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Meeting Recap: Exeter Region Cooperative School Meeting & ESSER III Funds Hearing

Exeter Coop School Board Meeting (ERSCD) - 9/21/21

Board members attending: Bill Gauthier (Exeter), Kim Meyer (Exeter), Travis Thompson (Stratham), Paul Bauer (Newfields), Helen Joyce (Stratham), Ted Lloyd (East Kingston), Bob Hall (Kensington), Melissa Litchfield (Brentwood), David Slifka (Exeter)

Public Hearing to discuss ESSER III Funds

All members of the Coop board were in attendance for this meeting, which began at 6pm. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the ESSER III funds, received from the federal government in the amount of $705,184.

A survey had previously been sent to families asking for input regarding the funds. Six hundred and nine were returned, with 89% of those being from parents. Respondents answered the following questions:

  1. What are the top 3 issues facing students related during this pandemic? And the 3 top answers were: Academic Needs, Social/Emotional Needs, Mental Health Needs.

  2. What options would be most helpful to solve these issues? The top 4 answers were: Enrichment Needs, Academic Tutoring, Higher Additional Classroom Support.

$465,421 of the initial ESSER funds disbursement is already in the grant management system, and an additional $239,762 is yet to be released. It was mentioned that this funding would be used to provide the following:

  • Academic enrichment materials for CMS & EHS flex block

  • Academic tutoring

  • Social/Emotional learning support services

  • Materials for the creation of behavioral space breaks

  • Addition of OT services

  • Increased summer learning opportunities

  • Staff training on social/emotional learning, trauma informed care, technology

  • Contract services for mental health, executive function and OT

In response to a question about more details about how these funds would be spent, Superintendent Ryan mentioned that after funding was approved, they will be able to provide more detail in the coming months for how the money will be spent.

The acceptance of these funds was approved at the ERCSD meeting that followed.

Exeter Cooperative School Board Meeting

The ERCSD meeting began at 7:00pm with Chair Joyce announcing a new policy would be initiated. This policy would allow questions asked during public input would be answered during the meeting. And if the question could not be answered, the information would be posted on the SAU website.

Public Input - Several members of the community spoke and brought up the following concerns:

  • Concerns regarding oversight and academic standing (according to the

  • CMS has dropped from 8th to 38th, EHS from 8th to 13th

  • Concerns about enrollment - 20% decrease at CMS

  • Enrollment at both CMS and EHS is down over the last 3 years, yet operating budget has not gone down accordingly; instead there seems to be an inverse relationship between enrollment and operating budget.

  • Concerns about aligning resources with top priorities - academics, mental health, tutoring, rather than DEIJ

  • A question regarding why there is still a contract with 2Revolutions since they had been providing training to teachers involving CRT: Superintendent Ryan answered this by stating that they are only using this organization for professional development and evaluation of staff.

  • Concerns about early start times at CMS and the nutritional value of the free breakfast and lunch that is provided.

  • A previous committee had been created to look into the possibility of later start times for CMS and EHS. Litchfield asked if this issue could be put on the agenda for the September 27th joint board meeting, and Thompson agreed to do this. He also mentioned that they would need to speak with other districts who send their students to SST.

Superintendent Report

  • The SAU office budget will be presented at the joint board meeting on 9/27/21.

  • Received request from Exeter Education Association to bargain a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for changes in health and safety as well as working conditions under Covid - to be discussed in nonpublic session.

  • CMS principal search: Stakeholder focus groups would be formed with parents and community partners to meet October 5th. Information regarding this will be published and sent out to everyone. The timeline for the hiring process was outlined.

  • Addressed school academic rankings. Compared to as both had different numbers and used different metrics for rankings. Mentioned that there is a direct correlation between the impact of the quality of education you’re providing in schools, the reputation of the school system and the market value of homes. Stated that we must own the rankings and there is work to be done.

Comments to Report

Litchfield asked to discuss the mask matrix that was approved at the last meeting. She proposed allowing EHS students to be allowed to remove their masks when sitting at their desks in the classroom. She mentioned that they are already doing this at lunch and everyone at EHS has has access to the vaccine. Litchfield presented data from the NH DHHS website and questioned if the low numbers from our six towns was not compelling enough to remove masks, when would it be? This issue was opened for discussion.

  • Thompson said he had no opinion yet, as he felt that he would need to hear from administrators about whether this was operationally feasible.

  • Bauer said he wanted to make sure kids were able to stay in school in person and that there hasn’t been any school transmission. Masks are helping, so he wants to leave things as they have been.

  • Meyer agreed with Bauer. She said she spoke to a medical professional who said schools will close by November if kids don’t wear masks.

  • Joyce agreed with Meyer and Bauer. She said the matrix is working and masking is the way to keep kids in the classroom.

  • Slifka clarified that masks would be optional.

  • Gauthier asked how this would be implemented, what would the teachers’ role be.

A motion was made by Litchfield to allow students to remove masks while sitting at their desks. Lloyd seconded the motion. The motion failed 5-4:

Yes - Litchfield, Slifka, Lloyd, Gauthier

No - Meyer, Joyce, Bauer, Thompson, Hall

Committee Reports

Facilities - (Bauer) With the Tuck Learning Campus there are facilities’ needs, and a broader conversation is needed on how to address these needs. The advisory group will be expanded to decide what to do.

Curriculum (Meyer) - Discussion regarding the academic weighting for courses. Ideas would be explored regarding courses at SST and how they relate to leveling and core competencies. Also, the possibility of receiving PE credit for those in interscholastic athletics is being explored.

P P & C - The possibility of introducing a STEM program was discussed, as this would provide students with more opportunities for learning. A staff member would need to be hired to teach this, so there were budgetary concerns about adding another position without negatively affecting other programs. They support the concept but need to see what the budgetary impact would be. The voted to table this discussion. CMS has asked for an additional curriculum coordinate to assist the current one who covers both CMS and EHS. Budgetary concerns also exist regarding this issue. They decided to table this discussion.

A new policy was introduced to change how public input is handled, mentioning the following: answers would be provided at the end of input if time allotted, only residents could speak at the meetings, and limiting speakers to one public speaking opportunity per meeting. At this time a resident asked to speak and permission was granted. The request was made that the school board would commit to not altering the order of the public input speaker list, nor create multiple speaker sign up lists in the spirit of transparency. Joyce stated that as chair, this would be her intention, but it is not written into the policy. The new policy was voted and approved 7-2, with Litchfield and Slifka voting to reject the policy.

The meeting moved into non-public.

**Please note, this recap was provided by a taxpayer/resident in attendance for informational purposes only and does not represent the approved meeting minutes from the ERSCD school board. This recap does not cover every issue discussed and is merely provided to capture key highlights. We encourage readers to view the meeting in its entirely here.

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