Superintendent’s May Report

Superintendent’s Report – May 2021

We are indeed fortunate to be part of a District with such supportive community as evidenced by the overwhelming support we received by District voters at our May 1st Annual School District Meeting. The District voters approved a School District budget of $14,218,291. The budget was up 0.5 percent from the current year budget. The voters also approved a three-year contract with our para employee group. The contract increased the funding by the district by $44,465 for 2022, $44,783 for 2023, and $42,272 for 2024. The agreement represents 36 paraprofessionals, custodians, maintenance personnel, and instructional assistants. 

We are beginning a discussion related to our use of grants funds that are part of the American Rescue Plan, ESSER III. The recently passed $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” or ESSER III includes $2,045,578 for Hinsdale schools. We were told by our Commissioner that the ESSER III grant will be open to us on May 24, 2021.  As with ESSER II a major focus of the grant includes catch-up learning for students. The funds from ESSER III must be spent by September of 2024. Any of the funds in our allocation that are not spent when the grant window closes will go back to the state for reallocation to other New Hampshire school districts. We are hopeful that we can be prepared to have an introductory conversation with the Board in June concerning possible areas where Hinsdale students would benefit most from the expenditure of ESSER III funds. The District plan for the use of the funds must be completed by August 22, 2021. New Hampshire has already received $350,501,632 in ESSER III funds from the federal government for New Hampshire public schools.

ESSER III contains several provisions that help ensure that federal funds are used in addition to—and not in place of—state and local education funding.

  • Effort: States must continue to fund public elementary and secondary education and higher education at least at the proportional levels as the average annual funding over fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019. For example, if a state spent on average 26% of its total budget on k–12 and higher education between 2017 and 2019, then it must provide that same percentage of support in both 2022 and 2023.
  • Equity—State: In the 2021–22 and 2022–23 school years, high-need school districts are protected from states’ spending reductions in two ways. First, state per-pupil funding for the neediest half of districts cannot be reduced by an amount that exceeds the overall decrease in state funds. Second, per-pupil state funding for the 20% of districts with the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students may not be reduced below pre-pandemic levels (FY 2019).

Cost center managers are still reviewing expenditures we made in the current year to see if the expenditure would be ESSER II eligible. We have discovered several transactions that are being changed so as not to be charged to the general operating budget but instead charged to the CARES Act grant or the ESSER II grant.

The New Hampshire state budget is currently being debated by the legislature. The House has attached a few controversial provisions to the budget including provisions from the “divisive concepts” bill which would prohibit schools from teaching about and offering trainings on systemic racism and sexism.

The American Families Plan is currently being debated by Congress.  One provision of the plan would allocate $200 billion to establish universal preschool for all three and four year olds.  Another provision would appropriate $9 billion for teacher training. Other provisions include: free community college, school leadership training funds, $4,000 to $8,000 a year for college students studying education and money to pay for recertification.

The number of COVID-19 cases has dropped since our last Board meeting.  As of Wednesday, May, 5th the positivity rate in Cheshire County was 1.8 % and the average number of new cases over the past two weeks were 12 per day.

We continue to work to meet the 2020/ 2021 Board Goals.

The 2020-2021 Hinsdale School Board Goals are as follows:

  1. Curriculum and Instruction

Establish continuity and collaboration in instruction between the school buildings.

 We are currently working on our fifth grade to sixth grade transition plan. The plan to date includes a visit by the fifth grade students to the middle school. We also plan to offer an open house for the current fifth grade parents in August.

Ensure all staff has access to pertinent trainings.

There are many examples of needed training that should be grant fund eligible. Our Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment is focusing on professional development opportunities to be accomplished over the summer. Our administrators plan to discuss options for our professional development days scheduled for the fall.

Our Director and Personalized Learning and our Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment are coordinating professional development opportunities for PACE related adjustments to curriculum and instruction.

PACE-All grade levels will move towards performance assessment and enhanced personalized learning.

 Our Director of Personalized Learning is managing a $250,000 grant that should fund our effort to help us move forward with our PACE directive. In addition, we are considering some use of ESSER III funds to help support teachers working with our ELO students.  Our Director of Personalized Learning and our Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment are working with the leaders at the New Hampshire Learning Initiative to create meaningful professional development for our staff.

  1. Communication

Internal-Improve overall communication.

 Our Board continues to frequently update the public as part of the new Communication Plan approved by the Board in September.  The new communication plan is driven by the need to more quickly and thoroughly communicate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

External-Maintain communication to promote a collaborative relationship with the community in the following ways:

 Continue to hold a minimum of two community forums during the school year.

We hope to hold a public hearing regarding the ESSER III grant prior to agreeing to our grant priorities.  We could hold the public hearing just prior to our regular Board meeting in June.

Maintain a presence on other committees, boards and through attendance at community events in town.

Due to COVID-19 community events have been limited but beginning with this summer community events should be similar to those that took place in 2019 and not 2020.

Maintain relationships with town governing bodies.

Board members currently serve on several town committees.

Culture

 Promote a culture of kindness and open communication.

Our Director of Human Resources has been providing staff with frequent wellness related updates. She continues to coordinate donuts and coffee in the staff rooms on Friday afternoon as appreciation for the difficult work our staff is accomplishing during this trying time. We are in the process of planning a special end-of-year celebration for our staff. 

Ensure clear behavioral expectations are communicated and followed up on regularly through the development and implementation of a district-wide behavior plan, the progress of which will be reported to the Board monthly by the Superintendent.

The Behavioral Support Team in each school have been working on their building school wide behavior plans. The District Behavioral Support Team last met on Wednesday, April 14th.  Board member Kaylah Hemlow chairs the Behavioral Support Team. Under the ESSA II grant and the ESSER III grant Social Emotional Learning is a priority.

Promote an atmosphere that supports an inclusive, professional learning community.

We are planning to use grant funds again next year to continue to support our Professional Learning Communities.

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.

We have had zero incidents of bullying at HMHS since our last Board meeting. We have had three incidents of reported bullying at HES. One was substantiated, one unsubstantiated and one still under investigation.

Support the development of a diversity plan that can be integrated throughout the district.

We intend to bring a new draft of our Diversity Plan to the May Board meeting. The administrative team endorsed the draft plan at the May 5th administration meeting. Our Director of Student Services chairs our Diversity Committee and has led the effort to form a meaningful plan.

  1. Personnel

Support initiatives to recruit and retain professional, high-quality staff that are innovative, dynamic and dedicated to the success of all students.

We have several para positions that remain unfilled. Thanks to Board action we now have four long-term substitutes that are being used to help meet our social distancing guidelines.  On May 1st the District voters approved a three-year agreement with our support staff.

Holly Kennedy and Sean Leary were the Board representatives on the Negotiations Committee

  1. Financial

Support ways to conduct business in the most efficient and effective manner.

We cut personnel by 3.4 positions in the budget that was approved by the District voters on May 1st. We expect a significant surplus when we close the books on the 2020/2021 school year budget.

Work with the administration to present a warrant article to rebuild the expendable trust funds.

 Given the personal hardships in our community, that were a result of the current pandemic, the Board chose not to present a warrant article to rebuild the expendable trust funds this year.

Work with the Administration to proactively monitor the fund balance. Our Business Administrator is presenting his estimate to the Board each month.

Maintain ongoing communication with the Budget Committee regarding any potential changes in funding and expenditures and continue to provide detailed backup information for the budget. Recently Board representatives have met with Budget Committee leadership regarding anticipated revenue.

  1. Security

 Continue to review security audit information and move forward, in a fiscally responsible manner, to ensure our buildings are secure and our students and staff are safe. We are focusing our efforts on providing the needed PPE and frequently sanitizing our buildings. We have available grant funds to cover our needs. In addition, FEMA has just announced another round of funding for schools. Our Director of Facilities is in the process of determining if the FEMA grant could be a source of funding for related expenses in the 2020/2021 budget.

  1. Technology

 Continue to align the district budget to support the 5-year technology plan.

As outlined in the 5-year technology plan we will be purchasing computers over the summer for all students in fifth grade and in ninth grade.

 Ensure all staff has access to pertinent trainings.

We will soon be able to use grant funds for additional training and are planning quality summer professional development as well as the professional development we will offer for all staff members in the fall.

  1. Facilities

Twice yearly School Board tours of all school buildings –1 tour during the school day and 1 tour when classes are not in session. The Board toured the HMHS in the fall and the Board Chair, Sean Leary, toured HES on Friday, March 26th.

Fully utilize all building spaces.

We are currently doing a great job of utilizing our building spaces for instruction as evidenced by our ability to provide in-person instruction five days a week since September 8th