School Board at its Jan. 16 meeting to increase the cost of preschool for non-Special Education students and change the program from five half-days to four.

The program combines 3- and 4-year-olds in the same classroom in half-day, morning and afternoon sessions and includes children with a variety of identified special needs with their typical peers in a 50/50 split.

After the presentation and discussion, the School Board voted to increase the tuition cost from $108 to $150 per month, and to change the schedule from five half-days to four half-days. The preschool is required by law to be free for students identified for Special Education. Half the students – 21 – are non Special Education children.

Current tuition revenue based on 21 students is $22,680. The potential estimated revenue with the price increase for 21 students is $31,500.

The staff also discussed a survey given to parents to determine their views on prospective changes and current offerings. The survey showed a 49.21 percent majority favored a multi-age preschool; 57.14 percent said they were “very satisfied” with the five-day program, while 1.59 percent were not satisfied. In addition, 82.76 percent said they were satisfied with the curriculum.

The survey did not offer a five-day program alternative, and 59.02 percent favored a four half-day, multi-age schedule. Without receiving a cost amount, 68.85 percent said they would still consider enrolling their children if the cost were to increase.

In order to more effectively use their time, staff favored changing the five-day multi-age program in place now to a four-day multi-age program with morning and afternoon sessions, along with increasing tuition to $150 per month.

School Board member Janice Arsenault asked what the fifth day of the week would be like for the teachers, and the preschool teachers, who also serve as case managers, said they would hold their case manager meetings at that time, do project planning and IEP (Special Education Individualized Education Program) evaluations, and potentially have the chance to collaborate more with other staff.

Asked by Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy how that would produce a stronger program, they said sometimes they do not have the time to prepare for in-depth activities, and with the extra day, the quality of student projects would increase.

Riddell said the parents did not want to see anything change, but the four-day program was their next choice. “The overwhelming theme with the parents was keeping the classrooms multi-age,” he said. “It’s overwhelmingly awesome what (the teachers) do.”

McCoy also noted that if a preschooler requires a fifth day per week of service on its IEP, that would be provided, just not in the classroom. No such students are currently in the program.

Board member Beth Paris said the fact that the program has an extensive waiting list (for non-Special Education students) “is testament to your hard work.” She said a music therapy program that had been utilized in the past might be able to be offered on the fifth day, and suggested contacting area universities where students may need clinical hours.

Arsenault said the jump in tuition was a big one, but Riddell said tuition was higher in other area programs.

“I think $150 is fair for this area,” Paris said. “The quality that students are receiving from this team is exceptional.”

The board unanimously – with Moe Titcomb absent from the meeting – approved changing the preschool to four half-day, multi-age sessions and to increase the tuition for non-identified students to $150 per month.

In other business:

• Riddell also presented an update of Special Education in Raymond. He noted that Raymond has 1,254 students currently in pre-kindergarten through Grade 12, down from 1,257 in September. The District currently has 288 identified (Special Education) students, an average of 23 percent of the district. The state average is 16 percent.

In pre-K through Grade 4, 498 students are enrolled and 25 percent – 123 students – are Special Education identified. Thirty-six percent – 44 students - of those identified students have a developmental delay.

The middle school has an enrollment of 386, with 26 percent – 100 students – identified for Special Education. Out of that number, 43 percent have a specific learning disability.

And at the high school, with an enrollment of 370, 18 percent of the students – 65 students - are Special Education identified, and 31 percent of that number – 20 students - are identified with a specific learning disability.

Currently 13 Special Education students are educated out-of-district, down from 16 at the start of the year. That breaks down to two students in elementary school, three in middle school and eight in high school.

McCoy asked whether the fact that the District provides a preschool may be skewing the numbers of identified students in elementary school, and board member Beth Paris asked why there is such a large discrepancy between identified students in Raymond and the much lower state average.

Riddell assured her that Raymond uses the same criteria and assessments as the state does, and noted the tests are not subjective. But he also agreed that the preschool numbers “can really skew the data.”

Paris asked if Raymond over-identifies Special Education students, and Riddell said they continue to look at the data to determine if that is happening.

McCoy said if a district does not have other ways to help a student, he or she may be pushed toward Special Education.

The superintendent also said she thinks the identification rate for Special Education in Raymond is too high, and board chairman Joe Saulnier said that one of the first things McCoy did when she arrived in the District was to direct staff to review every IEP (Special Education Individualized Education Plan).

• The board unanimously approved procedures for accepting monetary donations to pay for outstanding student meal accounts. Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore noted this is not policy but is an internal procedure.

According to the procedure, donations made in a specific student’s name will apply to that student’s account. Donations without a specific student designation will first be applied to outstanding balances of students currently eligible for free lunch. Those balances would have been accrued before their free lunch eligibility was established.

If all the free lunch-eligible student balances have been paid and donations remain, they would go to outstanding balances for students currently eligible for reduced lunch, a change from what was previously determined by the state. If reduced lunch balances are paid off as well, the business administrator will work with the principals to determine which familes are experiencing financial difficulties, and apply the donation to those accounts. If no eligible students remain, students with outstanding balances of $200 or more, after the District has made two attempts to clear up the balance, will then receive the donation on their account.

• The board unanimously approved a five-year contract for bus service with Dail Transportation (Student Transportation of New Hampshire). Two bids came in for nine buses – from Dail at $512,131 per year and from Durham School Services at $560,620 per year. Dail’s percentage increase each year was set at 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent, and 3 percent for the following two years. Durham’s was 3 percent for each year. Cost per bus was $56,903.44 for Dail and $62,291.11 for Durham. Dail, with a terminal in Epsom, is the current bus provider.

In awarding the contract to the low bidder, Saulnier said the price discrepancy was too much to ignore.

• McCoy presented a proposed calendar for 2019-20, which was approved by the board with the stipulation that the District would not have school on whatever date is set for the Presidential Primary. Aug. 28 is listed as the first day of school.

McCoy noted that the Raymond Education Association (teachers’ union) had asked for two full weeks for the holiday break, but McCoy did not include that because of concern that snow days could push the school year into late June.

• McCoy and Curriculum Coordinator Mike Whaland presented an update on the District’s Strategic Plan. McCoy noted that a big goal for Curriculum and Instruction is that by 2013, at least 80 percent of all Raymond students in kindergarten-Grade 12 will achieve mastery of grade-level standards in reading, writing and math.

To date those figures are 53.4 percent for the District in English and Language Arts, and 35.9 percent in math.

• McCoy noted that Iber Holmes Gove Middle School media specialist Sarah Arsenault received a commendation from the New Hampshire School Library Media Association for her work in the Collaboratory Makerspace at the 2018 NH Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference. A letter from the association president, Caitlin Bennett, said Arsenault’s volunteer work in the Collaboratory Makerspace gave attendees a chance to connect directly with someone successfully integrating maker activities.

McCoy said Arsenault had done a “phenomenal job” with her makerspace project, in which students create characters from cardboard tubes and write stories about them.

• The board heard from three members of the elementary school’s Robotics Club and their advisor, Unified Arts teacher Doug Roy. They explained they had received a $4,000 grant to build a robot to traverse the school’s nature trail and then video the project.

Roy said the robot failed to move, however, but the students showed “tenacity and creativity” and videotaped the trail, including underwater shots following a frog. “Our robot never moved but the kids never gave up, and we made the video we had planned,” Roy said. “It was phenomenal.”

• New School District Moderator Ed French joined Town Moderator Kathy Hoelzel to discuss procedures at the Feb. 2 School Deliberative Session. “The point of the Deliberative Session is to get the warrant articles on the official ballot,” French said. “It’s an opportunity for people to be heard and to tell people what they feel.”

Hoelzel emphasized that amendments cannot change the purpose of the article.

• Whitmore presented a financial update, and said revenue is right where it should be at this time. She recommended continuing the budget freeze, as she and Riddell work on tracking Special Education expenses.

Arsenault said she would like the freeze lifted sooner rather than later.

• McCoy noted that the Ray-Fre Senior Center has donated hand-knitted hats for children in need of them at the elementary school.

• McCoy said a new program, Bowling for Books, has been set up at the Strikers East Bowling Center in Raymond. On the third Wednesday of the month, starting Jan. 23, four lanes will be reserved at $2/lane, and children hitting a strike will receive a free book.

• McCoy noted that a used clothing drop box has been installed near the Dumpsters at the elementary school.

• The board unanimously approved the second reading of three new and revised policies on non-public and home education matters. The board held the first reading of policies on HIV/AIDS Policy Guidelines sand First Aid and emergency care.

• The board set 7 p.m. Feb. 13 for McCoy’s evaluation. Saulnier asked board members to complete their evaluations by Feb. 4.

• The board members signed the warrant for the Deliberative Session.


School Board Hears Pinkerton Tuition Analysis
By Leslie O’Donnell   1-5-19

After more analysis and information gathering, the cost of closing Raymond High School and sending the Town’s high school students to Pinkerton Academy, the subject of a recent study in the District, has become a little clearer. (Editor’s note: Corrected comparison figures for Pinkerton and Raymond costs were presented by the School District at the following evening’s Budget Committee meeting – Jan. 3 - and are used in this article.)

At the Jan. 2 Raymond School Board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Tina McCoy presented comparison information about the two schools, although she emphasized that it was like comparing apples to oranges. Pinkerton, 14.1 miles away in Derry, is a semi-private school with 3,184 pupils, compared to Raymond High’s 373.

Raymond voters will face a warrant article in March that is advisory only, asking whether the School District should form a committee to study the possibility of the District’s entering a tuition agreement for RHS students with Pinkerton Academy, and authorizing the School Board to conduct a building needs assessment and design analysis of the potential to convert and renovate RHS into an elementary school. The article would also raise and appropriate up to $50,000 for committee and needs assessment costs.

After receiving a request for information from the Raymond School District last fall, Pinkerton officials said they would be agreeable to accepting RHS students on a tuition basis. Students are currently tuitioned to Pinkerton from Derry, Chester, Hampstead, Hooksett, Candia and Auburn.

Using current student enrollment, the projected base tuition rate to Pinkerton would be $12,066 per pupil. Multiplied by 305 students (373 students less 68 Special Education students), that comes to $3,680,130.

The annual operating cost for RHS is estimated at $7,492,969, including salaries and benefits; transportation; co-curricular and athletic programs; Seacoast School of Technology; and out-of-district costs for Special Education students, including tuition and transportation. The current bus provider estimates six additional buses would be needed for regular transportation, for an annual increase of $341,500.

Based on current Raymond pupil numbers, Special Education tuition would be $1,624,046. McCoy noted that if something outside of Pinkerton’s Special Education programs were needed, Raymond would pay for it. Special Education transportation costs, according to the current provider, would not change.

Closing the high school would save $432,908, including the cost of custodial staff.

The comparison emphasized that the School Board has not entered into any agreement or negotiation with Pinkerton, and all costs are preliminary estimates.

The study also looked at other comparison factors related to education, as follows:

Pinkerton’s graduation rate is 90.98 percent, while RHS’s rate is 83.33 percent. Pinkerton’s dropout rate is .085 percent; Raymond’s is 2.13 percent.

In state assessments, Pinkerton’s rate for students scoring proficient or above in reading is 62 percent, compared to the RHS rate of 48 percent; in math, Pinkerton achieved a 41 percent rate, compared to Raymond’s 30 percent. And the percentage o f Pinkerton students enrolling in a four-year college after graduation is 51.9 percent, compared to 33 percent at RHS.

Pinkerton’s 18 career and technical education (CTE) programs are provided on its Derry campus, while CTE is provided for Raymond by12 programs at Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter.

Also noted was an offering of 37 sports at Pinkerton, and 18 at Raymond, with 12 to 13 percent of Pinkerton students participating in sports and cut rates of 20 to 30 percent, compared to 44 percent participation in Raymond, with rare cuts.

McCoy cautioned that one-time costs would also be involved in a shift to Pinkerton. As many as 82 employees could be eligible for Unemployment Compensation at $20,000 each, paid out over two years and totaling $1,640,000, and up to 24 employees would be eligible for severance pay totaling $191,973. Employees with 10-plus years at Raymond would be paid severance at 90 percent of the substitute rate for unused sick days, up to 120 days. That sum would be paid at one time, and totals $191,973.

Looking at an overall estimated comparison of ongoing costs, the cost at Raymond High would be roughly $7,492,969, compared to Pinkerton at $7,502,628. That translates to a total annual savings, however – without severance and unemployment - of $423,249, which includes savings from operating one less school in Raymond.

“At first we were projecting a lot more savings (at Pinkerton) than we do now,” School Board chairman Joe Saulnier said.

Information forums on the Pinkerton warrant article and other School District warrant articles will be held Jan. 9 at Raymond High, Jan. 10 at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, and Jan. 23 at Lamprey River Elementary School, all at 7 p.m. The warrant articles will also be discussed at coffee hours with the school principal at 9 a.m. Jan. 24 at the middle school, 9:15 a.m. Jan. 25 at Lamprey River, and 10 a.m. Jan. 28 at RHS.

Saulnier said the board will not be taking a position on the warrant on the Pinkerton advisory article.

In other business:

• Food Services Director Judy DiNatale updated the School Board on the food service program and said that in spite of a meal price increase, figures are “recovering some lost ground” and doing well. For lunches, the elementary school is at 55 percent participation, compared to 56 percent for the same period last year; the middle school is at 56 percent, compared to 59 percent last year, and the high school is at 43 percent, compared to 40 percent last year.

She also noted that the free and reduced-price lunch population has stabilized at about the same numbers as last year at this time, 27 to 28 percent.

DiNatale and Business Administrator Marjorie Whitmore discussed plans for a procedure for the district to accept donations to pay for outstanding meal accounts.

“People have expressed an interest in donating money to help pay off outstanding lunch accounts,” McCoy said. “We’re the only district in New Hampshire to do anything with this – others are waiting to see what we do.”

Whitmore said if someone donates money and designates it for meals for a specific student, that wish will be followed. Undesignated donations will go to outstanding costs of students in the free lunch program first. If those are all current, the donation would then go to the accounts of students in the reduced-price lunch program or other paying students. DiNatale and Whitmore have devised a percentage formula in which the amount of the donation would determine the percentage paid on a bill.

She noted they contacted the state for guidance and were advised that students in the reduced-price program are considered “paying” students and thus are not considered in a separate category.

McCoy added that it is not always the case that people with the highest need have the biggest lunch balances.

DiNatale said that 75 percent of the school districts in the United States have lunch balances due. “This has been mushrooming in the last two to three years, and there is not a lot of methodology to deal with it,” she said.

Board members expressed positive views toward the proposal and said they would make a motion on the matter after administration receives a legal opinion on the proposal.

McCoy reminded the board and television audience that the district’s meal charging policy talks about unresolved debt. “First and foremost, if someone’s situation changes and they are having difficulty, they should contact us and we will come up with a payment plan,” she said. “We will meet with them. There are a few people with very high balances who don’t respond to meeting with us and doing a payment plan, and we are looking at options to deal with them, such as Small Claims Court.”

Whitmore explained the costs and procedure of Small Claims Court, and McCoy acknowledged its use is a “balancing act, probably reserved for rare circumstances.”

“It may be worth your while if there’s a significant balance,” said Whitmore, who would be the staff person going to court in such matters.

“I have a fundamental moral problem with going after people because their kids want to eat,” board member Michelle Couture said. “I’m not in favor of Small Claims at this moment.” Board member Moe Titcomb agreed with her.

Board member Beth Paris said a lot of assistance is available with the free and reduced-price lunch programs, but “unfortunately some people just are not paying,” and rely on others to pay for their children.

“We’re trying to teach students how to be good citizens, and that there are consequences,” she said. “People need to take responsibility for saying they need help. People have to take that step and be responsible. All this money could be recovered if people took responsibility for paying their balances.”

• The board approved a motion to refund $6,150.39 to employees, the amount of their contribution, from the SchoolCare holiday refund. This refund is part of SchoolCare’s surplus, which the courts have determined must be returned to their members. In the past, the Board has voted to return to employees a percentage of the District’s refund equivalent to their original contribution. Raymond received $123,126.14 in July, but was not allowed to issue the refund to employees until December. The remainder - $116,975.89 - was placed in the budget.

• The board approved the hiring of Jennifer Atkins as a reading specialist at Lamprey River, at a salary of $48,290, to be pro-rated. She is a certified reading specialist.

• The board named member Janice Arsenault as alternate delegate to the New Hampshire School Boards Association (NHSBA) Delegate Assembly; Paris is the primary delegate. The board also approved a motion to continually determine an alternate to the NHSBA.

• The board approved the second reading of policies on Student Conduct and on Student Health Services. The board also heard the first reading of three policies involving non-public and home education students.

• The board voted to express its positions on several NHSBA resolutions presented by other school districts for consideration at the NHSBA Delegate Assembly on Jan. 26.

 

 

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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.


Click
RHS Alumni Association News
for Alumni Assoc information


"You are what you do, not what you say you will do."
~ Carl Gustav Jung ~

Make your actions look like your words.


"Bullies need people to control, and when they can’t play the game with you, they find another victim."

Don’t become their victim.
~ Claire Cook ~
The Wildwater Walking Club


Develop an attitude of Gratitude !!
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~ Melody Beattie ~


"Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.

For, indeed, that’s all who ever have."
~ Margaret Mead ~


To be Successful you must be Significant.

Success is measured by status.

Significance is measured by Value & Contribution.

~~ Darren Hardy ~~
SUCCESS Magazine


Leadership is not whether you make mistakes; everyone does.

It’s how you face up to them and fix them.

~ Wall Street Journal ~


"Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!"
~ Sir Walter Scott ~