Below is the transcript from a speech made by ExeterPACT co-founder Susan Shanelaris during the January 11 public hearing. The video of the full meeting can be found here.
Hi! My name is Susan Shanelaris and I am out of Newfields and have a unique perspective into the budget as a parent, taxpayer and a member of the Budget Advisory Committee. It’s important to note the Budget Advisory Committee rejected this budget 7-1. I want to share with you my perspective on why I voted this budget down. I have grave concerns how the money is being allocated and I ask you to reconsider.
First, Great Bay Charter School (GBCS). GBCS a school that was created by a previous administration as an alternative to students in our community that do not thrive in an environment of 900-1000 students. In prior years almost $500K was allocated to support those students. These are students in our own community whose parents pay full taxes. This year, upon presentation of the budget, the proposed contribution was $0. After discussion with BAC and GBCS supporters, $80k was reinstated which was half of last years’ contribution of $160k. You can look at this two ways. If you want to look at this as numbers on a spreadsheet, as the previous speaker mentioned, have you any idea how much one out of
district placement costs our school district? Significantly more than the $160k allotted
to this school last year. However, these are our children and to turn our backs on the students in our community unconscionable. Our tax dollars are supposed to educate students. GBCS has done an amazing job doing that, students are thriving, and we should continue to support their endeavors—the mere fact we continue to discuss this is problematic.
Second, laying off the teachers. It is no secret that our SAU budget, which is the central office/administrative budget has increased by 30% over the past five years. I have a hard time comprehending why the joint board voting, including many of you on that stage voted enthusiastically to increase the budget of our central office but will turn around and lay off teachers. If I were running a hospital and needed to trim expenses, the last place I would cut would be those who provide direct care to patients.
I fail to see the path to high quality instruction includes cutting teachers. I can appreciate the research that was shared this evening, but the research was conducting with junior and senior students who spent their middle school years during a pandemic. Our students have suffered greatly and are behind academically. Will hiring two coordinators solve this issue? No, it will not. Will hiring two coordinators keep our students from being forced to sit in the auditorium with hundreds of other students each week because we do not have enough substitutes to cover our classrooms? No. We do not send our children to schools to be managed by administrators, we send then to be educated by our teachers. APPLAUSE
Let’s be clear, the drastic enrollment decline is due to over 200 families voting with their feet because they were unhappy with the direction our district has taken. This is a leadership issue, not an educator’s issue. APPLAUSE
When you want to understand what an organization values, you can simply look at the budget. It is clear from this proposal we value our administrators, but allowing cuts to these areas to remain is inconsistent with valuing our students and teachers. WE can do better than this and we should so better than this and I urge you to reconsider. APPLAUSE