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Author Topic: LT - School Deliberative Session Reaches-and Misses-Quorum  (Read 534 times)
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GDouglas
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« on: February 19, 2011, 08:27:05 AM »

From the Londonderry Times

School Deliberative Session Reaches-and Misses-Quorum
Chris Caesar
Londonderry Times
2/17/2011

For the first time in 10 years, the school district reached its voter-approved quorum required to amend its budget at the annual deliberative session, with just over 500 registered voters attending the meeting - and then, they lost it.

Perhaps in part due to repeated appeals by moderator John Michels to residents watching the meeting at home, the initial count of 442 people rose to 465, and then finally to 508 just after 8:53 p.m. Friday.

But when resident Bob Spiegelman rose to make a motion to reinstate two school-to-career positions at the high school, the official quorum count of those in attendance dropped to 446, with some voters opposing the motion simply declining to participate in the roll call vote.

Moans were audible in the audience, and whether the drop in voters was due to residents leaving the meeting or simply abstaining from the roll call, the meeting proceeded without motions from the floor.

The quorum, which had been challenged in a lawsuit filed by State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, town councilor Sean O'Keefe and former town councilor Brian Farmer, had been at the center of heated controversy this year.

Superintendent Nate Greenberg estimated the lawsuit had cost the district about $9,000, a little over half of the year's legal expenses.

While unable to make amendments, a number of residents approached the microphone to make comments about the board's proposed budget, which included 87 lost jobs and $2.7 million in total cuts for the next fiscal year.

Resident Pauline Caron rose to the floor to say the school should have cut further into its personnel funding.

"Only 19 percent (of the budget) goes to students, 81 percent goes to the employees," she said. "If you want to cut, you have to cut the employees."

"I'd like to say that I disagree with that statement," school board member John Robinson said to some applause from attendees. "I think that if you look at that 81 percent, that money is going to teachers, and teachers are what we give to students. I can't accept the idea that teachers aren't contributing to students."

The teachers union had also forgone about $135,000 in personnel and training costs in the proposed budget, Greenberg said.

Caron replied that she was referring specifically to administrators - the "high-paying salary" people in the district.

"Again, we'll go back there," school board chair Ron Campo said. "(State law) has certain positions here that get state aid - (for example), one, for every 100 students, we need an assistant principal, we need a library business person and a business administrator.

"We can have that discussion here, or have it at a school board meeting - we talk about that a lot," he continued. "Our job is to deliver curriculum to the students, and that is the purpose of the administrators, and the state requires us to have them in place."

"In the projected budget, we reduced administrative staff by 10 percent," including secretaries, Greenberg added.

Town council candidate Deborah Shimkonis Nowicki, who also substitute teaches in the district, then rose to the microphone to question elected officials from the other side of the debate - that the cuts were too extensive to maintain the quality of education taxpayers had come to expect.

"I teach at the middle school in both (Londonderry and Derry)," she said. "With 27 students in a class, as it is right now, my question is: how can you possibly cut staff? Twenty-seven students?

"I think if we want to bring in quality teachers, I think we need to have quality benefits and salary to keep those quality teachers," she continued. "I don't think we should be fear-based for our teachers, nor fear-based for our children."

Greenberg assured parents that the cuts were in line with a decrease in enrollment, and were closely scrutinized for minimal impact on the student experience.

To read the district's budget booklet, visit http://bit.ly/districtbudgetpaper.
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Glenn Douglas
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