Unanimous Approval for Mascoma Superintendent Patrick Andrew
Community Turns Out in Droves at Deliberative Session
The message was unequivocal at Mascoma’s deliberative session Saturday: this is a district that values its schools, invests in its students’ educations, supports its teachers, trusts its elected school board officials, and is ashamed of the actions of a very small minority who wished to oust Superintendent Patrick Andrew.
Two contentious petitioned warrant articles drew close to 500 residents; enough to relocate the meeting from the gymnasium at Indian River School to the high school auditorium next door.
Photo courtesy of Kate Plumley Stewart
Article 9 called for re-apportioning the district’s funding formula from 100% average daily membership (ADM) to 80% ADM and 20% equalized valuation. The change, proposed by Canaan, would shift approximately half a million dollars from Canaan to Enfield. Both Canaan and Enfield send the same number of students to school, but Enfield’s larger tax base results in lesser taxes for the district's largest community. The current formula dates to 1985, when 100% ADM was implemented – at the behest of the smaller towns in the district whose land was tied up in current use. According to the Reapportionment Committee findings at that time (in a handout provided by the Indian River School PTSA), any inclusion of “equalized valuation is a poor barometer on which to base school obligations…”
The debate has raged in the
district, with the district’s two largest towns blaming each other for poor
communication, horse trading, and using scare tactics. (Orange and Grafton would save
tens of thousands of dollars with re-apportionment; Dorchester would see an
increase of $4,600. In return for Dorchester's affirmative vote, Canaan's town administrator promised the town free police and fire coverage "for life.")
After discussion, Article 9 was
amended to suggest a study be done, with the school board taking the helm of
the ad hoc committee. An amendment to have the committee include selectmen-appointed members failed.
Lastly, petitioned Article 10, signed by thirty-six Mascoma Valley residents, called for the removal of Superintendent Patrick Andrew over concerns of a "runaway" budget. News of the petition prompted Andrew to publicly state his intent to leave the district in mid-January (however, the two incidents are not directly related, as Andrew made his intentions known to the school board months before the petition appeared). In his January 17th letter to the school board, Andrew wrote of the petitioned article, “I feel that it is damaging to the district and a particular threat to the School Board’s goal of recruiting and retaining top quality staff. Allowing this type of article to go forward seriously damages the reputation of the district as a great place to work.”
Before the article was opened for discussion, Andrew – under whose leadership the district has seen a $21.5 million renovation and expansion to the high school, increased test scores, decreased drop outs, and better standing among New Hampshire school districts – addressed the audience and detailed why the warrant article was damaging to the school’s reputation.
Said Andrew, "I know 36 people signed a petition pointing blame, but I also know of 125 people who volunteer regularly in our schools. I know hundreds and hundreds more who lend their support anywhere they can...I urge you to reject Article 10 because it misrepresents the Mascoma community and what it stands for."
His remarks were met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation – his second of the session – before Dr. David Beaufait, of Enfield, immediately proposed the article be amended to lionize Andrew for his dedication to the school district.
Teachers, parents, students, and community members lined up to admonish the article’s authors and signers and heap on additional praise for Andrew, a Canaan resident whose children also attend the school system. Cheers erupted after every person concluded their remarks. The showing of faith in Superintendent Andrew, and the outright dismissal of the original petition, brought some in the audience to tears.
A final vote on the amended article, which will now commend Superintendent Patrick Andrew, passed unanimously, 321-0. The audience once again got on their feet and burst into applause. It was a fitting tribute to the superintendent, school board, and community who together built the very auditorium that housed such a remarkable turn of events.
Voting on the amended articles, which also includes a soundly supported budget, will take place on town meeting day, Tuesday, March 14th.
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