Board reverses on staffing
WILTON – Persuaded by a large turnout of concerned parents at a meeting on April 19, the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board said there will be no changes in the staffing at Lyndeborough Central School, as voted by the board last month.
About 30 people packed the library at Florence Rideout Elementary School for the School Board meeting.
The question wasn’t on the agenda, but it was brought up during the public comment portion prior to the business meeting.
Last month, after considering current and projected enrollments and with an eye to saving money, the board eliminated one of three kindergarten classes at Lyndeborough Central. Board Chairman Geoff Brock said the board was "following the policy guidelines" that allow up to 20 students in a kindergarten class.
The parents said that was too many, and that smaller class sizes were better for both students and teachers. The projected enrollment for September is 34 students, or 17 in each of two classes.
Principal Tim O’Connell said that number could change, and frequently does at the end of the summer, with as many as 10 more students registering.
Grades 1-5 will continue to have two classes each except fifth grade; with a projected enrollment of 51, it will have three. Currently, fourth grade has three classes, and one teacher will move up with the students.
Those grades will have enrollments from 33- 47. School policy allows 25 students per class in third grade and up.
Several parents asked why they hadn’t been notified of the discussion to make the changes. Brock said it was on the agenda for April 5 as "nomination list," and said the vote was taken at the time it was because of the timing of teachers contracts, which are offered in April.
Asked if the teachers and classes to be eliminated were included in the budget approved by voters at the District Meeting in March, Brock said they were. Parents then asked why they were being cut, since the money is there.
Brock said the board was entrusted with the money and was expected to use it wisely.
"We were told (at the District Meeting) that no teaching staff would be affected," one Lyndeborough resident said. "Did you lie to us?"
Brock said no, and that the enrollment projections had changed. The question was, he said, "Are we going to stay with the decisions made in February, or change them?"
He added, "If the policy is wrong, we can change it."
Asked if the board could reconsider the vote, Brock said it would come up at the next meeting.
O’Connell asked if it could be reconsidered now. "I have to make decisions on staffing," he said.
The board agreed to reconsider. The vote to reverse was six in favor and one abstention.
Harry Dailey said he would rather wait until the board had more "hard information on enrollment."
He added, "We do this every year. No decision is made in a vacuum." He noted that the WLC class size policy is "five less than the state standard."
Staffing will be re-evaluated in July. Board members agreed that five families could move into town with 10 kids, but also noted that they could move out.
Since enrollment changes constantly, if another teacher is needed in the fall, they will hire one.
In making the motion to reverse last meeting’s decision, School Board member Mark Leger suggested the policy be changed to include third grade in the 20-student limit.
All of the board members agreed that the policy could be changed.
Asked if the public would be notified of a discussion to change the policy, Brock said, "It takes two meetings to change a policy." He said agendas were posted at the Post Office and online.
Several parents said they don’t have Internet access.