A parent speaks against cutting the elementary band program in front of a standing room only crowd at last night’s Laconia School Board meeting, which was held at the high Sschool in anticipation of a larger-than-normal crowd. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo/Gail Ober)
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — After hearing voices of parents bemoaning the across-the-board cuts being made by the school board, mostly in regard to the elementary band program and the ski program, the board unanimously passed without discussion a $37,780,254 budget with $23,183,198 to be raised in taxes.
The $23,183,198 includes local tax revenue that is limited by the city tax cap, the amount the district gets from the statewide property tax and $6,052,278 in state adequacy aid.
The amount is $1,641,995 less than the school district needs to operate at the same levels in fiscal year 2016-2017 than it did this year, which necessitated the cuts.
Many of those at last night's meeting bemoaned the elimination of the elementary band program, which will now be offered as an after-school program. Others wanted to see the ski team continued and others feared that the reduction of six language teachers to five throughout the school district could negatively affect education.
Business Administrator Ed Emond said that music education and language arts will continue to be taught at all levels, but the way the programs are structured will be altered. He added that the current structure has been in place for about 15 years and harkens back to when there were 2,400 students in the district and now there are about 2,000. He said a retirement in each of those departments meant there wouldn't need to be any layoffs in those departments.
While it didn't get mentioned at last night's meeting, some of the parents who attended said after the meeting that they understood cuts had to be made but disagreed with some of the programs that were cut. When asked what they would do differently, they said they would eliminate the position of assistant superintendent and noted that Laconia is the only district in the area that has one.
At the end of this school year, Phil McCormack, who is a temporary superintendent, and Emond will retire. Assistant Superintendent Kirk Beitler will be taking over as the Gilford School District superintendent. The parents said this would have been the perfect year to restructure the very top of the pyramid.
The board also approved changes to Laconia education contract that would potentially ameliorate some teacher layoffs by allowing 10 teachers who qualify to retire at the end of this year.
Until yesterday, five teachers each year could retire at the end of the school year provided they gave notice to the administration. Those teachers with seniority are allowed to retire first. With 10 teachers being allowed to retire at the end of this year, the district can potentially reduce the number of teachers who have to be laid off and potentially hire newer teachers at a lower rate.
The LEA and the school board also agreed to continue to allow "bumping," or the practice that if any teacher is laid off, he or she can bump a teacher who holds an existing position. The changes allow that if a laid-off teacher wants to "bump," he or she must have one year of experience in subject area or position.
Teachers who will be laid off will be reinstated in the inverse order of being laid off, if at the time of the recall they are certified and qualified to teach the available position. Recall rights exist for two years and a laid-off teacher must maintain contact with the school district as to certifications.
A laid-off teacher must accept a recall within 10 days if one is offered and years of previous credit cannot be lost because of a layoff. A teacher who has been laid off is allowed to take other employment immediately.
The approved budget now moves to the City Council for its approval.
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