"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"It's bad," he said, "and going to be worse." Dan Clary, Principal Belmont High School

In an article in yesterday's Laconia Day Sun it was reported that enrollment at Belmont High School had dropped from about 500 to near 375 over the past several years. The declining enrollment is a regional problem and it ultimately leads to contentious battles at local school board meetings when reductions in force are proposed. Such is the case in Belmont. An interesting metric mentioned in the article is the cost per student in classes of optimum size versus much smaller class size. The issue currently in Belmont is for science classes that were 20+ going to below 10, with some below 5. "We can't ask you to pay for classes of that size," Clary said. The cost difference is about $1,200 per student.  One science teacher is being dropped .
Despite the obvious impact of the precipitous decline in enrollment, some still do not think cutting staff is necessary. According to the article , an anonymous email as floating around warning of the dire consequences to the quality of education if this position were to be cut. 
These decisions are never easy and it is almost a certainty that some will not be happy about it. We 're no different. The ABC Moultonborough 2015-2016 School Budget Recommendations and Comments has quite a bit to say about our local situation. 
Our School District is being proactive and has hired a consultant to facilitate a strategic plan for the district. The discussion begins about 1 hour 4 minutes in on the video of the February 10th School Board meeting.  Part of the scope of the work will be based upon current enrollment predictions. Hopefully if the public watches this portion of the video and participates in the process as the district has promised will be encouraged, the School Board will take into consideration that we all pay for this educational experience and the large majority of that money is paid with tax dollars of those that can't vote on how it is spent nor utilize the school system. Much of the rest is paid by folks that are average middle class or fixed income retirees who really are the majority of the full time residents of our town.  The plan has to take that fact into consideration. The "truth" as you have read here,  continues to be that we are paying $14M plus to educate 500 or so students. 
I applaud the efforts of the school administration to seek help in developing a strategy to cope with what is the inevitable new normal. Thinking out of the box  and finding innovative means to provide a quality education is a very good thing. How much does it really cost though to provide a "quality" education?   In reality, it is up to every individual school district to define. While we can certainly afford to pay more than most, that should not be part of the equation.
I can appreciate that parents want the best for their children and keeping our schools as they are, but we need a healthy dose of reality mixed in and come to some realization that things have to change and as the new strategic plan may indicate, those changes may actually be for the better. 


The Scales are Tipped said...

There appears to be no interest from the general public to serve on the School Board. Changing the ABC from an advisory committee to a statutory budget committee would give the ABC more clout.

Presently the School Board is calling all the shots. At least 3 members, possible more, serve on the Board, and have children in the system.

The School Board is top heavy with parents and educators. There's little incentive for them to curb spending or cut staff. The deck is stacked against the majority of residents and taxpayers. The time has come to change the ABC's charge.

Can't Ignore said...

The math works out to $ 28,000 per student..probably a record high for the state. A normal town spends $ 10 or 12 thou per student. We can not offer all the subjects, if we do not have the kids to take classes...We are central to Center Harbor, Sandwich, Tamworth.... What about regionalization?
Need ore we dig another hole, we have to think about this recreation gym..that needs multi-towns to support it.

Purpose Please said...

Comment that the fox is ruling the chicken house is well taken. The next logical expansion for the fox is another seat on the B O S. There is an " undeclared " candidate running for B O S, who may be a Trojan horse for the school system. That has been kept in the closet..time to see if the shoe fits, and who is wearing it.

Anonymous said...

When MA was built, it was supposed to have some students come in from outside M'boro. The solution is to attract other towns ti use our great resources or go to a regional system other than elementary. our kids used to go to Kingswood.... A small town cannot keep a quality eduction system with small enrollment.

Matt Helms said...

All is very simple.

Close all the Moultonborough schools.

Sell the property.

Send the students to Interlakes or Wolfeboro.

Anonymous said...

Regionalization is the answer. Send all the high school students to Interlakes and Kingswood and take their middle school students. Make MA a middle school. Every grade level will get more course offerings and each school will have enough athletes to field a competitive team.

Anonymous said...

I watched the video of the last school board meeting and was particularly interested in what Superintendent Noyes said. Due to declining enrollment, she asked the school board to authorize hiring an outside consultant to do a strategic plan.

The Superintendent spoke of interviewing mainly arents and teachers and a few community members. One parent spoke up an expressed concern as to who these community members might be and how they would be chosen. I find it troubling that the number of community members asked to participate will be limited.

Declining enrollment and the future of our schools is a community issue. I hope the Superintendent and school board don't shut those of us without children in the system, out of the conversation.

Terence C. Jatko said...

Why should we have to hire a consultant to do a "strategic plan"? One might assume the superintendent has a modicum of management ability; she should be able to come up with a workable plan. This smacks of passing the buck to avoid making unpleasant and sometimes unpopular decisions. It's time to make dramatic budget cuts.

John Albertson said...

Terrence, Terrance, come on now.
Would you chair a committee to make a recommendation to eliminate your job and that of your coworkers?
Bluster aside, I sincerely doubt it.
Yes, the town should have an independent study of the entire school system. Paid for by the taxpayers.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

NH #5 ......
Glad were 5 not 4!

Vermont #4
On average, Vermont school districts spent nearly $19,000 per pupil In 2012, more than in any other state.

"New Hampshire’s school finances are similarly strong. On average, school districts spent more than $14,500 per student in 2012. However, the distribution of that spending is troubling. The spending gap between the state’s top and bottom districts was more than $10,000 per pupil, nearly the largest in the country."

o. 5 Best: New Hampshire

> Overall grade: B-

> State Score: 82.3

> Per pupil spending: $14,561 (8th highest)

> High school graduation rate: 87.0% (9th highest)

> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 46.8% (5th highest)


Eric Taussig said...

I too have to wonder why we need another "consultant" at his time to analyze our declining enrollment and future. Cleary throwing money at this problem will not solve declining enrollment and expense.

What we need first is a sound business type plan that explores the options for consolidation with other districts to create a viable base for elementary, middle and high school that all will NOT BE in Moultonborough.

After analyzing that, we need to gather figures and inventory facilities. At that point, perhaps a consultant who has experience in NH on consolidation might make sense, but not one who will have an agenda whether it be cost reduction or improving education. We need to decide that question ourselves as a predicate, up front, before a consultant is hired. That agenda must be established before the "erector set" is assembled by the consultant.

It's for the children said...

I like your idea Mr. Taussig but logic and sound thinking don't stand a prayer not with a School Board whose members are parents, educators or both.

We Have A Super-Super said...

Good Idea buying a consultant to share the responsibility for unwanted news. Mrs Noyes, our super-super could loose her job if she alone preached practical austerity. You know, a small click of parents won't cut a cent, no matter what.....and 90% of voters don't care...have no clew..
Our last study, the UNH " we need a gym " was a hoot. It really backfired, and told us we were too small for the minority gym dream. That issue isn't dead yet ....town hall closet still doing damage control on the UNH fiasco.

Grumpy said...

I have to wonder why SAU 45 is now being "proactive" when some of us have been talking about the elephant in the room for many years. Face facts; if Belmont is not keeping their families, being a bedroom border town to Laconia (industrial/office/retail ctr. of the Lakes Region) how in the name of sanity is Moultonborough going to turn the inevitable tide of what we are; summer resort, retirement age, tax advantage town that can't support workforce housing.
So we look at the new attitude for proactivity... Let's not go out and hire some expert to tell us we have to pay the teachers more, keep having assistant principals in both schools, classes with 2 or 3 students just to justify the people who hired him/her. The issue here is too much for too few. Are we keeping all this institution at a fever pitch of spending to keep from saying good bye to some teachers and staff; trimming down to one principal and one assistant? Has anyone in the SAU tried the idea of doing more with less? There are some obvious ways to go here that have been pointed out time and time again but the school board (made up of parent and teacher connections with a dog in the fight for more$$)won't listen. I know.. I have the T-shirt.
If we keep the budget from going up one dime in the next five years and faced with their own predicted drop in students we will be spending $700 less per yr. than what it would cost us to send them all to New Hampton School or Holderness School and get a better education and a better diploma. $33,200 per student is not just ridiculous (for a less than first class education) but it is insane.

Anonymous said...

I am curious and don't quite understand the math I guess, let's say we regionalize our HS with Meredith, which would combine Meredith, Sandwich, Center Harbor and Moultonborough. Meredith's tax rate for the school (excluding State Ed) is $6.00, more than double Moultonborough's rate, how would this help to lower our tax rate? I seem to remember a few years ago when Meredith Residents were up in arms because the Sandwich residents "stacked" a meeting and things got added to the budget. What would prevent that here?

Anonymous said...

To We have a super-super: The UNH gym study was contradictory, but it sort of recommended a gym...very wishy-washy gotta please everyone report. It was extremely disappointing to those of us who participated heavily in the focus groups, etc., and saw that most people said NO GYM, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Voters feel they have no alternative but to automatically vote to approve the school budget. Instead of the usual raise of hands, secret ballot is more democratic.

Anonymous said...

Good article about Moultonborough schools in today's Laconia Sun.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...


"A course incorporating "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been dropped from the curriculum."


Of course, ... get rid of STEM
instead GYM. No push for a STEM building, and we need more male/female jocks.

Only business sees merit for STEM ...

RE: Feb 2015 Fortune magazine:

" Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that he will dedicate $300 million to sponsor STEM education in K-12 classes "


Don't want to prep the kids for jobs ... just recreation!

Nancy Wright said...

At the last School Board meeting, Julia Velie made the comment that the Moultonboro Speaks blog is full of misinformation.

I disagree with Julia's comment. I believe the blog provides a valuable service to the residents of Moultonborough and allows for a free exchange of ideas. Readers can agree or disagree with the blogger and or each other.

Julia, if you feel information is not accurate, please post a comment and correct it.