This was the first joint board meeting with all newly elected school board members present. The meeting began with Travis Thompson (Coop - Stratham) nominating Patrick O’Day (Exeter) as joint board chair. This was seconded and he was voted in as chair. Helen Joyce (Coop - Stratham) then nominated Kimberly Meyer (Coop - Exeter) to be vice chair. Although Meyer was not yet present at the meeting, Joyce remarked that she would accept the nomination. Meyer was voted in as vice chair.
Public input followed, and a local resident (Ted Lloyd) explained how he had received a postcard in the mail before school board elections discussing how budget books were available online. He brought up the concern that the mailing, budget books, and especially the fact sheet about SAU16 may be considered tax-funded electioneering. He asked questions regarding whether the board had advance knowledge, formally approved, and sought legal counsel regarding the legality of the mailings. He also asked how much the mailings cost and how many were sent out - SAU Joint Board Meeting - see minute 26:37. Letty Bedard (Brentwood) mentioned that a resident of her town had asked the same question at their district meeting and Chris Andriski was able to answer the question as to how many went out and how much they cost. Mr. Andriski mentioned that he did not have that information right now, but it was in his report from that meeting. Joyce mentioned that in regards to the Coop board, they were informed that the budget books were going to be made available to the public so they could be aware of the financials. She remarked that Superintendent Ryan had mentioned in one of their meetings that they were going to be mailing out cards since not everyone had access to the internet or have children in the school system. She reported that they were not aware of what the cost was, but they were aware that the public was going to be informed using that method.
A presentation was given by Mr. Andriski and a representative of Alma, a school information system, (https://www.getalma.com/) regarding the work they have been doing in creating a data dashboard to present their balanced scorecard. Currently CMS and EHS use Powerschool while Alma is being used in the elementary schools. The plan is to have all schools in the district utilize Alma next school year, and parents will be able to access it then, also.
The data dashboard will provide leading indicators to the leadership team as a way to see trends in student performance, behavior and attendance. This will allow teachers and administrators to be proactive in responding to student needs.
Several members of the board asked questions regarding privacy, the end goal of the program, what feedback has been solicited, how it is different from systems already being used - SAU Joint Board Meeting - see minute 53:57.
Other updates were given about the Blue Hawk House (completely funded by grant funds), purpose of school resource officers (to build community connections, not to enforce discipline), and human resource issues (retirements and hiring).
Superintendent Ryan informed the board of the resignation of the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and assistant principal of the junior-senior high school of the Newmarket school district. He said that they reached out to him via email Sunday evening (4/17/21) to seek superintendent services to help them out. Ryan asked the board for permission to explore this option, by stating that is the “neighborly thing to do,” and that since Newmarket students were attending SST they were considered our students. He wants to see what their needs are and explore this option. Discussion was opened up to the board and some of the comments and concerns consisted of the following - SAU Joint Board Meeting - see hour 1:30.
Paul Bauer (Coop - Newmarket): felt it was fine to explore, but had questions about the cost of doing this and overextending our resources
Joyce: no issue with exploring, but asks for caution. The senior leadership team is stretched thin and no commitment should be made unless it is run by the joint board.
Eric Herring (Stratham): questioned why we would be better at hiring and figuring out their needs than their own personnel.
Scott Dennehy (Coop - Brentwood): felt that we should be a good neighbor and see what they need, but for the general perception we should make sure the needs of our community are met first.
Thompson: wanted clarification that if Ryan agreed to seek information, nothing would be done moving forward without coming back to the joint board to make a decision.
Ken Otto (Stratham): brought up concerns about negative history at Newmarket that will likely take ample time to patch up, and so to preserve time and the resources of our leadership team it didn’t make sense to proceed.
Jennifer Bishop (Newfields): remarked how our schools are still adjusting to the effects from the pandemic and believed it to be in poor taste to go in and be associated with a district that has a negative history. Our resources with our leadership team and staff should be focused on our district - to represent our taxpayers.
Bill Gauthier (Coop - Exeter): supported having the conversation and thinks that it would make our district look good to help.
Motion to have the discussion with Newmarket school board was voted on and passed with 27 yes votes, 4 no votes (Herring, Bishop, Otto & Slifka) and 1 abstention (Dabrieo - East Kingston)
They will discuss the outcome of the conversation at the May 23 joint board meeting.
Bedard brought up concerns about current substitute pay, suggesting that it should be higher to attract more substitute teachers. It is currently $15/hour, except for at Exeter elementary schools, where they voted to raise it to $16/hour.
Currently there are shortages at every school, and the hope was that they could discuss this concern at the joint board, and then each individual school board could discuss further to make decisions.
Concerns about acknowledging the pay rates of paraprofessionals was noted, when making any changes to the substitute teacher pay scale.
The board then went into nonpublic to discuss the Superintendent evaluation.
The next joint board meeting is on May 23, 2022.