To The Daily Sun,
Dear Laconia School Board:
Being a member of the working class, I did not have the luxury of attending Holy Thursday Mass at noon yesterday, and therefore was unable to attend your board meeting last night at Laconia High School. This being said, I was left shaking my head in both frustration and disgust to hear that you approved the budget as is, dismissing the numerous letters of support in keeping the Huot Child Development Center open.
It sickens me that elected officials would listen only to people in power instead of the people who actually voted you into the very positions you hold. I did attend the previous school board meeting where the budget cuts were first presented publicly to an overflowing SAU meeting room. I am aware that the City Council asked for you to cut last year's budget by $1.5 million dollars, and yet you approved a cut of over $1.6 million instead. The Huot Child Development Center cut was going to save you $82,000 in operating costs and could have easily been removed from consideration by you, the board. In reading countless letters you received from the public on how the Huot Child Development Center has helped middle class working families, I cannot help but think that you simply refuse to actually look out for this dwindling population in what used to be a vibrant city.
It is already disturbing to me that none of our three elementary schools offer a gifted and talented program for kids who are above the bar and quite frankly need to be challenged and kept engaged. Meredith, Gilford, and Belmont, the surrounding towns that touch Laconia, have such enrichment programs. By eliminating the Huot CDC, and replacing it with two half-day preschools, you are again basically saying "SCREW YOU" to the middle class working families. Our children will not be able to attend these government subsidized programs, leaving us with few options.
I recently discovered the Pleasant Street School Title I preschool program only has 10 children attending. This is not even close to capacity or what they intended for attendance numbers. If we cannot even fill the spots we currently have for Title I half-day programs, where does the need for two additional copycat programs come from? Are you withholding facts from the public that indicate the need? If so, it is beyond time to share these facts with those it will impact directly.
It left my blood boiling at the meeting I was able to attend where Ed Emond stated that the HCDC no longer filled a need of the high school students who observed these classes. I responded with I think a fair question, "Why does the need of the preschoolers come second to the high schoolers?" I was told that the Huot Child Development Center was not making enough money to sustain its value. Being a classroom teacher for 17 years, I never knew we were supposed to make money on the children we guide and teach. Why is it we don't value the very foundation of this system?
At the March 17th board meeting we listened to LHS principal, vice principal, and crisis counselor rattle off staggering facts about the current state of our student body at the high school level. When almost half of your children report living in a household where drugs and or alcohol are abused on a daily basis ... it's time to start fighting back with the City Council. As Sean Valovanie stated in yet another recent article, your decisions this week have only solidified more middle class families that once had faith in the Laconia schools, to sell, cut their losses, and move from this city that we know and love. You had some power to listen to the people and had some wiggle room on the approval of next year's school budget, and you didn't act. This to me is unforgivable. You needed to better communicate why the closure of this reputable program made the most sense. You did not. Most, if not all of the questions we asked at the board meeting on the 17th were left unanswered with the board staring blankly at one another, each hoping the other would speak up.
I know that being on the board is voluntary, and trust me, I would not for a second want to be in your shoes right now. However, you must remember that you have an obligation in your position to listen and actually discuss the valid points that arise from the people that voted for you to hold that seat. I did not hear one citizen of Laconia at the meeting advocating for the closure of this program. What does that tell you?
How much do you expect the working middle class to take before we finally say enough is enough? The budget eliminates the only full-day viable preschool option for us, increases the class size of our children to unacceptable student to teacher ratios, and eliminates many of the arts. When if ever are we going to finally put our foot down and push back at the City Council that has placed this burden on your shoulders? If the number of teacher positions being slated to be cut at all schools indeed happens, would that not free up additional classrooms to expand upon the Title I preschool programs within the elementary schools? This would allow the Huot Child Development Center to remain operating successfully as it has done for over 25 years. What were the discussions that happened about trying to fiscally save this great program? I really have not read any letters to the editor explaining these many questions that need to be answered. The citizens, tax payers, and concerned parents of Laconia's youth are awaiting your response.
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