Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

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Minutes from Meeting October 19, 2017

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (1)

NKTA MEETING

October 19, 2017 7 PM

 

Welcome- Jim Baker, Chairman, gave an overview of the Sanborn School District, the new Superintendent, and the budget ideas he has been putting forward. He noted that the Superintendent is discussing a 2-year plan to hold spending level in the face of declining enrollments, and to work toward a teacher contract that can be passed next year. The Superintendent is also in favor of looking into long-term facilities planning and funding, and what to do about the Middle School. All of these are ideas NKTA has been putting forward since its founding 2.5 years ago.

Treasurer’s Report: Mr. Baker gave the status of the general fund and the scholarship fund in the absence of Jameson Fitzpatrick, Treasurer, who is traveling.

Newton Olde Home Day Report: It was well attended and the 50/50 raffle was successful in adding substantially to the Scholarship Fund.

Trunk or Treat – Kingston, Newton: Mary Cyr will decorate her trunk for Kingston, and bring candy for both. Annie Collyer will help. Planning for Newton Trunk or Treat is in process.

Kingston 325 and Kingston Days- Tammy Mahoney went to the September meeting and Annie Collyer went to the October one. NKTA will have a presence at both.

Outreach in Kingston: Videos, Beer Tasting. Rob Peterson is redoing NKTA generic videos of how voting works for local government and about the District. They will be on YouTube and on the Kingston and Newton cable stations, with hope that they will reach more and more voters to build voter turnout and involvement. Annie Collyer would like to revive the idea put forward and done in Newton a year ago, to have a beer tasting in Kingston. She suggested either Saddle Up Saloon or Rick’s for an event. Mary Cyr suggested allowing some time to pass for both to be open, and to plan something for February perhaps.

Budget Season- Towns and District- Jim Baker encouraged everyone to attend the Spending and Revenues proposal for the School District at the High School on November 1, 6 PM.

Carriage Towne News: Annie Collyer said that the CTN has had paper restrictions, so NKTA articles have not been published for two weeks. In speaking with Elisha, she learned that a change is coming next week, but does not know what that is.

Respectfully submitted,

Annie Collyer, Secretary

 

 

Sanborn and Fremont Plan Best Student Outcomes

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

On October 18, the Sanborn Regional School District (SRSD) School Board (SB) held a joint meeting with the Fremont School Board, whose students tuition in to SRSD High School. Much of the meeting focused on increasing cooperation between the Districts and other initiatives, all designed to improve outcomes for students.

One of the needs is professional development, both vertically (between grades) and horizontally (within a grade) with focus on what teachers tell the Administration they want and need, rather than on what the Administration might think a good idea without consulting the teachers. Both members and Administrators agreed this approach makes the most sense. Research demonstrates teacher-identified and classroom-oriented professional development to be the most effective for improving student outcomes, NKTA wishes to note. Both SB’s endorsed the intent to cooperate with professional development, so that all students benefit.

There was discussion on test scores and college and career trends in the SRSD. The Curriculum Coordinator Michael Turmelle discussed the math program that is being rolled out at the High School. Superintendent Ambrose pointed out that approximately 80% of Sanborn students go on to either 4-year or 2-year colleges or to technical schools for deeper career development following high school graduation, about the same as the state averages. This has been consistent over the past 10 years, per the New Hampshire Department of Education. High School Principal Stack stated that many students graduate already having earned college level credits due to our dual enrollment programs. Mr. Turmelle noted that our adult communities have 28-30% with 4-year degrees, while our students pursue college at higher percentages. The District subscribed to a data collection service three years ago, to track college success following Sanborn. It will take a number of years to accumulate enough data to measure results.

One key challenge is teacher turnover, where the SRSD loses 10-16% of its teachers on average every year. This past year, we lost 4 out of 8 math teachers to nearby higher-paying Districts. Possible solutions to the critical shortage areas, math and science, were discussed. Dr. Pam Brown has suggested, over the past two years, paying bonuses or higher starting steps to critical shortage teachers since they require more training than some other teaching concentrations. Taryn Lytle, Kingston, stated at this meeting that Timberlane implements such a program. Mr. Ambrose will investigate these possibilities for SRSD.

The complete video and official minutes of SB meetings are posted on www.SAU17.org. The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA) seeks to inform the voters and taxpayers of our communities about key developments in our towns and District with articles such as this. NKTA has a mission to seek the best possible education and local government with the best and most efficient use of tax dollars. For more information on NKTA, please visit www.NKTA.vpweb.com or our Facebook Page. Membership in NKTA is $20/family and supports our mission, carried out by unpaid volunteers.

Annie Collyer

 

Sanborn District Survey Respondents Weigh In

Posted on October 5, 2017 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

by Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

The Sanborn Regional School District School Board, on Wednesday, October 4, reported the results of a survey they recently held, responded to by 273 people. 210 of the 273 are parents or employed by the school district, and the remaining 63 were other community members. The purpose was to uncover priorities that the respondents have about the District and the responsibilities and qualities for the Superintendent, who is in effect the CEO for the District.

The top 5 priorities in the District for the respondents are School Culture and Climate, Staff Retention, Having Adequate Resources, Budgeting and Raising Test Scores. The top qualities desired in a Superintendent are Knowledgeable, Student-Centered, Professional, Approachable, and Engaged with the Community. Also very high percentage responses added the following qualities to the list: Forward thinking, Has a Strong Vision for SAU17, Open to Feedback, Focused on Student Achievement and Open-Minded. In addition, 83% of respondents noted that they feel the Superintendent has a significant impact on the community.

This survey was designed to help the School Board fill the position of Superintendent. Currently, the District has in place an Interim Superintendent, a position which will not extend beyond this school year. The Board is at work to determine the best course of action to satisfy the needs of the District and best deliver education to the students.

Two additional announcements were made at the School Board meeting: one from the Student Representative and one from the Superintendent. The Student Representative, Lauren Lanseigne, announced that the students raised $600 to help rebuild housing in areas devastated by recent disasters. The Interim Superintendent stated that he has held five meet-and-greet events with community members in the past few weeks, and has been meeting with teachers and administrators. He has also been doing a lot of data analysis to prepare for both the budget and for updating the strategic plan with the School Board.

The School Board has asked him to present a budget on November 1, for them to evaluate and then recommend to the District Budget Committee. The Budget Committee has the job of preparing a budget to present to the voters in February, and the School Board and Budget Committee will be holding three joint sessions to interview school department heads to gather information for the proposed budget. All these meetings are open to the public, and the public is very much encouraged to attend. The November 1 meeting is the first, and will be held at the High School at 6 PM. An alternative is to watch the video and/or read the minutes of the meetings, all posted on the SAU17.org website. The survey results are also posted on the website for review.

The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association, formed 2.5 years ago, is a NH educational non-profit, dedicated to informing voters and taxpayers about local issues. More information can be found at www.NKTA.vpweb.com. Membership is $20/year/family, and helps fund dispensing information to the public.

 

Sanborn School Board Plans Improvements in Local Education

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

The Sanborn Regional School District (SRSD) School Board (SB) met Wednesday September 6 to discuss, among other items, the Seacoast School of Technology (SST), Standardized test scores, Opening Day, and School Board Goals. All of these discussions impact student outcomes and taxpayer costs for education.

SST provides classes in technological trades, sometimes leading to certification. Mr. Tom Ambrose, interim superintendent, stated that he is seeking possibilities for specific training in some additional high demand and high paying trades such as HVAC, electrical and plumbing. There was demand for 119 slots at SST, exceeding the 100 available. The state is currently considering expanding vocational education to 10th grade, which will generate more demand. There will be more developments ahead in SST and trades education for the SRSD students.

Mr. Ambrose stated that the Administrators are examining the gap in state-standardized testing from 8th grade to 11th grade. Currently SRSD students are showing only 28% math proficiency and 55% English in 11th grade. SRSD will test 9th graders this year, to identify learning gaps, then seek to remediate them. VLACS, NH free virtual instruction, is one possible future option. He also says that the SB should clearly define what success is for a student, and how it should be measured, so that he can best plan. He explained that a solution takes 4-5 years for clear demonstration.

Opening Day was smooth, Ambrose reported. The enrollments are down by 56 to 1614, lower than the 1632 projection made last year. He stated that the enrollment does not allow teaching staff reductions without increasing class sizes from 15 -17 to 22 in the High School. NKTA notes for readers that the state mandates are not to exceed 30 students in a class, and the SB policy and professional staff contracts aim for 25, both well below the 22 student class size cited.

The School Board will be further defining its goals. Dr. Pam Brown urged completion of the 5-year Strategic Plan, due 2.5 years ago. Short term goals are normally set in May, but Mr. Ambrose noted that several are in process. One is budget planning. For the first time in many years, the SB and Budget Committee will be coordinating budget efforts with the Administration, for the best outcomes for sound investment of tax dollars for student education. This has been a NKTA goal. This year, flat, as well as changes up and down in spending, with specific impact outlook for students, will be presented. SB Subcommittees hold public meetings regularly, and a schedule as well as minutes and videos can be found as www.SAU17.org.

NKTA, formed 2.5 years ago, is a NH non-profit organization committed to seeking the best education and local government with the most efficient use of tax dollars. More information can be found on Facebook as well as at www.NKTA.vpweb.com. Membership is $20/family/year and provides funds to continue to provide information to voters.

Annie Collyer for NKTA

To be published in Carriage Towne News week of Sept 20, 2017

 

Sanborn Students Back at School

Posted on September 1, 2017 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn Students are now back at school, with a smooth transition to many new administrative leaders and teachers, thankfully.

Why the turnover in our schools?

Some say it is all NKTA's fault. We disagree. We believe that NKTA formed to address a long-standing gap in communication and priorities that the community tried over and over at the ballot boxes to express, but those then in charge- some of the administrators and some of the elected officials- chose to ignore. As a result our District had 4 out of 11 years of failed teacher contracts while proposing budget increases of 6-10% in a time of zero inflation. It was absurd and the voters rebelled. The intractability of the District's leaders cost our kids. We lost good teachers who not only endured lack of raises but also lack of step increases. You see, when there is no contract, teachers who have been serving for 15 years get paid as though they have been there for only 11. If they go somewhere else, where pay is higher, they also get the step their experience deserves. It is not surprising some have left our District.

Who is to blame? Not NKTA, which has been around for 2.5 years, and has been seeking solutions to the budget intractability and to having improved results for our kids for the dollars we spend.

What we have now is a great opportunity. We have a Superintendent who seems determined to listen to all parties and to find balanced middle ground. Instead of preaching that test scores do not matter, he wants outcomes for our students that do matter, measured by tests and other means. He wants his leadership team to transparently acknowledge gaps in learning and address them, instead of pretending the folks who point out that we have educational needs are not interested in good education. They want to solve problems in communication, in education and in budgeting. We also have a Budget Committee and a School Board that are determined to work cooperatively with the Administration and vice-versa, to achieve what is best for the kids and for the taxpayers who foot the bills.

We all know good education is important. The children are the legacy. Good education also impacts property demand and values. We all want the same results in our District. Now we have folks in charge who are no longer afraid to admit we need improvements, who are committed to transparency, and to implementing and testing solutions to our challenges.

Working together over the long term, we can make Sanborn a top school in New Hampshire. For college-bound kids, give them the foundation they need to go on learning. For career-bound, give them what they need to be able to earn and support families and make contributions in our society. For those who are military-bound, give them the strength of character to succeed. For all, to give them the basis to be lifelong learners in every aspect of their future lives.

Has it been ugly from time to time? Yes, it has. People get afraid of change, and can get bullying and defensive. People can get inflated with their power and get aggressive. But, people can come together to achieve great things, by calling on all our strengths and determination.

We are at the point of great opportunity. Please help NKTA continue to make a difference! We are just getting started. Your support financially helps us with our communications. Your support of our scholarship fund helps a student, maybe two this year, to move to the next challenge. Your support by attending Deliberative Sessions (where all that goes to the ballot booths is decided) and at the polls helps us give taxpayers a voice in the District. Please consider joining NKTA if you have not yet done so – And, attend NKTA meetings and contribute your ideas whenever you are able.

Annie Collyer, Newton NH

 

TAXPAYERS GROUP AT KINGSTON DAYS

Posted on August 8, 2017 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

As a member of the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association [NKTA], I spent several hours at Kingston Days weekend for the past two year celebrations. It is amazing. So many families and people from surrounding towns and even far away who celebrated with our Town and were obviously having a wonderful time. The people who organize Kingston Days do a spectacular job! Thank you!

 

 

 

As a citizen of our country and owner of property in Kingston I am also very concerned about the performance of our schools and safe, high quality education, for every child. Every baby, every single child deserves this from us.

 

 

 

Some of you might wonder why I am a member of NKTA because often the perception is that a taxpayers group doesn't care about schools and is only focused on lowering taxes. Nothing could be farther from the truth with NKTA. The founders and many other members who have joined NKTA are highly educated. Some are or have been educators at all levels, including college. Their diverse backgrounds, experience, and ideas are a valuable free asset to our community. Their concerns are multifaceted; not single-minded. Listening is important and I have been listening to both sides. Anonymously, many parents voiced their frustrations with the schools to me last year and last weekend.

 

 

 

When a School Administration does not effectively and correctly address discipline problems it effects lives, school performance and the morale of everyone, including our teachers. Misguided, wasteful spending combined with poor performance causes anger and mistrust in the community.

 

 

 

NKTA is not responsible for the loss of teachers and administrators. Teachers leave for many reasons, and to earn more somewhere else. Perhaps it was time for change in the Administration. Change is hard but most often, good. We should all be open to new innovative changes and ideas that would enable our school district to pay teachers more, and thereby obtain and retain the very best for our children, while not overburdening taxpayers. THAT is what NKTA is about!

 

 

 

In life it is normal to disagree. Different people – different reactions and different ways of communicating. Misunderstandings and misinformation can happen. Real estate taxes and education in NH often collide. Conflict can reap incredible benefits and accomplishments. My hope for our community, for the benefit of all, is peaceful, respectful, mindful, honest communication and interactions and prayer for all of that. There are many good people on both sides of this.

 

 

 

And, finally, schools and teachers can not do it all. Parents must discipline and be actively involved in their child's education. Just reading to and with children every day from birth will make a huge difference in their lives, confidence, bond, respect and love of their parents, and their successful future.

 

 

 

Sandra Maida

 

Kingston, NH

What is the NKTA About, and What is the Focus

Posted on July 13, 2017 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

What is NKTA’s Focus, and Why Does It Matter?

To the Editor of the Carriage Towne News:


The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA) is interested in improving our schools and local towns at costs that are sustainable. The NKTA pursues accountability and transparency, and restraint in budget increases.


NKTA was formed 2.5 years ago, with concern over the inflated School budget requests, lack of transparency and below-average academic performance for our students. Town leaders, parents, grandparents, business people, educators and young adults joined together in response to ten years of proposed District budget defeats at the polls. At the same time, the School Board participated in year-end spending of taxpayer dollars that could have been returned as tax credits, rather than taking the choices to the voters. Our former Superintendent, Administrative Team and School Board sometimes elected to dismiss pointed questions centered on academic performance and financial concerns and planning, adding to voter distrust. This distrust in turn translated into failed teacher contracts in four of the past ten years and many default budgets! This has not been a good thing for local education. NKTA seeks to overcome this distrust by disseminating information.


Over the past decade, Sanborn retained accreditation, built a new high school and improved student discipline. Student discipline remains a concern to many, as does the low level of average academic achievement attained by our High School students. ELA scores have not improved against state averages since 2006. Math scores improved but stayed substantially below the state averages. Both have been declining in the past couple of years.


Since founding 2.5 years ago, NKTA has pursued a two-fold informational approach to restrain spending increases, and to improve the delivery of education. The spending increases have been held back, giving room for passage of staff contracts, as well as a new Newton fire house and Kingston road paving. The High School, where last year kids had 55% ELA and 28% Math proficiency as they were graduating, now has a new math program and training for SAT’s. Change can be challenging. We have a new Administrative team and a balanced School Board, and the opportunity for mutual respect and rebuilding in the District. Possibilities for the future are expanding for our kids.


The NKTA focus is to educate the public about local issues and choices, so local voters can exercise informed control over their tax dollars. Some are more concerned than others with academic results, and all acknowledge that thriving schools and towns as well as high property taxes impact property values and personal wealth. We seek high value and academic excellence for the dollars spent.


NKTA has worked tirelessly over the past 2.5 years, to bring focus on continued spending and performance needs of the District and towns. We welcome all who are interested in contributing to the achievement of these goals.


Jim Baker, Newton

www.NKTA.vpweb.com

Sanborn and Fremont School Boards Meet

Posted on May 31, 2017 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

As is the custom a few times a year, the Sanborn Regional School District (SRSD) School Board (SB) met with the Fremont SB in Fremont on Tuesday, May 30. The discussion centered around what if any differences can be expected as a result of administrative changes in the SRSD.

Chairman Pete Broderick noted that SDRD has had an unusual and beneficial period of great stability that far exceeds most districts for the past 8 years. This year, two administrators are retiring, two are taking higher paying positions in other districts and one has moved to the Cape, resulting in an unusual amount of turnover in one year. He also noted that the SB, having learned of Dr. Blake’s resignation just three weeks ago, is beginning its search to hire an interim Supervisor. He stated that he doubts there will be any substantial changes in the next 1-2 years.

Corey Masson emphasized that the SRSD has a dynamic SB that is interested in outcomes and expectations for the students, and is working with a new subcommittee called Excellence in Student Achievement (EISA) for that purpose. He stated that many of the SRSD staff are coveted by other districts.

Dr. Pam Brown discussed the need for students to be fully prepared for college and career, and that she seeks a balance of project-based and factual education to fill learning gaps. She is very concerned with SRSD math test scores below the average in New Hampshire, and feels the SRSD needs to do better academically by its students.

Fremont members expressed their pleasure with the education being delivered by SRSD, along with their position of having no vote in the SRSD direction. Having Fremont SB members represented on the search committee for the new permanent Superintendent was an idea well-received. It was also agreed that any changes in curriculum would be fully communicated with the Fremont SB so that they could adequately prepare their students for High School years at Sanborn.

Budget questions were asked about the SB proposed budget being initially reduced by the SRSD Budget Committee and then partially restored by voters at the Deliberative Session, with a net reduction of about $500,000 from the initial proposal. Assurances were given that all reductions in proposed spending were absorbed over a broad base, after removal of the Public Relations position and deferral of a financial software package, with no area of spending decimated. Mr. Broderick emphasized that the staff contracts, budget and several warrant articles were all passed by the voters.

When asked, Fremont SB members and parents noted qualities they consider priorities going forward. Included among them are retention of the Freshman learning communities and transition, continuation of PACE and competency-based education, meeting the whole child in education and maintenance of a culture where staff wish to stay beyond the state average of 3.5 years, noting that teacher retention is very important.

The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association regularly reports highlights of School meetings, so that the public may stay informed.  

Annie Collyer,
NKTA Secretary

 

Positive Goal Setting for School Board Encouraged

Posted on May 13, 2017 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Sanborn Regional School Board and Sanborn Community:

There have been some criminal events that has taken place and have created a negative culture in our district that needs to change. No wonder there is distrust among voters! Changing this culture will provide tremendous dividends for the children, for our communities and for our staff.

The criminal events are electioneering. According to RSA 659:44-a, electioneering is a criminal act. We have a school newsletter sent out by a principal prior to an election, not only endorsing specific candidates, but also warning about electing people who do not have kids in the schools. That is over ¾ of our population that she would seek to disqualify. Where did she get that opinion? What culture exists that she thought it was OK to write and distribute such a document? Who else knew about it?

We also have another District newsletter called Essential News, mailed out immediately prior to the March elections, encouraging support for various warrants, with selective reporting on School Board and Budget Committee voting. The very timing of the mailing smacks of electioneering. And the selective reporting of votes from the elected officials was electioneering. Encouraging a vote in support of anything is electioneering. This is not legal!

As you set your goals for the year, I challenge this Board to set forth a goal of positivity and high ethical standards for the coming year. It will serve us well. Thank you.

Annie Collyer,

Newton NH, Member of the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

 

Improper Election Activities

Posted on April 22, 2017 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn School District's Improper Election Activities


Prior to our last School Board and Budget Committee elections in March, 2017, an interim principal, Deborah Bulkley, used her position and the school district's website to personally endorse certain candidates and urge parents to vote in a certain way. As a public employee, this is is unlawful. Furthermore, Deborah Bulkley used government property and computers to engage in “electioneering,” defined as “take part actively and energetically in the activities of an election campaign.”


New Hampshire State Law prohibits these types of activities by public employees and the law states “Anyone who violates the law shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”


Superintendent, Dr. Blake, removed Deborah Bulkley's posting and apologized, but it is my understanding that the link to the message was active and accessible to all who received it until after the election. While the candidates and issues Deborah Bulkley espoused failed to win, it is extremely concerning that someone of her intelligence and stature thought this was acceptable.


Please note that I am not demonizing Principal Bulkley, or screaming for anything bad to happen to her. We all make mistakes, especially when we are passionate. We are only here to learn. I hope that she will be an agent for possible change in the culture in our district and that her mistake has brought to light the appropriate standard of behavior in this regard.


Last year, a School Board member used a slang term which led to numerous negative news reports which aired on Massachusetts and New Hampshire television stations, and in print media, and petitioners asked for her resignation because people were offended.


I do not know Principal Bulkley, but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, and wonder, (1) if there is a culture within our school district that led Ms. Bulkley to think that her actions were acceptable or (2) was she encouraged by someone to engage in this behavior or (3) was it was approved by someone else. We must discover if this is an endemic problem within the Administration or Boards or both. We are as culpable when we watch something as when we actually participate or do nothing to stop it.


Sandra Maida

Kingston, NH



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