These are unapproved meeting minutes. Corrections may be found in the minutes from 7/24/19.
Present: Albert St.Pierre; Lucien Beam; Steven Dalessio; Joseph Levesque; Mary Henry; Frank Emig; William Stahl; Sarah Vogel
Absent: Scott Bushway; Alan Dustin
Chairman Mr. St.Pierre called the meeting to order at 5:36 PM. He noted that the meetings are recorded. Patrick Adrian from the Eagle Times is present.
Motion to approve the minutes of June 26, 2019 meeting made by Mr. Beam, second by Mr. Emig with the following change.
[Mr. Levesque clarifies that in Method 4, on page 2, it should be corrected to 4 bus routes in Charlestown, not five.]
All members vote in the affirmative.
Report of Subcommittees
Finance: Mr. Beam presented handouts on an updated budget.
-Preliminary estimate of adequacy aid proposed by the state for all towns. The amount Charlestown is due to receive from the State of NH for Adequacy Aid in 2019 is $5,254,417. In 2020 the amount is $5,204,087. and in 2021, $5,103,287. Under the amended amounts approved by the State of NH, in 2020, $5,675,996. And amended 2021 $6,680,075.00. The 2020 FY amended amount is an increase of $471,909. In FY 2021 an increase of $1,576,788. is the amended amount.
Mr. Beam handed out a packet with new revised budget, with a bottom line total for Charlestown of $15,508,715.48. This is down $76,000 from budget 1 proposal of 6/26/19. The current SAU 60 budget has many line items included though they are proposals for future curriculum, IE 3 & 4 year old PreK in all towns. Currently this program is in Alstead only. The future budget contains this new preschool program at CPS. Many of the increases are a result of projected pay and insurance increases. Mr. Dalessio asked how a budget line could go from $7,000 to $140,000? This is for 2 LEAP students at the ELC. Ms. Vogel explained that this is a new line item for Charlestown, as the current ELC is not Special Ed and Charlestown would need to provide SpEd for 3 and 4 yr. old children needing special services. Mr. Dalessio asked for further clarification, as this number increases in all towns. Scott Wade, of Charlestown, asked what the remaining district looks like without Charlestown. According to Mr. Beam, the committee will be looking at a budget for the remaining four towns and highschool. There will be increases in certain areas, as well as decreases in certain areas. These specifics will be looked at next. Committee asked that a Charlestown Withdrawal Committee provide a budget comparison in the same format.
The Finance Committee has discussed finding funding for a third party set of eyes to have an unbiased look at all the information. They would offer agreement or disagreement, as a neutral party. Mrs. Henry has reached out to a contact. Other mentioned options are: Tom Connors from Winchester, John Aubin from Claremont, and George Caccavaro of Newport. The challenge is that this committee has no funding.
The final handout included the revenue portion of the budget. Based on the proposed budget, the Charlestown apportioned amount is $8,516,302. With additional revenues, of building aid, CAT aid, Education Tax, Kindergarten Aid, etc. the total is the budget of $15,508,715.00 .
Education: Ms. Vogel presented a spreadsheet gathering information from student numbers of each of the different schools. All of the numbers are not yet present. The committee is looking for the number of students sent to the high school from each town and for the Alstead Attendance Area regarding how many students from Langdon and Acworth attend the Vilas middle school. Ms Vogel noted that teachers per grade at the HS is not an applicable number as teachers teach a subject, not a specific grade. This committee is not able to get a per school SpEd number due to FERPA Laws. In addition, if there are fewer than 10 students in a building, they cannot be reported as it begins to identify the child. Ms. Vogel was able to get percentages of students from each town who participate in the LEAP program — 25% of kids are from Charlestown, 41% are from Walpole, and there is less than 20% each from three remaining towns.
Vilas middle school is not broken down by grade, as all teachers teach all three grades. Alstead Primary is co-taught Math vs ELA (English Language Arts).
Ms. Vogel noted that the subcommittee met with the Principals at their A-team meeting — all together, as requested by the principals. Ms. Vogel explained to the principal that the goal of the committee is to make the best, educated decision. The numbers are needed to show future high schoolers. It is important to see how all three schools work, as all three schools do things slightly different.
Mr. Stahl asked the three attendance area principals for their feelings on the potential withdrawal. He read from a handout:
“The following statements represent opinions of Fall Mountain Regional School District administrators expressed on July 2, 2019. Some are direct quotes. Others are summations.
It’s not just a one town leaving perspective we need to take. We need to look at this in two ways. On one hand, principals in one town might have an easier time without others holding us back.
We’ve also had a long time working together as residents and professionals, preparing students for high school.
This idea is not wise.
Charlestown, one time after another, has brought this up going back for decades.
Overall, we’re better off together.
In smaller schools, teachers might feel isolated. Currently, they can call on teachers in Charlestown for resources and advice.
Charlestown has challenges that might be overwhelming to take on if it’s on it’s own, like three years of pre schools.
Breaking apart would be detrimental to Charlestown and the whole district in general.
I worry about Charlestown if this does happen — and the rest of the district. Kids will bear the brunt of the decision.
This is a long, slow distraction from our district’s core mission. Teachers distracted filters down to the kids.
All the town’s will suffer.
No matter what, we’re better off together.
Charlestown is stretched right now, even with the resources from the district. A lot of situations arise and need expertise available now from within the district.
This is actually hurtful to a lot of people. They don’t get why we’re doing this. Once the final decision is made, go forward. This can’t be a thing that’s ongoing. It’s hurtful to everyone.
I’m not convinced that needs are being met to establish feasibility. We’re supposed to be supporting all of the kids in the region. Whether or not the committee determines Charlestown would be better off apart, I don’t see how the needs of the students will be met.
There are teachers in Charlestown with thirty – plus years of experience. That equals committed.
Even with the status quo resources the needs of the district are not being met.
There is currently educational consistency within the district. Transfers within the district work well because of that consistency.
High school programs will be affected if there is a lack of consistency.
Property values will be affected by educational status, which is currently good.
It will be harder to attract young families.
What if Charlestown can’t make it’s 90% quota. What if it’s only 70%”
Mr. Dalessio appreciates the work, but this does not answer in a quantifiable way what will happen to the quality of education in the high school if Charlestown withdraws. Ms. Vogel notes that it is difficult to quantify a feeling about the education. Ms. Vogel talked about the impact on the union contract. There are two contracts in the SAU, one is the teachers, one is the support staff. By law, the contract must stay in force until the contract is up for negotiation. The Teachers contract end coincides with the July 2021 formation of the new district. A new negotiating unit would need to be formed for Charlestown, thereby creating a new contract for the 2021/22 school year. The same would go for the Support Staff, after their contract is up for renewal. Some services cannot be contracted out by the withdrawing town until the Support Staff contract is up. As long as workload etc is within the contract, it can be done. Because the Charlestown District would be a new negotiating unit, the teachers in Charlestown would start at level one in terms of longevity. A 30 year teacher would start at level one, causing them to want to stay in the FM negotiating unit. They could effectively take an opening, or take the position (bump) from someone else in the other four towns due to their longevity within the FM district. Mr. St.Pierre wonders why they would be a first step? He notes that in his previous experience at the negotiating table, a teacher being hired in the district comes into the district at the level they were at in their previous district. He notes that for this committee’s purpose, Charlestown can continue the contract as they need to. Charlestown is not looking to change the contract. Mr. St.Pierre notes that Charlestown may be able to do better for teachers. Longevity would be the issue according to Ms. Vogel. It is longevity in the district that Ms. Vogel feels will be lost in the move to a new negotiating unit in Charlestown. Mr Dalessio feels this is irrelevant to this committee. Mrs. Henry states that longevity is non negotiable, it is a rule from the State. Mr. St.Pierre responded that this was done all the time in negotiations. Mrs. Henry states that this cannot be done now. Ms. Vogel explains that this discussion is relevant as the teachers and support are key to the educational experience of the students and the impact of the union on the split.
Mr. Beam asked about “bump”, teacher/support with seniority, what are their options? Another teacher/support staff member with less seniority could lose their position. This could increase costs in the remaining district. Mrs. Henry noted that this could be a domino effect and Ms. Vogel called it an administrator’s nightmare.
The Support staff contract was passed in March 2019, on the same day that Charlestown voters voted to invoke RSA 195. The Support Staff contract will go into effect in the fall of 2019. Mr. St.Pierre notes for the committee that when a town votes for withdrawal by invoking RSA 195, no new contracts can be entered in to.
Mr. Beam notes that once the withdrawal proposal is seen, then the team can determine impact on education.
Buildings: Mr. Beam handed out some information put together by Mr. Jim Fenn. Mr. Fenn put together some information regarding each building. The handout has square footage of each building in the district. Mr. Dalessio notes that the negotiation will be all about the energy project. 95% is the energy project. Mr. St.Pierre wonders how much oil could be purchased for the $39,000 in interest? Mr Dalessio interprets the statement as, “is the Energy Project making a return on investment”? Ms. Henry says yes, the energy project is making money.
Charlestown Withdrawal Committee
Mr. St.Pierre introduced Mr. Terry Spilsbury regarding the findings of Charlestown. Charlestown’s local committee appreciated the invite to present. Mr. Spilsbury clarified that Charlestown and the remaining towns are taking the journey together. We are all learning as we go. Mr. Spilsbury presented two handouts to the committee. The first is the Goshen Lempster Withdrawal study presentation to the State. In it, there is a page of background, three pages of specific requirements for meeting RSA 195. Each is addressed one at at time in simple declarative prose. The report is conclusory, not reason or rational. This withdrawal report was approved by the state in a 5-2 vote. Their numbers are illustrations of an approach and format. In the four pages, they gave a whole plan. Charlestown has reviewed this, and appreciate the simple approach. We would propose that this template be used as the withdrawal plan for Charlestown to be presented at the 7/24 meeting.
The second document is a draft contract specifically to serve the purposes of the Charlestown district arrangement with FM. This draft contract was written by Atty Jim O’Shaughnessy. The Charlestown Committee has not reviewed this draft with the attorney, and as such, it is subject to negotiation. We would require changes as it is currently presented. For example, the draft contract mentions tuitioning of students k-8, and we are not intending to do so. The intent of Charlestown is to tuition only high school students. The contract discussed numbers of students, with an annual targeted enrollment — including a 90% bottom floor commitment. There would be a 110% ceiling of the projected number of students, noting that we can send additional as FM deems fit. The discretion to decline additional students would be left with the school board of FM. This estimated number of tuitioned students would be negotiated yearly. Charlestown will determine how many students would use school choice and go elsewhere. The 90% and 110% benchmarks are relative to the projected number estimated by Charlestown. Mr. Beam wonders if Charlestown would be required to notify taxpayers if they could send students elsewhere? Yes, according to Mr. Spilsbury. RSA 193:3 allows parents to elect where they send their student. We see the student going elsewhere as the exception. The intention of Charlestown is to send the students to FM. Mrs. Henry comments that the board would have to approve and accept the students. Mrs. Vogel notes that Charlestown in good faith will be sending their students. Mr Spilsbury notes that if you look at the Goshen Lempster agreement, they received bids from other school districts and they indicate to the State what it is that they want to do. The plan is not a contract. It is a negotiation. Mr. Dalessio would like to know the impact of the difference between 90% and 110%. In the original budget, the number 205 is used.
The third topic is in regards to draft budget. Mr. Spilsbury noted a few concerns that the cost could rise as dramatically as it does. The draft budget takes Charlestown from $12.7 to $15.5 million. Why? Is the high school attendance from Charlestown truly at 205 students, or is Charlestown 20% under that already? The tuition assumption in the draft budget is at $15,500, is this the right/final outcome? Special needs out of district expense is $1.9 million. This number will have to be looked at closer. We do question the three new administrative positions at the SAU. They are conflicting the info from Mr. Fenn, as he advised there is not a lot of additional cost accounting. These are open questions. The Charlestown committee does not intend to go through this line by line and will not be second guessing the numbers. It is understood that there is a transition.
Fourth — The Middle School and NCCS are non controversial and will come back at $0.00 net cost to Charlestown. Charlestown is forfeiting its interest in the high school. We will take on outstanding indebtedness. The energy project will have 7 remaining payments after 7/2021 date of separation. There is a separate Charlestown Capital Reserve fund that will be turned over. The Charlestown Primary was analyzed briefly at the last meeting. Scott Bushway though that it would be roughly $500,000 value. It is a building built in 1968. It is fully amortized. Secondly, regarding the major improvements from 1998/99. $769,000 was spent on three schools. Charlestown paid 35%, after 55% was received in state building aid. $750,000 came from Capital Reserve funds. When looking at the age of improvements and what Charlestown contributed, that this building should also be given to Charlestown. Unavoidably giving up rights to the high school, our hope is that this will be looked upon kindly. We would like to know what share of the High School Capital Reserve and Health Insurance Reserve Funds would come to Charlestown. Mr. Beam wonders how the committee can be of assistance? Mr. Spilsbury will come back in two weeks with specific questions for Mr. Beam to take to Mr. Fenn.
Mr. St.Pierre asks if the committee will take public comment? Consensus is yes. Seeing none, moving on.
Mr. Beam asked about assessed values and the NH Board of Education — do we have a response? Not as of yet. Mrs. Henry offered to contact an acquaintance.
Charlestown Committee will be meeting in the Community Room in Charlestown on July 15, at 6 pm.
A consensus of the present members is reached that the new meeting time for the School Withdrawal Committee will be 6 pm. Mr. Beam notes that he is interested in attending the Charlestown Withdrawal meeting, but it is a conflict with Langdon Selectboard meeting.
Motion made to adjourn made by Mr. Emig, seconded by Mr. Dalessio. All vote in the affirmative.