December 2018 Superintendent’s Blog

Superintendent’s Blog – December 2018

We have been working hard to create a budget that will clearly identify the costs associated with providing Hinsdale students with a quality education, while always keeping in mind that many of our local taxpayers cannot afford an increase in their taxes. If passed, the operating budget we are proposing to the Budget Committee on December 11th would be less than the operating budget passed at the 2018 Annual District Meeting.

While many communities across our country face a similar budget challenge, the challenge for administrators and the School Board in Hinsdale is by far more daunting, because our state pays so little for K-12 education.  To make matters even worse New Hampshire continues to cut our Stabilization revenue. The Stabilization Aid was cut by about $200,000 over the past two years and is scheduled to be reduced by another $100,000 next year. All our State Fiscal Disparity Aid, more than $2 million for Hinsdale, was cut in 2012. The cut of Fiscal Disparity Aid, now called Stabilization Aid, was spread out over time and postponed to begin in 2017.  We are facing a cut of more than $100,000 in our Stabilization Grant each year for the next 23 years.

When the Claremont case was decided by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1997, New Hampshire was last amount the 50 states in state aid as a percentage of school revenue. Actually, if New Hampshire’s state aid had been tripled, New Hampshire would still have been last. Following the Claremont decision state education aid to Hinsdale jumped in one year from $736,712. to $3,464,567.  In percentage terms the state contribution jumped from about 14% of Hinsdale expenditures for schools to more than 60%. However, in the past decade the legislature has managed to significantly reduce funding to Hinsdale, first by cutting the entire 40% of funding for teacher retirement which represented an additional local taxpayer obligation for school district personnel of more than $853,549,000 in our current year. The 40% state retirement contribution had been in place for more than 50 years.  Then Concord charged local taxpayers more by increasing local property taxes and calling it “statewide education tax.” There is zero equalization among towns so this tax is “statewide” in name only. And as previously stated the State added to our local property tax bill by cutting our Local Disparity Aid, now Stabilization Aid, which will result in a cut of State revenue of about $100,000 for next year.

By pushing the cost of education, “a state responsibility” down to local taxpayers, the disparity of tax rates in towns drives even more educational inequity. Some towns in New Hampshire have more than 20 times the amount of taxable property per student as other towns.

Hinsdale administrators and Board members are meeting with our local Legislators on December 14th at which time we will outline our concerns related to funding.

The decision to cut Fiscal Disparity Aid to Hinsdale was made in 2012.  Recently, our Governor, our Legislature, our State Board of Education, and our Commissioner responded favorably to our request to receive financial support for our HES addition/renovation project. We are grateful for their support which resulted in our local taxpayers paying for less than half of the cost of the project.

The interest rate for the Bond on our Hinsdale Elementary School Addition/Renovation project was sold at 2.856%, below the 4% we projected at our 2018 Annual District Meeting. The cost of the project for the owners of a Hinsdale house valued at $100,000 is projected to be $36 next year. The addition/renovation project costs for next year are part of our 2019/2020 proposed operating budget.

My wife, Cindy Copeland, recently organized a Book Buddies program with Penny Chagnon’s third grade class. Members of Cindy’s book club, which has been together for over 20 years, were matched with all of the students in Mrs. Chagnon’s class. Over the course of the year, the adult volunteers will give their book buddies four books, each with a note about why the book was chosen for that particular student. The students will write back to their book buddies so that there is some discussion around reading and what makes a book interesting and memorable. The first book delivery took place on Monday, November 19th and the children were thrilled to receive their books!

I am working on the newly adopted 2018-2019 School Board Goals and will provide an update on our progress throughout the school year.

2018-2019 Hinsdale School Board Goals

  1. Curriculum and Instruction
  • Ensure that all students receive guidance regarding post-secondary education or career options.
  • Provide students with educational opportunities and learning based upon the student’s unique needs, interests and learning styles.
  • Establish continuity and collaboration in instruction between the school buildings.

As of early December 55% of the Hinsdale Senior Class was in the process of applying for college for next year. Currently 10% of the Senior Class is planning to join a branch of the military.

We are continuing to create opportunities for personalized learning at Hinsdale. For example, our Director of Personalized Learning recently created an evening program that will provide our high school students and members of the community an opportunity to move towards an LNA certification.

  1. Communication
  • Internal
    • Twice yearly school board tours of all school buildings – 1 tour during the school day and 1 tour when classes are not in session.
  • External
    • 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.
    • Maintain relationships with town governing bodies.

Our business administrator, our cost center managers, and I will be meeting with the Hinsdale Budget Committee on December 11th in an effort to provide the necessary budget justification for the 2019-2020 School District Budget.

  1. Culture
  • Promote an atmosphere that supports a forward-thinking, professional learning community.
  • Ensure clear behavioral expectations are communicated and followed up on regularly.
  • Support and promote anti-bullying practices and ensure policies are being followed.
  • Superintendent will spot check the bullying logs and report monthly to the board.

John Broderick, Senior Director of External Affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and formerly Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court spoke to our high school students and many of our parents and staff on Tuesday, November 27.  John urged our students, staff, and parents to change the culture and conversation around mental illness in an effort to destigmatize it.  We hope to further his recommendations through the application of our revised social emotional learning curriculum.

John wrote the following day: “Wayne, It was a real pleasure meeting you and many of your teachers, counselors and school board members yesterday. Everyone made me feel very welcome in Hinsdale and the students were wonderful.  I was impressed by all you are doing in the arena of mental health awareness and social/ emotional learning. You seem way ahead of many larger and wealthier districts. You should be rightly proud of where you are and your commitment to your students.”

We have had three reported acts of bullying at HES since our last Board meeting. Two of the three occurred on a school bus. We have had zero reported acts of bullying at HMHS since our last Board meeting

  1. Personnel
  • Support initiatives to recruit and retain professional, high-quality staff that are innovative, dynamic and dedicated to the success of all students.
  • Promote an atmosphere that supports an inclusive, professional learning community.

We continue to provide quality PD for our staff. Thanks to the effort of the Director of the Hinsdale After School Program we have $22,000 in grant funds which will be used to provide professional development for the staff of HASP.

  1. Financial
  • Search for ways to conduct business in the most efficient and effective manner.
  • Work with the Administration to proactively monitor the fund balance
  • Annual review of eligibility for the free lunch program under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
  • Maintain ongoing communication with the Budget Committee regarding any potential changes in funding.
  • Receive detailed backup information for the budget.
  • Warrant article to rebuild the maintenance fund.
  • Formulate a written facilities capital improvement plan.

Our business administrator has been working with the Chair of the Budget Committee to develop a budget document that will be useful throughout the budget approval process.

  1. Security
  • Continue to review security audit information and move forward, in a fiscally responsible manner, to ensure our building are secure and our students are safe.

The cameras recently added to HMHS have added significant clarity and detail.

  1. Technology
  • Continue to align the district budget to support the 5-year plan of the Future Technology Committee.

We are continuing to plan for the implementation of the third year of our five-year Technology Plan. Our seventh grade and our eleventh grade students are scheduled to be added to the one-to-one computer initiative next fall.