Raymond School Board News

Crowd Turns Out to Oppose Proposed Cuts to Music Program
By Penny Williams  10-30-17

Raymond parents, informed by the Raymond P.O.P.S. music support group of plans by School District Superintendent Tina McCoy to reduce the music staff at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and make changes to the Raymond High School music program, came out in force, most wearing the school colors of green and white, to speak at the Oct. 25 school board budget workshop.

P.O.P.S., which stands for Parents of Performing Students, is a volunteer group of Raymond parents and educators working to support the performing arts.

McCoy and middle school Principal Robert Bickford proposed reducing the district music staff by eliminating the middle school instrumental and choral music teacher's position, held by Alicia Rockenhauser. The change would also involve using high school music teacher Randy LaCasse at both the high school and middle school, effectively eliminating the general music class that caters to high school students interested in music but who are not members of the band or chorus.

The change would include adding a Unified Arts class in world languages at the middle school. McCoy said she hopes to increase foreign language opportunities in the school district.

McCoy also proposed cutting the district’s nursing assistants and replacing them with a licensed practical nurse (LPN). She said that a higher level of responsibility would be given to an LPN and that such a person would be able to do more things than the current nurse assistants.

School board members had a number of questions about the music proposal and requested extensive data and information on both the current program model and the proposed model. Board member Joe Saulnier said his biggest fear with the proposal is the impact the change would have on both middle and high school students. He and fellow board member Jaclyn Sirrine both expressed concern about what the proposal would do to students who come to school before classes start to work with the music program, as well what impact it would have on events after school.

School board member Janice Arsenault termed the proposal " going backward," and board chair John Harmon asked the administrators how the proposal differs from a similar one made five or six years ago, which did not gain approval at that time. He also asked what had changed to precipitate the new proposal.

Board member Michelle Couture said she could not understand why the administration would take a successful program that has continued on an upward trend, and cut the legs out from it.

RHS Principal Steve Woodward said there are sufficient resources at the high school to be able to share resources if a teacher in the district is cut. At the school board meeting held the following night, Oct. 26, he added that music program participation has increased, with the band continuing to grow even though overall district enrollment is declining. He said the community spoke eloquently the previous night about the growth and importance of the music program.

At the Oct. 25 meeting, LaCasse spoke first, saying the music program has grown over the years and must be seen as having three components - not just a band program or a chorus program or a general music program. Rather it needs to be viewed as three-pronged, consisting of instrumental, choral, and general music. The program provides students with a complete music education, he said, noting he assesses 125 students during the semester and has 103 of them in two classes.

The general music group is much smaller, with 22 students, but is equally important, he said, noting the proposal would in effect deny a complete music education to any child who cannot sing or afford to participate in the band program. He told the school board that as they consider this change to the music program and staffing, he would like to be part of that conversation.

Harmon read into the record a letter from 2017 Raymond High School graduate Grace Wilson, who said being part of the music program provides students with motivation. She noted that students participating in music score higher and do better in reading because of the positive impact of music education, and said students involved in the music program have a better attendance record.

The proposal, she said, would be denying students a complete music education and would be creating a difficult work environment for the music staff. She called Raymond music education one of the most important parts of the School District’s educational environment.

 Sandy Ellis, a former music teacher and school board member and current para-educator at Lamprey River Elementary School, said the program began to grow when LaCasse joined the staff. She said she'd like to see her taxes cut, but not at the expense of losing the music program.

Other people from the audience who spoke called the program a necessity, noted that participation numbers have continued to grow every year since Rockenhauser came to the middle school, and argued that as parents they want to see the program continue as is with nothing changed.

Resident Maureen Cheever said that if the district is looking at what other districts are doing with respect to changes in the nurse position, she hoped the board would also compare the Raymond music program with other districts. She went on to say "young people need something to belong to," and Raymond music provides that and prepares the students for a future in music.

Another individual suggested that the savings resulting from the proposed change would probably be only "pennies" and do not equal what the music program has contributed to the town. And yet another individual said that adding another Unified Arts option for World Languages is a good thing, especially when it introduces students to language early, but she asked the board to consider finding a way to keep the music program unchanged as well.

RHS student Sheridan DiLeo said that school without the music program wouldn't mean as much to her. She said she has a bond in her music classes that she doesn't have in her honors class.

"To curb the program would be a shame to take this opportunity away from students who don't sing or play," she said adding that music is "a family."

Another speaker reminded the board that music is a "universal language" and should not be changed in order to make room for more world language opportunities.

Resident Christine Bailey told the board that a music program had provided her with a safe place years ago and now does the same for her children. She does not want to see it changed.

Harmon thanked the group for attending the meeting and expressing their thoughts, opinions and suggestions. He said the board would be discussing this issue at their Nov. 2 and probably their Nov. 8 meetings.

Board member Saulnier noted the passion of the residents in response to the proposed music department change and encouraged the speakers to continue to exhibit that passion at School Board, Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen meetings, and at the Deliberative Session, and for everyone to come out and vote.

"This is just the first step," he said.

School District Gets Grant for Second Student Assistance Counselor
By Penny Williams   8-6-17

The Raymond School District has received a grant for its Student Assistance Program, allowing it to add a second Student Assistance Counselor who would work at both Raymond High School and Iber Holmes Gove Middle School this year.

Raymond Superintendent Tina McCoy told the Raymond School Board on Aug. 2 that she had received that day a request from the State for the School Board to sign a certificate of authorization allowing her to sign the contract for the grant.

McCoy explained that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services had awarded grant funding for the Student Assistance Program.

The grant is for Student Assistance Programs that address underage drinking and prescription drug misuse and abuse for “high need, high risk” populations in New Hampshire.

“The Raymond School District was selected to receive a portion of the grant funds to move forward with this program,” McCoy said. “Specifically, $99,965 for the 2017/2018 fiscal year and $99,990 for the 2018/2019 fiscal year."

The grant allows the hiring of a Student Assistance Counselor to work 37.5 hours a week, for two days at the middle school and three days at the high school. This brings a second counselor to the district, and the new hire would focus on educating individuals and groups on substance abuse and achieving a healthy lifestyle. The new counselor would also be working with other groups on these issues.

McCoy said the grant requires the School District to provide 25 percent of in-kind donation, which would consist of staff and district time and resources; the resources would primarily be the district staff personnel. She noted the state wants to ensure the district takes ownership and buys into the program, with an eye to keeping it going after the grant expires.

The grant will cover the cost of the Student Assistance Counselor for both salary and benefits, further consultations, supplies, equipment, insurance and printing and postage, as well as outreach obligations.

McCoy called the opportunity the grant provides the district "outstanding and exciting." She especially noted the advantage of being able to extend the program down through the middle school rather than having this sort of counseling effort at the high school only.

The School Board voted unanimously to sign the certificate of authorization, and McCoy said this would move the program and process forward in a timely fashion.

The Board then went into workshop session to discuss the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). Visit http://www.sau33.com/files/filesystem/CIP%20August%202017%20Complete.pdf to see the Needs Assessment for the CIP.


Easement Signed for Raymond Town Well #4
By Penny Williams 8-2-17 

An easement agreement between the Raymond School District and the Town has been signed, allowing construction of the Town’s well #4 to begin on School District property near Raymond High School.

The School Board met July 27 and chairman John Harmon presented a summary of the easement agreement. Initially it will be a temporary easement that will expire at the end of construction, expected by the end of summer 2018 or by Dec. 31, 2019, whichever comes first. At that time the permanent easement will be in place.

The easement agreement includes a $110,000 consideration payment by the Town to the School District once the permanent easement is in place, which is to be paid over a five-year period.

The easement agreement provides a right of way for construction, laying of pipes, installation, maintenance, improvement, repair, replacement and operation of the well, and for testing the water and inspections.

The path of installation will begin at Harriman Hill Road and proceed up the side of the driveway to Raymond High School, turning right between the gym and the School Administrative Unit (SAU) building to the dirt driveway that connects to the lower athletic field, and continuing down that gravel driveway to the well location at the lower field.

Harmon said a pump/treatment building will be constructed along the side of the driveway that goes from the school parking lot to the lower field. The easement contains a 400-foot radius around the wellhead, and the School District is restricted from using this area for such things as parking. Workers on the well construction and installation will remain within the easement during construction.

 The Town, once the well is active, will supply water to the school at no cost, having installed water lines to a stub inside Raymond High School.

The board, with only Harmon, Joe Saulnier and Janet Arsenault present, unanimously approved a motion to accept the easement agreement and to authorize Harmon to sign it.

Raymond Public Works Director Steve Brewer, responding to Raymond Area News questions after the meeting, said the $110,000 sum is a one-time payment for the easement.

"It is my understanding that it is equal to the cost of installing a new water supply line within the high school to take advantage of the water provided from the Town well," Brewer said.

At the July 24 Board of Selectmen meeting, Brewer said construction is ready to go, once the easement is signed by the School District.

Board of Selectman Chairman Jonathan Wood, responding to questions regarding the easement, said the $110,000 payment is a 'wash back,' as it covers the cost of installing the pipeline and water link hooking the high school up to the well.” He indicated the school declined to assume any cost for that.

Wood said the $110,000 is included in the bond for the well that was approved by Raymond voters in 2016 with Article 7 - Design & Construct Replacement of Well #1 and Design & Construct New Well #4. 1,026 Yes votes to 380 No votes. 3/5 Ballot vote required, needed 844 to pass.

School Board Hears of Changes to Firearms Regulations
By Penny Williams   5-22-17

Raymond Police Chief David Salois spoke with the School Board on Wednesday evening, March 17 about the implications of recent changes to firearms regulations.

Salois said a major change to the statute impacts the possession of firearms in a school zone. Federal regulations make it unlawful to have a firearm within a school zone but there are exceptions. A school zone in New Hampshire is defined as a 1,000-foot radius around a school.

In New Hampshire, people have always been able to carry an exposed firearm, but to carry a concealed weapon required a New Hampshire license that could be procured through one's local police department. That changed when Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law this year making it legal for individuals in New Hampshire to carry concealed weapons without a license. Now there is no state law that prohibits a person from carrying a firearm in a school zone, only a federal regulation. That federal regulation remains in effect.

Salois said there are exceptions to the federal regulation prohibiting individuals from having a weapon within a school zone. One is if an individual is on private property that falls within the school zone. Another exception is if the individual is a state licensed firearm carrier of a concealed weapon. A third exception is if the person is a law enforcement officer or if the individual carrying a weapon has been authorized by the school administration to do so. Other exceptions occur if an individual's weapon is not loaded and the firearm and ammunition are locked in a box, and if the individual carrying an unloaded weapon is crossing the school zone in order to reach a hunting area.

If a school notified a local officer that someone was in the school zone with a firearm, the officer could speak to the individual in question, but for prosecution, the individual would have to be reported to a federal authority. The federal penalty for violating this regulation is a $5,000 fine and five years in jail.

Salois reviewed who can't carry a firearm according to federal authorities. The list includes a person convicted of a crime resulting in imprisonment exceeding one year; a fugitive from justice; a person who is an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance; a person who is diagnosed with a mental defect; a person who received a dishonorable discharge from the military; a person who is connected to a domestic violence situation; and someone who has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship.

He pointed out that the federal law requires a state license for an individual to carry a firearm in a school zone. Even though the State of New Hampshire no longer requires individuals to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon, the state continues to issue firearm licenses. But, he reminded the board, federal law requires a license to carry a firearm in a school zone and the meeting of specific criteria, such as being authorized to have a weapon.

In other business at the May 17 meeting:

•  A public hearing was held on the following expenditures of funds: Up to $12,000 from the Food Service Equipment Capital Reserve Fund to replace the walk-in freezer box at Raymond High School; $44,000 from the Textbook Capital Reserve Fund to purchase algebra and science books for Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and Raymond High; and $165,000 from the Equipment, Facilities Maintenance and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund to install safety cameras and upgrade two bathrooms at Lamprey River Elementary School, upgrade air conditioners in three office areas at Raymond High, and pave and make the kitchen area at the high school ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

Resident Rani Merryman asked the board to consider not spending the money on the cameras. She said that as the townspeople haven't decided what they want to do with the elementary school, it didn't make sense to spend money on it until such time as the future of the school is known.

Voters turned down an expansion of the school in March.

The board took action on the items separately. They first dealt with paving at Raymond High, noting two bids came in and they had selected the low bidder at $13,365 for the project, which was budgeted at $14,000. This was approved.

Concerning the cameras, the plan is to replace existing cameras with digital cameras, for a total of 41 digital cameras, including 17 new ones. The amount budgeted is $75,000 and the low bidder came in at $65,583. In reference to Merryman's comments, it was pointed out that the cameras and server would be able to be moved and the only loss would involve the wiring and the labor associated with it, which was the least expensive portion of the project. It is projected that 99 percent of the camera/server infrastructure would be able to be moved. The purchase was approved.

Regarding the textbooks, algebra books for grades 8 and 9 were budgeted at $10,000 but the bid came in at $13,736.30. The science books for grades 5 and 6 were budgeted at $24,000 but the bid came in at $29,293.55. This meant these items were $9,000 more than budgeted, which leaves less than $15,000 in the textbook account.

Board chair John Harmon noted, "We are spending this fund faster than we are getting it." However, the board approved the purchases.

The walk-in freezer box at the high school was budgeted at $10,000 and two bids came in, one for $10,913 and a second for $15,000. The low bidder was chosen and the contractor said if the roof of the box can be saved, this might come in under budget. The board approved the $10,913 bid to be taken from the Capital Reserve Fund for Food Service.

• The board heard a review of what Energy Efficiency Investment Company can offer a school district. Representative Mike Davey said his company provides a variety of services to almost all of the big districts across the state. Its purpose is to improve energy efficiency and to look at renewable energy projects. The idea, Davey said, is to reduce energy costs for the school district. The company works with the district on whatever services the district wants to implement, studying the district's energy use and coming up with strategies to reduce energy costs in a tax neutral way so the savings over time will pay for the upgrades

• The school board surplus estimate at this point in time is $599,058 but it was pointed out that it will likely be a little more than $600,000. The reason being that several positions were not filled so the salary and benefit line is under budget and the unfilled positions impacts the health insurance cost as well.

As the audit is free, the board voted to approve Davey's company doing the energy audit.












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Raymond School Board Members

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Iber Holmes Gove Middle School
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Lamprey River Elementary School News
for LRES news & information.

Raymond School District
   Job Postings.

RHS Alumni Association News
for Alumni Assoc information

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