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.” (more…)