Superintendent’s Annual School District Report 2020
We have much to be thankful for this year. We also have much to be proud of this year. This year we are especially proud of our staff and students at Hinsdale High School. Hinsdale High School won a Best High Schools Award as determined by “U.S. News & World Report.” The U.S. News Best High Schools rankings include data on more than 23,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 17,000 schools were ranked on six factors based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.
We are also proud that the Hinsdale Extended Learning Opportunity program was voted “Best Way to Introduce Students to Real World Jobs.” More than 4,400 NH Business Review readers cast their votes to select this year’s Best of Business (BOB) Award. Certainly the support of the School Board and the hard work of Karen Thompson and her ELO team of Cathy Johnson, Peter Hughes, Jodie Holmquist, Bonnie Trombly and the entire HMHS staff should be recognized for their effort to provide Hinsdale students with a high quality and truly personalized ELO program. The Extended Learning Opportunity program started eight years ago at Hinsdale High School at the request of our School Board, many of the Board members who made that request 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 ELO Director, our teachers and our counselors, each ELO student is matched with the business or organization that provides the best opportunity for the student to grow along a chosen career path.
We are also proud of the effort of Hinsdale Elementary School staff to secure the New Hampshire Children’s Literacy Foundation “Year of the Book” literacy grant of $25,000. The Year of the Book grant includes several author and story teller visits. The grant supports family literacy events and special literacy programs. In addition, the grant provides funds for new books for classrooms, the school library, our Hinsdale town library, as well as ten new books for each child to choose. A Hinsdale Elementary School team of Joe Boggio, Kristine Dow, Abigail Storm, Christine Bowker, Mary Wissman, Brenda Kelly and Inder Khalsa wrote the application for the Year of the Book grant. The grant request also had the support of the Hinsdale Public Library.
We are incredibly thankful for our Hinsdale Education Foundation. In an effort to generate other sources of revenue, the Hinsdale Education Foundation was formed in March of 2017. The Foundation Board members raise money through fund raising programs, individual contributions, and/or business/corporate contributions in order to support our Hinsdale schools without adding to the local property tax bill. The Hinsdale Education Foundation’s most profitable fund raising event is the Annual Richard T. McCarthy Golf Tournament. The Hinsdale Education Foundation organized the charity golf tournament two years ago during which time the tournament has raised more than $15,000 to support our schools. The third annual Richard T. McCarthy Golf Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, May 16th at the Northfield Golf Club. Retired Hinsdale Middle/High School principal John Hartnett is the tournament director.
For the second year in a row 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 area businesses are asked to sponsor a tile. Hinsdale Education Foundation Treasurer, Frank Moriarty, is directing the tile project.
In the two years of operation the Hinsdale Education Foundation has funded 11 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, a compost bin for the outside and a small worm compost bin for our preschool, a field trip for the third and fourth grade students to Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, a field trip for our Extended Learning Opportunity students to tour the MET School in Rhode Island, all the materials needed to enable ELO students to build a green house on school property, funding for a Hinsdale After School Program homework hour, and fruit trees that will be planted on school grounds as an extended learning opportunity.
The officers of the Hinsdale Education Foundation are as follows: President, Jim O’Malley; Secretary, Steve Bonnette; and Treasurer, Frank Moriarty. Other Hinsdale Education Foundation members include Hinsdale School Board Chair Holly Kennedy and Hinsdale School District Clerk Ann Diorio. Check out the Hinsdale Education Foundation web site at https://www.hinsdaleef.org/
We are incredibly thankful for the generous community support we receive to fund our Hinsdale Schools. Sometimes that support is overwhelming. For example, last spring the community funded $56,000 in scholarships for our graduates. In late December we were notified by a couple, who both graduated from Hinsdale High School, that they wished to donate $5,000 to help support our Hinsdale After School Program. The same couple also wrote a check to cover the unpaid school lunch balance for each Hinsdale student as of December 31st.
We are thankful that our state government has done a better job in supporting our Hinsdale schools. State adequacy aid increased slightly to $3,708 per student. This year we are also receiving more from the state for each student who receives free or reduced lunch. Currently, 41.9% of Hinsdale students are taking free or reduced lunch. We also received an increase in Fiscal Disparity Aid from the state and our Stabilization Grant was restored to 100% of the amount we received in 2012. In addition, kindergarten students now receive as much adequacy aid per student as students in grades one through 12.
We are thankful for our area legislators. Undoubtedly, much of our increase in state funding is attributable to the work done by our area legislators. Hinsdale administrators and Hinsdale Board members, Holly Kennedy, Sean Leary, James O’Malley, Jeana Woodbury and Kaylah Hemlow met with all our State Representatives and our State Senator in October. Our state representatives present included Lucy Weber, Paul Birch, Cathy Harvey, and Mike Abbott. Our State Senator Jay Kahn was also present. The Hinsdale Select Board Chair, Mike Darcy, joined our discussion. We thanked our legislators for their efforts to secure an increase in state funding for Hinsdale students. We outlined our hopes concerning the 2020 legislative session. As your superintendent, I am thankful that the continued shifting down to the local property tax payer of costs associated with the state’s responsibility to fund an adequate education, has finally ended. However, the increase in state funding is only promised for this year and next year. It will be up to those elected officials who begin their work on a state budget in January, 2021 to create legislation that honestly provides the constitutionally mandated state revenue needed to truly fund an adequate education for each student regardless of where the student resides in New Hampshire.
The current state budget includes $500,000 to fund a commission to study the current education funding formula, determine the real cost of an adequate education, and how best to pay for it. We are thankful that our Senator, Jay Kahn, has a prominent role on this commission. Hopefully, this study will result in new legislation that funds the real cost of providing an adequate education for each student prior to our School District Meeting in March of 2021.
We are thankful for the hard work by our staff that resulted in a high percentage of grant funds. The Hinsdale School District 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. Major grants for the current school year include: Hinsdale After School Program – $156, 688, Federal Title Grants used for reading, math, professional development, and technology – $418,472, special education and preschool grants – $185,183, our school lunch revenue which is mostly federal and state revenue is approximately $300,000, and state grants which include our per student adequacy grant our Fiscal Disparity Aid and our Stabilization Grant total approximately $5,600,000. The total revenue we expect to procure this year from sources other than local property taxes is about $6,700,000. We are thankful for our business administrator who tracks these funds. Our annual independent audits have been without a negative finding during my four years as your superintendent.
In another effort to add revenue from sources other than local property taxes, our Hinsdale School Board tasked an Open Enrollment Study Committee to consider options that would add tuition revenue from out-of-district students. At our Annual School District Meeting on March 14th the committee hopes to share information regarding an Open Enrollment Study Committee recommendation for a Hinsdale nonresident private tuition option that would be available to qualified nonresident students in grades 9-12. Our School Board Chair, Holly Kennedy, chairs the Open Enrollment Study Committee.
We are thankful for our positive working relationship with town government. We are currently working with the town to explore funding options to assist Hinsdale families with children who are too young for school. It is hoped that the School District and the Town could cooperate regarding the search for grant funds to help families prepare their children for school. Our Title 1 Coordinator, the Director of the Hinsdale After School Program, and Board member Kaylah Hemlow are working with the town on this project.
We are incredibly thankful for our staff who serve on numerous professional learning community teams and committees. One example that is new this year is the Hinsdale School District Behavioral Support Team. In October the School Board tasked this team to review survey data regarding Hinsdale student behavior. The survey data was reviewed by the team and shared with a New Hampshire expert in social emotional learning and school-wide behavior support systems. We are in the process of forming a staff committee in each building tasked with developing and implementing a Hinsdale student behavior improvement plan.
The Hinsdale Facility Committee continues to work on determining a cost/benefit priority list regarding recommendations made in the recent safety audit for Hinsdale Elementary School and Hinsdale Middle/High School. The safety audit was completed for no charge by Homeland Security. Over the past two years the Facility Committee has secured more than $100,000 in grant funds from the state for safety upgrades. School Board member Sean Leary serves as Facilities Committee Chair. Hinsdale School Board member Jim O’Malley also serves on this committee and has led the effort to prioritize our safety recommendations.
We are continuing to plan for the implementation of the fourth year of our five-year Technology Plan. Our eighth grade and our twelfth grade students are scheduled to be added to the one-to-one computer initiative next fall. We have recently implemented a comprehensive compliance plan regarding the new data governance legislation. This new law mandates a high level of information security for every school district. The implementation of this compliance plan has involved all Hinsdale staff.
In an effort to establish a culture of caring among our staff our Director of Human Resources has worked hard to create work place programs that foster a feeling of friendliness, goodwill, and familiarity among the staff. Our Director of Human Resources also leads our Hinsdale School District wellness program. Since we have worked to establish a culture of caring our level of staff retention has dramatically improved. Certainly staff retention benefits all our students.
Staff retention has been a Board goal for the past two years. I am thankful that our Board recognizes the importance of staff retention. We are indeed fortunate to have such a hard working School Board. All our Board members serve on multiple teams and committees. These team and committees typically meet monthly. In addition to district teams and committees our School Board Chair, Holly Kennedy, serves as a member of the New Hampshire School Board Association State Board. I was not surprised that in 2018 the Hinsdale School Board received the Magna Award from the National School Boards Association. The Hinsdale School Board was chosen as a first place Magna Award winner in the under 5,000 enrollment category.
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 fourth year as your Hinsdale School District Superintendent, I am more certain than ever that Hinsdale has a remarkable school system thanks to the strong and enthusiastic support of the community, our School Board, and the talented and dedicated staff overseeing the education of Hinsdale students.
On behalf of the Hinsdale School District, I ask that community members continue to show their support by attending the District Meeting on Saturday, March 14th, immediately following the Town Meeting, in our middle/high school gym.
Wayne Woolridge, Superintendent of Schools