Saturday, March 31, 2012

ORCSD Monthly Roundup: March 2012

People still seem to be checking in here, so I thought I might try a monthly summary of Oyster River Cooperative School District related news.   I go to the meetings and read the minutes so you don't have to.

Obviously the major news this month was the election.  In a resounding defeat, incumbents Jim Kach and Henry Brackett lost their bid for reelection by 40% each.   New board members Maria Barth, Al Howland, and Ed Charle were elected to three year terms.    New board member Tom Newkirk was elected to serve out the remaining year of Ann Wright's term (she resigned in January).    Both Tom and existing board member Krista Butts's terms are up in March, 2013.   Existing board members Ann Lane and Megan Turnbull's terms are up March, 2014.  John Parsons is the newly elected student representative.  I wish all the members of the board well as they attempt to tackle the district's problems.
Dr. James Morse

The old board authorized Chairman Brackett to negotiate the contract for the new superintendent, Dr. James Morse. This resulted in a bit of controversy as Dr. Morse seems to have gotten a very good deal.   Soon he'll be on our side of the table, and if he negotiates as well for us as he did for himself, he'll be worth it. Good luck, Dr. Morse.

The old board also gave interim superintendent Lee Levesque his evaluation in a non-public session.   I have no idea what was said in the meeting, but I think most people agree that the Mr. Levesque has done an excellent job for the district under very trying circumstances.   I for one will miss him when he takes his well-deserved retirement next year.

Board member Jocelyn O'Quinn chose not to run for reelection, and was given a fond farewell (and a terrarium) by the board at the March 7th meeting.   It was also the last meeting of student member Cody Jacobsen, which seemed to come as a surprise to some board members.   It turned out to be Messrs. Kach and Brackett's last meeting as well.  I thank all four of them for their service to our district.

The March 7th meeting included Andrea Tran's moving report and proposed policy on dealing with deadbeat lunch accounts.  Apparently we don't allow a middle school or high school student to charge lunch when he has insufficient funds in his account.  Instead when he tries to pay, his lunch is confiscated and thrown away.   The proposed policy allows for a Santa fund to which parents can donate unused balances upon graduation.

The NECAP results for No Child Left Behind testing were also presented at the March 7th meeting.  It appears that as a whole the district made great improvements.   We don't find out if the district has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) until April.

The March 21st meeting was the first of the newly elected board.   The superintendent straightened out some issues with the new superintendent's contract and some old minutes.   The first difficult moment came when it was time to elect the new chair.   Both Maria Barth and Tom Newkirk were nominated.   Ann Lane deftly resolved the issue by pointing out that Mr. Newkirk would be in a better position to contribute ideas if he were not chair (as the chair must focus on running the meeting).   Maria Barth was elected chair, and Tom Newkirk, vice-chair.

Acting upon superintedent Levesque's suggestion as to what to do with the funds added to the budget at the deliberative session and approved on election day, the board voted to reinstate the high school assistant principal position and restore the remaining funds to the computer replacement budget.    They also approved continuing with the current district clerk, school physician, DCAT representative, and district treasurer.  There was some concern that the process for filling these positions could be improved, and the board approved a motion asking the superintendent to look into it.

Todd Allen announced that the high school came in first place in the medium-sized division of the New Hampshire High School Mathematics Competition.   Congratulations!   Also, the high school is now on facebook -- please "like" them.  Principal Allen also reported on the rain garden project at the high school.   A rain garden gracefully absorbs into the ground the initial runoff of a rainfall.  This greatly reduces pollution flowing into the Great Bay.  Due to the efforts of Jon Bromley, Dave Cedarholm, Kim Mosher and others, there is no cost to the district.

The board moved public comments to the start of the meeting.  The bulk of them were congratulations to the newly elected members.    A couple of people who showed up late seemed frustrated and surprised when they had no opportunity to comment.   I like the idea of public comments at both the beginning and the end -- we'll see what happens next meeting.

Chairman Barth wrapped the meeting up at 9:01pm.  It was nice to get most of my Wednesday night back.

I should mention that the candidate who did not get the treasurer's job (the board kept the current treasurer) has accused the board of violating the RTK law in a "back room deal".   I don't want to wade too deeply into this one, but it seems clear these accusations are false, and I would urge anyone who thinks the board acted illegally to carefully research the law before making accusations which could lead to the board being found in contempt of court.

The board received their Right-To-Know training on March 26th.   I still don't know how the district goes about getting the injunction lifted.

What do candidates do with their campaign signs after the election is over?   Apparently, if you're a farmer like Chairman Barth, you use them to build a house for your ducks.

Next regular board meeting: April 4th.

- Dean

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