By RICK GREEN, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — New Hampshire Teacher of the Year Tate Aldrich plans to leave Laconia High School for a higher-paying job at another school, one of 17 teachers who are leaving the district or making plans to do so.
Teacher pay in Laconia, which operates under a restrictive property tax cap, lags behind that of many nearby school systems without a cap.
Aldrich, who is in his eighth year of teaching, earns $39,700 annually as chairman of the English department at Laconia High School, and will earn $51,500 at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro.
He declined to comment on his decision to teach at Kingswood next school year.
Laconia School District Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan said he's sorry to see Aldrich leave.
"It is a loss whenever a district loses a high-quality teacher like Mr. Aldrich," he said.
Minnihan said 11 teachers are leaving the district for reasons other than retirement or the elimination of a position. They range in experience from two years to 11 years. An additional six teachers have notified the district they are actively looking for jobs elsewhere.
He said there are various reasons for turnover including relocation and career change.
"However, we also have some teachers leaving because of other reasons including compensation levels relative to other districts, uncertainty over school and district funding and job insecurity," Minnihan said.
School Board member Mike Persson said that in any line of work, employees are tempted to change jobs when offered significantly more money and greater stability.
"When you lose the New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, it speaks for itself," Persson said.
At Kingswood, Aldrich will be working under English Department Chairman Aaron Gauthier.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to bring in a teacher of Tate Aldrich's caliber," Gauthier said. "He's very impressive and very well spoken. He's humble and he cares about students.
"It's unfortunate, of course, to think that Laconia's loss is Kingswood's gain, but we are thankful for the opportunity to bring him in."
Gauthier said Aldrich responded to a posted job opening.
Minnihan said Laconia's salary level simply isn't competitive.
"I think the salary is low in comparison to other districts that are competing for our employees," he said. "Looking at some of the neighboring districts, he (Aldrich) and others could earn thousands of dollars more per year just by changing employers."
Laconia's teacher salaries lag behind nearby districts like Gilford, Plymouth, Inter-Lakes and Governor-Wentworth, which is the district that includes Kingswood.
Teachers are supposed to receive yearly step increases in salary as they gain experience. However, in Laconia, there have been freezes on step increases in four of the last 12 years.
A Laconia teacher with a bachelor's degree and 12 years of experience earns $3,447 less than their proper step and $9,419 less than a Gilford teacher with the same experience.
Laconia has also seen significant turnover in its administrative ranks. When Laconia High School Principal David Bartlett decided to quit to become assistant principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, he became at least the sixth school administrator to resign from the district since 2015.
Minnihan said administrative turnover is a concern. Like teachers, administrators are concerned about the district's finances.
"I do believe the same factors mentioned about teachers also hold true for our administrators," he said.
Laconia teacher salaries would increase under a five-year contract approved by teachers and the school board. The plan is subject to City Council approval.
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