Alton residents rallied in protest of budget cuts and more at the Alton School Board meeting Monday night. (Courtesy Photo)
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALTON — A petition calling for the resignation of the superintendent of schools in Alton as well as the Alton Central School principal and special education director was presented to the Alton School Board Monday night.
The petition, signed by 242 people, was presented to the board by Linda Wilman, former principal of Alton Central School, following a show of support for Alton teachers by a half dozen people carrying signs at the entryway to the school before the meeting got underway.
The petition read that what was being presented to the board was a “Letter of No Confidence” in Superintendent Dr. Maureen Ward, Principal Cris Blackstone and Special Education Director Jennifer Katz-Borrin.
It charged them with “Public untruths, attack on the Children in Need food program, removal of students’ academic projects, personnel management including dismissal and hiring practices, hostile management style, budget cuts, and unfair and unreasonable demands on the teachers’ time.”
It further read “The parents and families of Alton are extremely upset and unhappy with the deterioration we have observed in our school community. We are stating that the teachers of Alton Central School have endured very poor working conditions, along with a rock bottom climate and culture which the named administrators have created. The lack of leadership, and inability to make sound decisions which affect our community are constant and numerous.”
School Board Chairman Stephen Miller said the board will discuss the concerns raised by the petitioners when it meets on April 4.
“Anytime the community expresses concerns it also concerns us and we want to address the issues they raise,” said Miller.
He said that much of the dissatisfaction can be traced to cuts in the teaching staff due to declining enrollment. At the deliberative session of the Alton School District Meeting on Jan. 30, voters added $250,000 to the proposed school district budget and urged that the board use the money to continue programs and retain teachers who are being cut, including Sarah West, the school district’s 2016 Teacher of the Year nominee.
Andrew McLeod, chairman of the town’s budget committee and a father of children in the Alton school system, said he signed the petition and faults the school board for what he says is a lack of communication with parents.
“It’s difficult to tell what the school board wants to cut. They say that we’ve had drop in the number of students, but the number they used of 491 shows enrollment is up, not down,” said McLeod. “The school board does not communicate in a way that makes people with children in the school system feel comfortable. We need a higher level of communication than we presently have.”
McLeod said that he doubts that the petition will result in any resignations but said that he hopes it sparks a conversation between the school board and parents.
Superintendent of Schools Ward was hired last June by the school board and signed a one-year contract which runs until July 1 of this year. In December, the school board hired Pamela Stiles, assistant superintendent of Kearsarge School District, as the new superintendent starting July 1 and agreed to pay her $115,000 a year for the first two years of her contract.
Ward will remain as a part-time consultant with the school district.
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