Superintendent’s Annual School District Report 2018
From our $2,250,000 Hinsdale Elementary School building grant which was approved by the New Hampshire Department of Education, the New Hampshire School Board, the New Hampshire House and Senate, and signed into law by Governor Sununu, to the state-wide recognition of our successful Extended Learning Opportunities program, we have much to celebrate this year.
The Hinsdale Elementary School building addition/renovation is scheduled for completion on August 21, 2018. The addition will include three first grade classrooms, three kindergarten classrooms, a music room, and an art room. All the rooms in the addition will be on the ground floor. The renovation consists of some existing Hinsdale elementary school first-floor rooms as well as the mechanical systems that will serve both the existing Hinsdale Elementary School and the addition. The estimated total cost of the proposed building expansion/renovation is $3,750,000. The Hinsdale Elementary School project was the only school building aid project approved by the New Hampshire Department of Education and by the New Hampshire Legislature this past session.
Without the strong support of voters at the 2017 Annual District Meeting we would not likely have been able to garner the necessary votes from the New Hampshire Legislature needed to secure the building grant. The 93% Hinsdale voter approval at the 2017 Annual District Meeting was a common topic of conversation among state officials and others with ties to K-12 education. For example, in a story that ran in the “Brattleboro Reformer” on November 3, 2017, Frank Marinace, CEO of Marinace Architects, said he was amazed by the community’s dedication to their schools. “I’ve seen a lot of votes over my 43 years and I’ve never seen 93 percent,” Marinace said. “This part of the State really wants to get it right.”
We have already received $1,800,000 of the promised building aid from the State. In addition $450,000 is promised at the completion of our project. We recently received another $1,500,000 as a result of the sale of our Hinsdale School District building bond which was recently presented to the New Hampshire Bond Bank by our Business Administrator. We received an interest rate of 2.856 percent on our 20-year bond. We had budgeted for an interest rate of 4 percent.
We have many individuals and groups to thank for this needed facility improvement including the following: our voters at our 2017 District Meeting, the Hinsdale School Board, the New Hampshire Board of Education, Governor Sununu, the New Hampshire Legislature, New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, and the 2016-2017 Hinsdale School District’s Building Improvement Committee. The Hinsdale Building Improvement Committee members included the following: Jim O’Malley-Chair, Steve Fecto-Vice Chair, James MacDonell, Joe Boggio, Sean Leary, Deb Carrier, Shawn Lee, Courtney Hodge, April Anderson, Kaylah Hemlow, and Tom O’Connor. I would also like to thank the New Hampshire Department of Education Chief Engineer Amy Clark, Hinsdale resident Smoky Smith, former State Senator Molly Kelly, current State Senator Jay Kahn, State Representative Mike Abbott, and Hinsdale resident Kathy Bean.
On Saturday, October 28th, the Hinsdale School Board held a ground-breaking ceremony for our addition/renovation project. Hinsdale student Chase Anderson led those present in the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Honored speakers for the event included the following: New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, Hinsdale School Board Chair Holly Kennedy, and Hinsdale Building Improvement Committee Chair James O’Malley. The event concluded with all five Hinsdale School Board members, as well as Hinsdale Schools supporter Smokey Smith, taking a ceremonial first shovel full of dirt to mark the first step towards the construction of an our elementary school addition and the renovation of part of the existing first floor of Hinsdale Elementary School.
The construction project is now underway. We determined that the heavy equipment would use the Prospect Street entrance and when possible avoid bus drop off and pick up congestion. After consulting with Hinsdale school administrators we agreed that the Hinsdale Elementary School summer programs, such as our extended year learning program and our summer preschool program, will use space at Hinsdale Middle/High School during the summer of 2018.
As we developed the 2018-2019 operating budget, we faced the challenge of meeting our operational budget demands while continuing to deal with a reduction in anticipated State revenue. State funding continues to be reduced while healthcare and retirement costs are rising. One example is the contribution to our retirement obligations. For decades, New Hampshire paid 40% of school employee retirement costs. Today the State pays nothing toward the retirement for school district employees. As a consequence, both the district and the employees have dramatically increased their contributions.
In December area legislators met with Hinsdale administrators and Hinsdale Board members Sean Leary and Jim O’Malley. We discussed upcoming legislation. It was clear that the legislators present were sympathetic to our concerns related to the current State revenue shortfall to Hinsdale and its impact on our local tax rate. The largest loss of revenue from the State is due to a cut in June of 2017 of $100,000 to our stabilization grant.
Many similar communities in Cheshire County have also recently been hit hard by the combination of a State revenue shortfall and a decrease of the total of taxable property values in their community. For example current tax rates among like communities in Cheshire County are as follows:
In Keene, the tax rate is $37.22 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Troy, the tax rate is $34.19 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Winchester, the tax rate is $33.30 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Jaffrey, the tax rate is $32.97 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Sullivan, the tax rate is $31.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Hinsdale, the tax rate is $30.41 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Marlborough, the tax rate is $30.17 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Hinsdale continues to stand out as a district that acquires a high percentage of State and Federal grants to offset local taxes. I am proud of our effort to provide a high level of grant funding. As a percentage of our expenditures, we typically procure approximately 10% more in grant funds than is common among New Hampshire Districts. This year we lead the State, largely due to our $2,250,000 building aid grant.
Other recent competitive grants include $25,000 from the New Hampshire Department of Education which will enable us to provide necessary staff training as part of Story Preservation Initiative. With its archival home at the Library of Congress, Story Preservation Initiative provides easy access to a rich collection of oral histories for integration into our curricula.
In October, Hinsdale School District was awarded a Small, Rural School Achievement grant of $15,000. Our Business Administrator and our Director of Curriculum and Instruction did the complicated work needed to help secure this grant.
In December we were awarded a $25,000 robotics grant thanks to the hard work of our Hinsdale Middle/High School media specialist, Victoria Davis.
In January of 2018 we received security grants from the State totaling $28,293. Our School Resource Officer Marcello D’Allesandro, our Director of Technology, Debbie Trabucco, and our Business Administrator Tom O’Connor all participated in the grant application process. The security items funded were all identified as areas of need in the security audit completed in the spring of 2016.
There are many areas where we have worked hard to create savings. For example, we recently received an Award of Excellence from PresenceLearning. Our award was one of twelve given across the country for use of live, online speech-language therapy and psychoeducational services to help support students with special needs. I applaud our Director of Student Services for demonstrating sound stewardship of District resources while meeting the needs of students who need speech or psychological services.
In an effort to generate other sources of revenue, the Hinsdale Education Foundation was formed in March of 2017. The Hinsdale Education Foundation has been approved as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and is now registered with both the IRS and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. The officers of the Hinsdale Education Foundation are as follows: President, Jim O’Malley; Secretary, Steve Bonnette; Treasurer, Frank Moriarty. Other Hinsdale Education Foundation members include Board Chair Holly Kennedy and District Clerk Ann Diorio. The Foundation Board members are hopeful that individual contributions and/or business/corporate contributions may help support our Hinsdale schools without adding to the property tax bill. The Hinsdale Education Foundation’s first fund raising event is the Richard T. McCarthy Golf Tournament scheduled for May 19, 2018 at 9:00 am at the Northfield Golf Club.
Our Extended Learning Opportunity program continues to gain attention from State education leaders. Most recently, our new Commissioner Frank Edelblut praised the relationship Hinsdale School District has with our business community. Approximately 120 area businesses work with us through our Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator, Karen Thompson. Karen Thompson was recently named “New Hampshire Extended Learning Opportunities Educator of the Year.”
We are making progress towards a system migration towards a student competency education model. We recently made modifications to our Hinsdale High School Program of Studies to better reflect the move towards a competency-based education model. All our Hinsdale High School students are receiving individualized instruction for three days each week in math and English. Our after school program is another opportunity for our students to participate in a personalized learning program. Somedays we have in excess of 100 Hinsdale students participating in our after school program.
Largely as a result of our Extended Learning Opportunity program graduating Hinsdale students should be better prepared for college and career than most graduating seniors in our area and across the United States. We have made significant progress in regards to empowering our students to determine their individual educational pathways. We are working hard to create an individualized education plan for each student. New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edleblut spent a full day in our schools shortly after being appointed to his post. He is a strong advocate of the Hinsdale personalized learning competency-based program.
In addition, many of our students are earning certifications as a result of their Extended Learning Opportunity work and their work at the Windham Regional Career Center. One member of the Hinsdale Senior Class has accumulated seven certifications.
We continue to work on the development of performance based assessments. These assessments will better engage our students, especially those students with unique needs, interests, and learning styles. In addition to our work on performance assessments we are working hard to develop a more responsive learning system which is founded on the Professional Learning Community model.
In early August, 2017, a team from Hinsdale Elementary School attended the New Hampshire Educator’s Summer Summit at the University of New Hampshire. Major strands included: “teaching for the future” and “how to improve literacy from birth to age eight.” In July a team of educators from Hinsdale Middle/High School attended the Competency-Based Learning Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire. The major stands included “personalized learning including extended learning opportunities,” and PACE – (performance assessment of competency education).” PACE for New Hampshire schools is an approved accountability system by the U.S. Department of Education. PACE is a “learning system designed to capitalize on the latest advances in understanding of how people learn. The goal is to structure learning opportunities that allow students to grapple with gaining meaningful knowledge and skills at a depth of understanding that they can transfer to new real-world situations.” Our District PACE committee under the leadership of our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Karen Craig, is working hard in an effort to accomplish this goal. Members of our School District PACE Committee include the following school district educators: Tom Ronning, Ann Freitag, Brad Venice, Christine Bowker, Jennifer Taggart, Jodie Holmquist, Joe Boggio, Juliet Fenrich, Kaitlin Adams, Karen Craig, Karen Thompson, Matthew Kennedy, Peter Hughes, and Sarah Burgess.
If we accomplish our PACE Committee objectives we will likely also become a “Pathway District.” New Hampshire is a leader among states in support the effort of “Pathway Districts. By becoming a Pathway District we would be increasing the likelihood that our grant applications would be successful and at the same time increase our likelihood of attracting new revenue streams. Many national organizations, such as the “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” have agreed to support the New Hampshire effort to develop pathway districts.
Our Board continues to work hard to accomplish Board Goals. Under the Board Communication Goal one action item reads, “Maintain communication to promote a collaborative relationship with the community through a continued commitment to holding a minimum of two forums and maintaining a presence in other committees, boards and community events in town.” Currently the Board is planning to hold a public forum in April and another public forum in May. The level of cooperation among Board members, and the commitment of their time to the District is extraordinary.
Hinsdale parent involvement is also extraordinary. For example, we experienced approximately 90% of our parents in attendance at our most recent Hinsdale Elementary School Open House. Our after school program has personal contact at the end of the day with approximately 100 Hinsdale families.
I believe a quality education is more important to our children’s future than ever before. Therefore, our responsibility to do what we can to ensure that our students receive a quality education is greater than ever. Having completed my second year as your school superintendent, it has become crystal clear that Hinsdale is a remarkable school district that has the strong and enthusiastic support of the community as well as a talented, dedicated staff overseeing the education of Hinsdale students.
On behalf of the Hinsdale School District, I would ask the community to continue to show its support by attending the District Meeting on Saturday, March 17th at 10:30 a.m. in our middle school/high school gym.
Wayne Woolridge, Superintendent of Schools