Category Archives: Superintendent

School District Warrant Articles 2020-2021

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 (12 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required)

  • YES vote supports allowing the district to operate the food service program for students and staff at no cost to the district, including service to students who qualify for free or reduced price meals.
  • NO vote supports restricting the district from operating the food service program altogether.

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 New Hampshire 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 (12 yes, 0 no).  (Majority vote required.)

  • YES vote supports allowing the district to receive grant funds; these funds are primarily federal funds intended to support students in need of special education services, Title I services to struggling students, and Title II services to support professional development of educators in the district.
  • NO vote supports restricting the district from receiving and expending grant funds altogether.

Different Advice for the Beginning of a School Year

Now that we’ve been in school for several weeks, parents have already heard the usual advice for supporting kids in the new school year, suggestions like make sure kids get plenty of sleep and good nutrition, set a regular time for reading and homework, get to know your child’s teacher, etc., etc.

All great suggestions, no question about that.  But parents might also want to think about these suggestions that Jessica Lahey, a writer who focuses on parent/child issues, thinks we should also consider:

  • Focus on the process, not the product. Very young children are naturally driven to learn and explore…  As they reach out, fall, and get back up again, they gain a heightened sense of mastery, competency, and self-efficacy.  Somewhere around kindergarten, however, stickers, points, and grades seem to become more important than the natural passion for learning.

Parents can focus on the process they used to achieve their competence, asking questions like “What worked for you?”  and “What are you going to do next time?” keeps the focus on the process, the learning, rather than the external rewards or punishments.

One of the best questions that parents ask when looking over a child’s schoolwork is “How are you going to use this experience to be better next time?”  Helping children and youth focus back on the process can help future performance and also help to reduce anxiety.

Modeling:  Parents can also talk about our own successes and failures, showing them that we, too, are invested in the process of learning.  We can all learn from our mistakes.

  • Encourage kids to self-advocate. Starting as early as kindergarten, children need to be encouraged to speak up, tell adults what they need, and stand up to people who are not treating them the way they want to be treated.  Self-advocacy is a key part of building… the understanding that they have the power to control and change their behavior, motivation, and environment.

Coach your children through talking with teachers about problems and talk through the approaches they take.  You can write scripts or role play if a child is anxious about the discussion.  This can actually be a fun way to dispel anxiety and play-act the conversation until your child is comfortable.

Modeling:  Talk about how you ask for help and assert yourself even when it makes you nervous.  Explain how you make sure your needs are heard and addressed…  We are, after all, our children’s first teachers when it comes to conflict resolution and self-advocacy.

  • Keep a long-term perspective. Education and parenting are both long-haul endeavors, and improvements don’t happen on a daily basis…  think about where you’d like your child to be in a year or five years in terms of competence or growth.

Modeling:  When things go wrong in our own life, talk about them.  Keep our focus on doing better next time and your long-term perspective… Model thinking about long-term progress: “…this project did not work out the way I wanted, but I still love what I do…  Here’s how I plan to learn from this…”

  • Encourage good study habits. Multi-tasking is a myth, especially for kids.  Shut off the TV, and if they like to play music, studies show that music with lyrics undermines concentration and productivity. 

Phones are a distraction in the room, even when they are turned off, one study shows.  If they are a distraction for adults, with our fully mature executive function skills, they are even more distracting for kids.

Modeling:  Let kids see us working distraction-free, in an environment that promotes focus.  As ever, kids do what we do, not what we say.  Work on our projects the way we’d like to see them doing their work.

  • Plan for technology use. Have a plan in place for family tech usage.  This can be around minutes, data, or context.  If you want family dinners and homework and reading time to be tech-free zones, agree to that ahead of time.  Then sign a tech contract.  Some kids respond to the clarity of a signed contract.

Modeling:  When I ask kids what they’d most like me to convey to their parents at my speaking events, one of the comments I hear most often is something like: “If you want us to turn our phones off or spend less time texting with our friends, then parents should do the same.”  When we ask kids to make sacrifices we are not willing to make ourselves, they see us.

2019-2020 School Year

The Pittsfield School District wishes all our Pittsfield students and families all the best for a wonderful new school year of learning.  It’s hard to beat the excitement and anticipation of the first day of school, but our wish for all is that we can hold on to the positivity of that first morning.

Here are the top 16 news headlines from our Pittsfield schools:

•  Administrator Absence.  Unfortunately, our director of college and career readiness, Ms. Melissa Brown, is on a long-term medical leave; however, we’re fortunate to have Ms. Tobi Chassie, our recently retired director of student services, fill in part-time during Ms. Brown’s absence.

•  Advisories.  Our Good to Great Team conducted an audit on our PMHS advisory program last year and presented its recommendations to the Pittsfield School Board in August; we’ll be working on program upgrades throughout the course of this year.

•  Choose Love.  Our School Board has adopted the Choose Love program to be integrated in all grades this year; Choose Love “teaches the foundational concepts and skills of social and emotional learning and is informed by current brain research and neuroscience; for more info:

•  Curriculum Updates / Upgrades.  Our teachers will continue to utilize Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as we update and upgrade our curriculum at all grade levels this year and next; UDL “is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences… that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.”

•  Executive Functioning.  Our multi-year commitment to executive functioning support for all students continues this year; executive functioning involves strengthening “mental processes that enable us all to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.”

•  Fund Balance – 2018-2019 School Year.  The district closed the 2018-2019 school year with a budget fund balance of about $80,000; this represents about $.30/thousand on the Pittsfield tax rate.

•  LEAD.  Thanks to the efforts of community members – most notably Ms. Tracy Huyck, Mr. Ted Mitchell, and Police Chief Joe Collins – the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) program will be piloted in two PES grades and in our PMHS middle school grades; LEAD seeks to create “safer, healthier communities free of drugs, bullying, and violence;” this project is supported by the Granite United Way and is likely to expand next year.

School Funding

Our New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee is finalizing their work on the state’s budget for the upcoming two years.  This Committee will then make recommendations to the full Senate for action.

One issue that has been raised many times in the budget development process since the early part of the year is school funding.  Our New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that our New Hampshire Constitution places the responsibility for public education on the state, not on local communities.  However, the legislature has not addressed this critical issue.

A three-pronged solution is under consideration:

  • Stabilization Grants: Stabilization grants were put in a number of years ago to support property-poor school districts like Pittsfield.  However, in 2016, the state legislature voted to reduce the stabilization grants by 4% each year for 25 years.  This has resulted in less state support for property-poor districts with no reduction for property-wealthy districts.  The reinstatement of Stabilization Grants to the 2016 level is important.
  • Adequacy Grants:  The state has determined a cost of an “adequate” education; the state’s calculation actually pegs “adequacy” at about 25% of the actual average per pupil cost in the state. The increase of adequacy to a realistic amount is essential.
  • Independent Commission:  Despite the conclusion of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, our state legislature has ignored their responsibility to pay for public education. The legislature has made feeble attempts to adjust funding for years, but has consistently fallen short.  The funding of an independent – not political – commission to figure out a fair plan is critical in the long term.

Pittsfield’s ten-year budget history:

  • Fewer than 600 students
  • Average loss of less than 3 students/year
  • Flat budget:  increase of 3.5% over 10 years (v. 14% inflation rate)
  • Net average loss of one teacher per year
  • Loss of programs for student support:  ELO’s, support for struggling students, foreign language, wood shop, class size increases
  • Decline of local property valuation
    • Valuation per student at less than $500,000/student, one of state’s lowest
    • Was at 60% of state average; now 45% of state average
    • Decline of overall valuation of all Pittsfield properties
  • Over the ten years, local education property tax rate increase by 48%

A bad and worsening situation for both students and taxpayers:

  • For students, less support, fewer options, watering down of academic programs
  • For taxpayers, pay more and get less

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

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 (

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 (

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:

Parents might also consider taking the National Red Ribbon Campaign Pledge on that organization’s website:   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.


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.