Keene School Deliberative Session. Lowest attendance on record

Coverage of the Keene school district’s First Session held February 10th, 2018, filmed and produced by CheshireTV.

Here is a write-up by the Keene Sentinel:

After a sparsely attended deliberative session Saturday, two petition warrant articles will go onto the Keene School District’s ballot with significant amendments.

A range of other proposals, including a collective bargaining agreement for principals and supervisors and appropriations for building maintenance and special education reserve funds, will appear on the ballot as proposed.

Though 77 registered voters attended the session — about 0.4 percent of the district’s 17,855 registered voters — a few vocal individuals seemed to dominate discussion Saturday morning.

Early in the meeting, two amendments to the district’s $66,661,091 operating budget were proposed, but ultimately voted down. The proposed budget is up 0.6 percent from the $66,150,293 budget voters approved last year.

The first amendment, proposed by Keene resident and former Keene High football coach John Luopa, would have added $311,425 to the operating budget, with the funds intended for step increases for teachers.

The Keene Board of Education and the teachers union failed to reach a new contract agreement this year, and in the absence of a new agreement, the previous teachers contract reached four years ago will remain in effect beyond its set expiration, on June 30.

A few board members, including Kris Roberts, George Downing and Susan Hay, opposed the amendment, noting that any potential step increase should ideally be reached through a collective bargaining process.

Downing also clarified that though voters have the power to add funds to the proposed budget at the deliberative session, they don’t have the power to restrict what those funds would be used for.

On a secret ballot vote, the amendment failed, 40-18.

A second amendment to the operating budget was proposed by Conan Salada, a Keene resident and former candidate for state representative and Keene City Council, to decrease the operating budget by $410,796, to match the previous operating budget. Salada argued that the district’s spending per student is too high.

“It shouldn’t cost that much to educate our youth for what is basically daycare. The amount of money being spent, a quarter million dollars for the life of a kid, we should be turning out engineers, rocket scientists, doctors,” Salada said. “And yet half of these kids probably couldn’t pass an entrance exam in the local college.”

Salada’s amendment also failed, with a vote of 54-14, and the proposed operating budget was moved to the district’s ballot as written.

The issue of per-pupil expenditure came up again in discussion of the first of three petition warrant articles Salada submitted, which proposed committing the school district to reducing its average per-student operating expense by $500 every year until it matches the statewide average.

In the 2016-17 school year, the district’s average spending per pupil was $106, or 0.7 percent, above the average for the state.

Hay noted this and said the district has made significant progress in reducing its per-student costs.

“For the life of me I can’t figure out why you would want to restrict the board when they are within $100 of the average. That is essentially at average,” she said.

Theodore Parent, a Keene resident and local attorney, proposed an amendment to that article that would create a study committee to determine whether the policy should be instituted.

When that motion failed on a vote of 37-34, Parent proposed an amendment specifying that the district would reduce its per-student average to no more than 110 percent of — or 10 percent above — the state average, rather than matching it.

“I think the entire idea of petitioned Article VIII is ill-conceived, and this is the best way to make sure it doesn’t have a bad effect on district,” he said.

Salada, along with a few other members of the public, objected that a small percentage of Keene’s population was represented Saturday, and by amending a petition warrant article, they would be preventing a more representative body of voters from considering the article as intended.

“By the time it gets to them, the people of Keene, these petitioned warrant articles have been gutted in such a way that they’re meaningless,” said Salada. “They’re nullified.”

Parent’s second motion passed by secret ballot, 45-30, and the article will appear on the ballot in March as amended.

A second petition article submitted by Salada was also ultimately amended. As written, the article would have placed a 1-percent cap on year-to-year school district property tax increases. Parent again proposed an amendment, moving to raise the cap to a 15-percent increase.

Voters approved Parent’s amendment 42-30 by secret ballot.

Though Salada’s third petition article could not be amended, it did draw significant debate. The article proposes to rescind RSA 40:13 — otherwise known as SB2 — which would switch the Keene School District from using an official-ballot vote to a traditional town meeting-style vote.

Proponents of the article said it could help bring a more representative body of voters to the process. Those opposed, including Downing, the school board’s chairman, said that changing the format would be unlikely to increase participation.

“I have been, since I was sitting out there amongst you, always been disappointed that we only get 70 to 80 people at this meeting. Likewise, I’m disappointed at the turnouts for virtually every election held in this state, in this city, in this country,” said Downing. “We don’t participate; we just don’t. I fail to see how changing this city to a town hall version brings more people out.”

As the article could not be amended, discussion continued for several minutes before the moderator accepted a motion to adjourn at about 11 a.m.

Keene voters will consider all 10 measures on the warrant in yes-or-no votes at the ballot box on March 13.

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.

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  1. “It shouldn’t cost that much to educate our youth for what is basically daycare. The amount of money being spent, a quarter million dollars for the life of a kid, we should be turning out engineers, rocket scientists, doctors,” Salada said. “And yet half of these kids probably couldn’t pass an entrance exam in the local college.” Now that is funny. Salada is an idiot. He has never been elected to any board nor has his ideas been used. He has absolutely no stake in this budget meeting. Face it, school costs will continue to rise. That is a given. Teacher salaries will continue to rise. The cost of educating students will continue to rise. Education is not the sole responsibility of schools and teachers. There needs to be parents who take a vested interest in their children and children’s education. The student has the responsibility of following through with their academics. Poverty is one of the biggest factors. It invites gangs, depression, drug use, etc…. Student seem to run the schools now. The teacher’s authority has been chipped away because of self entitled parents and students who think they should get a free ride for everything in their lives. Cutting school budgets are not the answer.

  2. “There needs to be parents who take a vested interest in their children and children’s education.”

    It’s a right shame you don’t recognize the importance of this sort of thing whenever the subject of homeschooling comes up, eh Jacks?

    And frankly Jacks, at almost $10K per student per year, government schools are being paid a premium. For that kind of money, shouldn’t they be expected to be able to teach children without having to rely on parental assistance to cover up for their failures?

  3. My goodness, Jacks, I humbly stand corrected! So it’s $15K per student per year? And the prices absolutely must keep going up as well? Astonishing! Why you’d think that by charging Cadillac prices, teachers and administrators would have more than enough money to do their jobs without any outside assistance from parents whatsoever! And yet you believe that they can’t? I wonder why?

    Say Jacks, you don’t think that there might be a connection between poor service and the fact that government schools get paid no matter how badly they perform, now do you?

  4. Look Jacks! Your kindred spirits, the busybodies running the central banking institutions, are artfully being won over! Just think of the possibilities once they finally get out of the way! It’s just too bad that your spiteful nature will hamper your inclination to reap the benefits from this news, eh Jacks?

  5. But Jacks, the busybodies over at the FSB are saying that cryptoassets don’t pose any risks. As an enthusiastic busybody yourself, Jacks, don’t you think you’re out of line in disregarding the opinions of the world’s financial experts?

  6. Uh oh, Jacks. Looks like our dear friends over at CNBC are predicting all sorts of wonderful things for the cryptocurrency markets very soon. Maybe you should get back to work scouring Yahoo Finance for more gloomy predictions to post – you know, so the rest of us don’t start getting any ideas?

Care to comment?