Superintendent’s Annual School District Report 2019
From our successfully completed Hinsdale Elementary School addition and renovation project, our 2018 State Championship Girls Basketball Team, the Hinsdale School Board Magna Award, 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 and renovation project was completed by our first day with students on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The addition includes three first grade classrooms, three kindergarten classrooms, a music room, and an art room. All the rooms are attached to the main campus. The renovation space includes some of the existing Hinsdale elementary school first-floor rooms as well as the mechanical systems that will serve both the existing Hinsdale Elementary School and all the rooms in the addition.
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 which totaled 60% of the total cost of construction. 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.
The interest rate for the Bond on our Hinsdale Elementary School Addition/Renovation project was sold at 2.856%, below the 4% we estimated at our 2018 Annual District Meeting. The addition and renovation project cost, as was projected, adds about 1% on the Hinsdale tax rate. The addition/renovation project bond costs for next year are part of our 2019/2020 proposed operating budget.
The Hinsdale School Board held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hinsdale Elementary School addition on Saturday, September 22nd. After remarks by our Board Chair Holly Kennedy, and the Chair of the Building Improvement Committee Jim O’Malley, all five Hinsdale School Board members cut the ceremonial ribbon. Then those in attendance were ushered into the new addition where they toured the rooms and hallway. All who spoke expressed sincerest gratitude for all the help that made this needed facility improvement possible. The speakers thanked the following: our voters at our 2017 School District Meeting, the Hinsdale School Board, the New Hampshire Board of Education, Governor Sununu, the New Hampshire Legislature, the New Hampshire Department of Education Chief Engineer Amy Clark, New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edleblut, Hinsdale resident Smoky Smith, former State Senator Molly Kelly, current State Senator Jay Kahn, State Representatives Mike Abbott, Lucy Weber, Paul Birch, Cathy Harvey and Hinsdale resident Kathy Bean. We also thanked the Hinsdale School District Building Improvement Committee whose members included: James O’Malley-Chair, Steve Fecto-Vice Chair, James MacDonell, Joe Boggio, Sean Leary, Deb Carrier, Shawn Lee, Courtney Hodge, April Anderson, Jeana Woodbury, Kaylah Hemlow, Jason Sisko, Kathy Bean, and Tom O’Connor. We also thanked our technology team and our custodians worked particularly hard to make the opening of school deadline for the new addition and the renovated rooms. Special guests in attendance included: New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edleblut, New Hampshire Department of Education Chief Engineer Amy Clark, New Hampshire Senator Jay Kahn, State Representatives Mike Abbott, Lucy Weber, Paul Birch, and Cathy Harvey. Additional special guests included Frank and Paul Marinace from Marinace Architects, and John Edwards and Walter Latiolais from the MacMillin Company, and Hinsdale resident Smoky Smith.
I would like to commend the Building Improvement Committee and the School Board for their fiscally responsible approach taken in the development of the addition/renovation project. Prior to reaching the voters many cuts were made in order to keep the costs down. Cuts included the following: a solar power option, a paved parking lot for the addition, improvements to traffic flow, security upgrades regarding the main office and the addition, a stand-alone generator for the addition, an outdoor education space, and all new smartboards.
We worked hard to create a 2019/2020 fiscal year budget that will fund the needs associated with providing Hinsdale students with a quality education, while keeping in mind that many of our local taxpayers cannot afford an increase in their taxes. While many communities across our country face a similar budget challenge, the challenge for administrators, the School Board, and the Budget Committee in Hinsdale is by far more daunting, because our state pays so little towards 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. 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.
When the Claremont lawsuit 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%. The school tax rate dropped from $19.87 per thousand to $8.76 per thousand in the year following the Claremont decision. However, in the past decade the legislature has significantly reduced funding to Hinsdale, first by cutting the entire State 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 state retirement contribution had been in place for more than 50 years. And as previously stated the State added to our local property tax bill by about $200,000 over the past two years by cutting our Local Disparity Aid, now called Stabilization Aid. Nationally, state aid to schools has increased this year by an average of 4.9%.
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 Hinsdale Board members, Holly Kennedy and James O’Malley, met with all our State Representatives, including Lucy Weber, Paul Birch, Cathy Harvey, and Mike Abbott on December 14, 2018, at which time we outlined our concerns related to funding. All our state representatives are sympathetic to our concerns. The first issue we spoke to was the reduction in Stabilization Aid. Hinsdale resident and State Representative Mike Abbott, has sponsored a bill to be introduced this session that, if passed, would result in no additional cut in Stabilization Aid to Hinsdale over the next two years. The bill, if passed into law, would save Hinsdale taxpayers about $100,000 each of the next two years. Our State Senator Jay Kahn, is aware of the bill and anticipates a similar bill on the senate side.
The second issue we discussed when we met with our area legislators is that of Special Education Aid, a state revenue stream that is currently reimbursing Hinsdale at only 70.228% of the funds that are required by law. Payments are prorated based on the shortfall appropriation and paid in the fiscal year after the expenditures were incurred. Over the past decade there has never been any catch up on prior years’ shortfalls. Our State Senator, Jay Kahn, has introduced legislation this session regarding special education funding. His bill would require the state to meet current obligations. As with all the other unreimbursed costs, the erosion of this aid impacts local property taxes.
Hinsdale continues to stand out as a district that acquires a high percentage of state and federal grants to offset local taxes. As a percentage of our expenditures, we typically procure approximately 10% more in grant funds than is common among New Hampshire Districts.
For example, we have received more than $100,000 this year from the state for safety upgrades to our school buildings. 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 Hinsdale School District security audit completed in the spring of 2016.
Another example is the $157,580 grant we received this year to fund our Hinsdale Afterschool Program (HASP). It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the Hinsdale Afterschool Program to Hinsdale students and families. Many of our Hinsdale students depend on HASP for a safe place between 3:30-6:00 each school day and for breakfast and/or an afterschool snack. Students complete homework and enhance their math and reading skills with the help of staff and volunteers. Both elementary school students and middle school students have access to Hinsdale computer labs and to the staff needed to help improve the student’s technology related skills. These computers are connected to the internet. Many Hinsdale students struggle with reliable access to the internet from home. Hinsdale students who attend our after school program have access to our amazing elementary school drama program. In addition, our HASP students benefit from physical exercise during a best practice physical exercise program. There are days when more than 100 Hinsdale K-8 students participate in HASP.
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 was the Richard T. McCarthy Golf Tournament held on May 19, 2018 at the Northfield Golf Club. This tournament raised almost $7,000. The second annual Richard T. McCarthy Golf Tournament will be held on May 18, 2019 at the Northfield Golf Club. Retired Hinsdale Middle/High School principal John Hartnett is the tournament director. The Hinsdale Education Foundation has already funded five Hinsdale teacher grant requests which included science kits, garden beds, tuition for a Red Cross course for students pursuing certification as a licensed nursing assistant (LNA), a field trip for all fifth grade students to visit the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, and a compost bin for the outside and a small worm compost bin for our preschool. The next fundraising project for the Hinsdale Education Foundation has engaged every Hinsdale fifth grade student in creating a tile to be permanently installed in the hallway of the new addition. Members of the community and businesses will be asked to sponsor a tile. Hinsdale Education Foundation Treasurer, Frank Moriarty is directing the tile project.
Our Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) program continues to gain attention from State education leaders. At a recent Commissioner’s address to the newly elected legislature Hinsdale High School was one of three high schools Commissioner Edelblut used as an example of best practice in regards to career ready preparation. Approximately 120 area businesses work with us through our Extended Learning Opportunity Program. In June of 2018 ELO Coordinator Karen Thompson was named “New Hampshire Extended Learning Opportunities Educator of the Year.” Our Hinsdale Extended Learning Opportunity Exhibition Day on May 18, 2018 was a huge success thanks to Karen Thompson and the ELO assistant Cathy Johnson, and extended learning opportunity coaches Bonnie Trombly, Jodie Holmquist, and Peter Hughes. The ELO Exhibition Day on May 18th was attended by Fred Bramante who serves as President of the National Center for Competency Based Learning, the New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Education Christine Brennan, all five Hinsdale Board members, and several representatives from other school districts.
In the spring of 2018 the Hinsdale School Board received the Magna Award from the National School Boards Association. Through their Magna Award program, the National School Boards Association recognizes school boards from across the country for innovation and creativity in helping to increase student achievement. The Magna Award program for 2018 focused on equity in education and recognized school districts and their leaders for their efforts to bring educational equity to their students through programs that remove barriers to student achievement. Nationally, one grand prize winner and five first place winners are chosen in three enrollment categories; under 5,000 enrollment, 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment and over 20,000 enrollment. The Hinsdale School Board was chosen as a first place Magna Award winner in the under 5,000 enrollment category for the Hinsdale School District’s Extended Learning Opportunities Program.
The Extended Learning Opportunity program started seven years ago at the request of our school board, many of whom are the same people that currently sit on our board. Students who participate in our Extended Learning Opportunities Program work with one of over 120 business partners in the Hinsdale area. With the help of our teachers, counselors, and our ELO coordinator, each ELO student is matched with the business that provides the best opportunity for the student to grow along a chosen career path. The ELO experience is outlined so the experience includes a connection to the core competencies each student must learn. As a consequence, Hinsdale students are more likely to be engaged in their learning and more likely to have a clearer understanding of the work it will take to be successful in their chosen field. Students going to college are much more likely pick a college that will best help the student reach their goal. Our parents appreciate the increased clarity in regards to student aspirations. Hinsdale students have had a diverse range of ELO experiences including firefighting, marine engineering, and veterinary science. In addition, many of our students are earning certifications as a result of their Extended Learning Opportunity work. Last year one member of the Hinsdale Senior Class accumulated seven certifications. The most recent certification is the Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA).
I would like to congratulate the Hinsdale 2018 State Championship Girls Basketball Team which included seniors Monika Costello, Gabrial LeClair, Mariah Nichols; junior Hannah Lynch; sophomores Maggie St. John and Ericka Girroir; freshmen Angelina Wilcox, Audrey Martin, Olivia Pangelinan, and Kleay Steever. Our head coach was Terry Bonnette. Our assistant coach was Al Putnam. Our manger was Rachael Girroir.
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 third year as your school superintendent, it has become crystal clear to me 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 ask that the community continue to show its support by attending the District Meeting on Saturday, March 16th at 9:00 a.m. in our middle/high school gym.
Wayne Woolridge, Superintendent of Schools