Category Archives: Superintendent

Safe Schools: Everyone Has a Role

On the day after the 9/11 attacks, an executive for a New York advertising agency that included New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority as one of its clients wrote down an idea for a slogan that he hoped would save lives:  If You See Something, Say Something.

It didn’t take long for our U.S. Department of Homeland Security to adopt this slogan in its work to keep us all safe from terrorism and terrorism-related crime.  For many years now, the Department has been running a national safety campaign around this little slogan.  The Department encourages us all to be a part of this strategy, believing that a safe community requires the joint effort of all community members

I was reminded of this slogan last week in the aftermath of an investigation into the presence of a prohibited weapon found in a PMHS backpack.  One of the results of this investigation concluded that more than one student was aware that the weapon was in school for a period of time, but chose not to report it.

Of course, most folks – including and especially adolescents – tend to shy away from making reports that may implicate a peer in wrongdoing.  We all know the names that are used to describe such reporters.  Most of these names are negative and suggest labels that most folks would like to avoid:  rat, Judas, traitor, squealer, tattletale, betrayer, snitch, stoolie, and on and on.

One of our Pittsfield educators, however, raised two questions about what it might feel like if one of us knew of a potentially dangerous situation and kept quiet about it, asking

  • How would I feel if one if one of my schoolmates were injured at school?
  • How would I feel if my silence resulted in that injury?

The Department of Homeland Security believes that a safe community requires the joint effort of community members.  The more observant and involved individuals are in their daily lives, the less likely crime will occur undetected… resulting in safer towns and cities across the nation.

Having served as a school administrator for more than thirty-five years, I have received innumerable reports from students regarding issues of concern and threats to safety, including reports of peer wrongdoing.  The sources of these reports have been held in confidence, being shared only with the permission of the reporting student or family member.  Student willingness to share this sort of information has resulted in a greater degree of safety and security in the schools.

In this context, I strongly encourage students, friends, and family members to report activity that may pose a threat to students and adults in our Pittsfield schools.  I encourage parents and guardians to advise students to speak with a responsible adult when a safety threat is known.  Reports of this nature can be held in confidence and will allow school officials to keep our schools safe for everybody.

Whether it’s a potential threat of terrorism or a potential threat to school safety for our children, youth, or adults, we all play a role in keeping our community safe.

If you see something, say something.  It just may make a big difference for all of us.

School Funding Hearing

On Monday, March 18, the New Hampshire House Finance Committee conducted a hearing on the governor’s proposed budget for the next biennium.  The hearing was held in Representatives Hall in our State Capitol, and many individuals provided testimony to encourage the Finance Committee to support a variety of initiatives.

Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed budget does not support three initiatives that would be helpful to Pittsfield students and taxpayers and have been proposed in one or both houses of the legislature:

  • Stabilization Grants: Pittsfield has been losing $87,000 per year in stabilization grants, which were originally intended to support property poor school districts deal with the inadequacy of the state’s “adequacy grants” to support public schools.  The reduction of an additional $87,000 per year for twenty-five years would eventually reduce state education funding to Pittsfield by more than $2,000,000, while not reducing funds to non-property poor towns.  Proposed bills would end this program and restore the level of funding 2016 levels when the reductions began.

 

  • Adequacy Grants: The state provides a base rate of about $3600 per student in what the legislature has considered “adequate” to educate a student in New Hampshire.  However, according to the state itself, the average cost of education is nearly $16,000 per student (in 2017-18, the latest data available).  Use of the term “adequacy” is grossly inaccurate.  Proposed bills would raise the rate paid to districts, though no bill has proposed true adequate funding.  This is a short-term fix that would help both students and taxpayers in property-poor towns like Pittsfield.

 

  • Equitable Funding System: The state’s funding system does not meet with the state’s obligations set forth in the New Hampshire Constitution and affirmed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  Proposed bills would create a commission to overhaul the funding system.  The commission would be composed of legislators who would also enjoy the benefit of experts in the field of public education funding.

I am very proud to share the fact that two PMHS students – Colton Gaudette and Colby Wolfe – provided testimony to the Finance Committee as an outcome of a senior English class assignment on argumentative writing organized by PMHS English teacher Amybeth Engler.

Colton completed his very genuine and powerful statement by observing that All students, regardless of the community in which they live, deserve access to an excellent, equitable education.  Because while children make up 20% of New Hampshire, they make up 100% of our future.

Colby spoke strongly from his experience as student representative to the School Board, observing that as a student rep on the School Board, I’ve witnessed monetary inadequacy first hand, and concluded by sharing his fears, I love my town and school, and I know I’m not the only one.  I am truly afraid that if this annual cutting keeps going, there won’t be a Pittsfield School District.

For further information on the school funding issue and how it impacts Pittsfield, click on Education Funding in New Hampshire on the district website for links to several resources.  Also, NHPR is currently presenting a five-part series on school funding (a story focusing specifically on Pittsfield is scheduled for airing on March 28); links to past stories and the schedule of future stories can be accessed at https://www.nhpr.org/.

Annual School District Meeting Results

Election of Officers

School Board Members – Three Year Term – Vote for not more than two:

  • Michael “Mike” Cabral – 240 votes
  • Beatrice “Bea” Douglas – 498 votes
  • Theodore “Ted” Mitchell – 359 votes
  • (write in)

School District Clerk – Three Year Term – Vote for not more than one:

  • Erica Anne Anthony – 659 votes
  • (write in)

Warrant Articles

Article #1 – School Lunch Program

  • To see if the Pittsfield School District will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $330,000 for the support of the School Lunch Program.  This appropriation will be funded by a like amount of revenue from the sales of food and State and Federal sources.  (Estimated tax impact of this article: $0) Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required)  Yes – 641, No – 71

Article #2 – Receive and Expend Grant Funds

  • To see if the Pittsfield School District will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $850,000 for the support of Federal and private foundation grant-funded educational programs of the Pittsfield School District.  This appropriation is contingent upon receiving revenue from Federal grants and private foundations and will be expended in accordance with Federal and State requirements upon approval by the NH Department of Education or private foundation requirements.  (Estimated tax impact of this article: $0).  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)  Yes – 633, No – 82

Article #3 – Operating Budget

  • Shall the Pittsfield School District raise and appropriate as an operating budget, not including appropriations by special warrant articles and other appropriations voted separately, the amounts set forth on the budget posted with the warrant or as amended by vote of the first session, for the purposes set forth therein, totaling $10,399,738?  Should this article be defeated, the default budget shall by $10,245,905, which is the same as last year, with certain adjustments required by previous action of the Pittsfield School District, or by law; or the governing body may hold on special meeting, in accordance with RSA 40:13, X and XVI, to take up the issue of a revised operating budget only.  (Estimated tax impact of this article: $0.83/thousand.)  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)  Yes – 451, No – 258

Article #4 – 3-Year Collective Bargaining Agreement

  • To see if the school district will vote to approve the cost items included in the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Pittsfield School Board and the Educational Association of Pittsfield Teachers which calls for the following increases in salaries and benefits at the current staffing level:

Fiscal Year 2019-2020     Estimated Increase $144,977     Estimated Tax Impact $0.55/thousand
Fiscal Year 2020-2021     Estimated Increase $153,308     Estimated Tax Impact $0.58/thousand
Fiscal Year 2021-2022     Estimated Increase $160,611      Estimated Tax Impact $0.61/thousand

and further to raise and appropriate $144,977 for the upcoming fiscal year, such sum representing the additional costs attributable to the increase in salaries and benefits required by the new agreement over those that would be paid at current staffing levels.  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required)  Yes – 424, No – 270

Article #5 – To Allow a Special Meeting if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is Defeated / Amended

  • Shall the Pittsfield School District, if Warrant Article #4 is defeated, authorize the governing body to call one special meeting, at its option, to address Warrant Article #4 cost items only?  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)  Yes – 443, No – 245

Article #6 – Dumpster Replacement Capital Reserve Fund

  • To see if the school district will vote to establish a Dumpster Replacement Capital Reserve Fund under the provisions of RSA 35:1 for replacement of dumpsters used at the schools and to raise and appropriate the sum of $3,000 to be placed in this fund.  Further, to name the Pittsfield School Board as agents to expend from said fund.  (Estimated Tax Impact of this article: $0.02/thousand.  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)  Yes – 478, No – 215

Article #7 – Drake Field Tennis Court Resurfacing and Fence Replacement

  • To see if the Pittsfield School District will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $35,000 for the purpose of resurfacing the tennis courts and replacing the fence of the tennis court located at Drake Field.  (Estimated Tax Impact of this article: $0.14/thousand.  Recommended by the Pittsfield School Board.  Recommended by the Pittsfield Budget Committee (10 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)  Yes – 355, No, 339

Article #8 – Petition Article to Rescind SB2

  • Shall we rescind the provisions of RSA 40:13 (known as SB2), as adopted by the Pittsfield School District on March 14, 2017, so that the official ballot will no longer be used for voting on all questions, but only for the election of officers and certain other questions for which the official ballot is required by state law?  (Inserted by voters’ petition) (3/5 majority ballot vote required)  Yes – 310, No – 385

 

Post-Secondary Certificates?

When talking about a student’s next-steps after high school, the conversations often starts with talk of college.  For some students, the talk stops there.  For a variety of reasons, many students are not interested in pursuing a two- or four-year degree at a college or university.

Instead, many students feel ready to jump into the workforce.  Certainly, the appeal of independence and regular paychecks are inviting for young people.  But, transitioning directly into the workforce without any additional education or training can be limiting in the long term.

An alternative to both a degree program and workforce entry with a high school diploma is a certificate program.  Certificates, the second most common post-secondary awards, indicate that the holder has completed a specialized program with a limited number of focused, career-oriented courses.

Our Community College System of New Hampshire offers a broad array of certificate programs to support entry into the workforce with focused, advanced education beyond high school.  I encourage our Pittsfield students (and their parents) to take some time to explore the offerings of our community colleges (www.ccsnh.edu).

The range of offerings is amazing and includes certificates in areas such as advanced automotive, wedding planning management, massage, electrical line worker, small business management, library technology, robotics, hotel and restaurant management, early childhood education, fire science, mental health support worker, welding technology, culinary arts, commercial driver training, sign language, bookkeeping, motor cycle maintenance and repair, personal training, heating services, and veterinary practice management, among many, many others (www.ccsnh.edu/academics/programs).

All told, our Community College System offers more than 200 certificate and degree programs which 28,000 students (93% of whom are New Hampshire residents) take advantage of annually.

Recently, I toured Manchester Community College and came away very impressed with both the facilities and opportunities for students.  For example, their automotive technology programs are offered in state-of-the-art labs (not yet one year old) and provide internships at the region’s auto dealerships, as well as competitions that provide scholarship awards to high-performing students.

It’s never too early to begin planning for the future.  And, it’s a good idea to plan for the long-term when looking toward high school graduation.  Traditional colleges don’t serve everyone’s interests or needs; certificate programs at our community colleges provide young people with focused learning which lead to well-paying careers.

National Red Ribbon Week

According to national statistics, children whose parents talk with them regularly about drug use are 42% less likely to use drugs than those whose parents don’t talk with them about drug use.  However, only about 25% of teens report having drug use conversations with their parents.

Since 1985, the importance of having drug use conversations with children and youth has been strongly encouraged by the National Family Partnership, most obviously through their sponsorship of National Red Ribbon Week.  Our Pittsfield students will be commemorating Red Ribbon Week this week, so this is an ideal time for parents to have a conversation about drug use.

This year’s Red Ribbon Week theme is Life is your journey.  Travel drug free.  Parents who would like some ideas about having drug use conversations are encouraged to take a look at the resources available from the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Hampshire on the organization’s website:  drugfreenh.org.

Parents might also consider taking the National Red Ribbon Campaign Pledge on that organization’s website: redribbon.org.   The pledge includes five elements:

1.       As parents and citizens, we will talk to our children and the children in our lives      about the dangers of drug abuse.

2.       We will set clear rules for our children about not using drugs.

3.       We will set a good example for our children by not using illegal drugs or medicine without a prescription.

4.       We will monitor our children’s behavior and enforce appropriate consequences, so that our rules are respected.

5.       We will encourage family and friends to follow the same guidelines to keep children safe from substance abuse.

Here’s a chance to increase the odds that your child or youth will be less likely to use drugs – 42% less likely – by having that critically important conversation this week.

41.1%

When our high school students completed our most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the early spring of 2017, 41.1% said YES to the question Have you ever used an electronic vapor product?

In the same survey, 27.2% of our high school students said YES to the question During the past 30 days, how many days did you use an electronic vapor product?

What are these products? Known by many names, including e-cigarettes, vapes, and by a commercial name Juul, electronic vapor products provide the user with an aerosol that may deliver nicotine (which is highly addictive) or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (which is as addictive as alcohol).

Both of these substances are especially harmful to normal adolescent brain development, which continues into their early 20’s. Not surprisingly, vaping also may harm the user’s lungs.

The Centers for Disease Control warn us that “some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items.” So they can be very challenging to identify. Use can be difficult to detect, as the usual odors associated with burning tobacco or cannabis are not present.

In addition to the health risks, use of an electronic vapor product is not permitted in our Pittsfield schools or on school grounds, including Drake Field. And, yes, a number of students have violated this ban in the new school year and have received school suspensions as a result.

To learn more about the risks that our Pittsfield high schoolers are taking and to learn more about electronic vapor product use, you are invited to two special events, organized by Stand Up, Pittsfield! and PMHS Health Educator James Cobern:

• Youth Risk Behavior Survey – presentation of most recent survey of our high school students
o 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 24, PMHS Media Center

• Vaping Info Meeting and Forum – presented in collaboration with Breath New Hampshire
o 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 27, PMHS Lecture Hall

For our middle high school students, we’ll be hosting presentations by Merrimack County Juvenile Services over the next few weeks. So, parents, be sure to ask your students what they learn in the upcoming presentations.

What’s New?

Well, the new school year, new students, new families, new staff, new program offerings: lots of new things in our Pittsfield schools this year.  Here’s my Top 12 answers to the question What’s new in the schools this year:

  • New Students and New Families. We welcome many new students and families to our Pittsfield Schools learning community. At this point, we have been joined by twenty new PES students and ten new PMHS students; so glad to have you newbies with us!
  • New Staff. New staff members include six teachers, two special educators, two nurses, and our school psychologist. We also welcome a number of new paraprofessionals, but are still in the process of filling all our positions. We’ve believe that we’ve hired very well again this year. (We’ll introduce new staff members in an upcoming notice.)
  • Positions Eliminated. Due to budget restrictions, a number of positions that have contributed significantly to our students in the past have been eliminated this year; these include our community liaison, our extended learning opportunities coordinator, our foreign language teacher, our technology education teacher, and a PES office staff member.
  • Rosetta Stone. Foreign language students are receiving instruction through the widely-known program Rosetta Stone. Students can earn up to two credits through this approach.
  • Project Lead the Way. Our woodshop has been closed due to staffing cuts, but we now offer our middle school students Project Lead the Way, which places an emphasis on math and technology as students learn important workplace skills.

Welcome to Our 2018-2019 School Year!

Hopefully, all our Pittsfield families have enjoyed a wonderful summer, a summer that is leaving you relaxed and recharged and ready for a great new school year. District staff has been busy preparing for the 2018-2019 school year.  All that’s needed now is the positive energy and enthusiasm of our students and the collaboration and support of our students’ families.

The start of a new school year comes along with great anticipation and excitement. Whether a student is new to Pittsfield or is a returning veteran of our schools, the opening of school is a special moment for both students and families.  Most of us enter the school year with an exhilarated feeling that comes along with a fresh start and a new beginning; it’s a truly energizing point in time.

I encourage families to look on the new school year with a spirit of positive anticipation. As our students enter their own school at the end of August, they will feel a strong sense of pride and passion from our faculty and staff, pride in our schools’ history and accomplishments in striving to create a truly student-centered learning environment and passion for the learning and achievement of each and every one of our students.

Our teachers and staff are committed to making an important difference in our students lives. Many of our teachers have been working this summer to support our students’ learning through extended year programs and our Summer Academies.  Others have devoted a good deal of time to developing our programs, especially through our new work with Universal Design for Learning, an approach to curriculum planning and instruction that is intended to support the learning of all students, regardless of individual strengths and needs.

As always, a number of our teachers and staff members have left us and have moved on to other opportunities. We’ll be introducing our new teachers and staff member to you in the weeks ahead, so you are encouraged to keep your eye on our district website and The Sun.  We’ll also be describing some key program changes in the weeks ahead, which will be of interest to our Pittsfield families.

But now, it’s time to celebrate the beginning of our new school year because this year will be packed with new learning experiences that represent another big step forward toward a wonderful future for all our students.

Education Funding in New Hampshire

Thanks to the many Pittsfield taxpayers who joined the recent meeting on Education Funding in New Hampshire. We were joined by many concerned taxpayers from across our state as we learned about the inequities in the state’s funding scheme and the failure of the legislature to address the issue in an equitable manner as required by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

School Funding Workshop – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 13, PMHS

Reminder to Pittsfield taxpayers that the school district will be hosting a workshop on New Hampshire’s school funding system at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, at PMHS.  All are invited.

The workshop will be presented by Attorney Andru Volinsky, a current Executive Council member and former lead attorney in the most recent challenges to the state’s funding system, which became known as the Claremont Cases.

In an opinion written for the New Hampshire Bar News and published in April, Attorney John Tobin, also a member of the Claremont legal team, recognized that the “inequities in NH school funding” have not only not been addressed by the state, but are indeed worsening.

In his article, Attorney Tobin reaches two conclusions: “first, by not paying anything close to the true cost of a constitutionally adequate education as the State itself has defined it, the State is violating its constitutional duty to provide an adequate education…”

(The state’s base per student allocation for the current school year is $3636.06, while the state average cost per pupil in 2016-2017, the latest year available, was $15,310.67.)

He further concludes that “by requiring school districts with greatly varying levels of property wealth per student to raise a large portion of the funds needed to meet the State’s duty, with the resulting disproportionate tax rates, the State funding system violates the holding” in the second Claremont ruling.

(For example, Moultonborough’s local education tax rate for 2017 is $2.12/thousand, while Pittsfield’s is $18.60.)

Important information on this topic can be found here published by the NH Center for Public Policy Studies, and in two recent documents written by Doug Hall, who has worked on the issue since the 1990’s.  Pittsfield and School FundingThe Claremont Reforms in 2018

To learn more about the state’s inequitable system and what might be done to correct it, plan to join the workshop at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 13, at PMHS.