Pelham - Windham News August 20, 2010 - 5
Mixed Feelings about Forming High School Study Committee
by Barbara O’Brien Windham High School has not yet begun its second year of
operation, but School Board members are already being asked to study the feasibility of allowing Pelham high school students to be tuitioned to the town next door. Pelham and Windham are in the same School Administrative Unit (#28) and have worked collaboratively in the past. Early last month, Windham School Board members received a letter from members of the Pelham School Board, asking that a joint committee be formed; one comprised of administrators and citizens from both school districts. The purpose of the committee would be to ascertain whether it is a good idea to contemplate sharing the new high school. After a lengthy discussion at the Windham School Board meeting on August 10, it was decided by a vote of 4 to 0 to form a short-term committee to look into the pros and cons of such a venture. The deadline for finishing this study is the end of December. Voting in favor of establishing the study committee were Chairman Bruce Anderson, Vice Chairman Ed Gallagher, Michelle Farrell, and Jeff Bostic. School Board member John Hollinger did not attend the meeting. The affirmative vote came as somewhat of a surprise, as there were many reasons discussed prior to the vote as to why Windham shouldn’t spend time studying the issue. There is a past history between the Pelham and Windham
School Districts in regard to sharing high school space. The issue was taken to voters on several occasions, but always failed to garner sufficient support to become reality. Finally, Windham decided to build its own high school, a facility that opened its doors at this time last year. That still left Pelham with problems regarding what to do about improving educational facilities for its own high school students. A warrant article to bond the money for a new high school in Pelham was voted down this past March. Passage of the bond required a two-thirds majority. As it turned out, only 58 percent of participating Pelham voters wanted to build a new high school in that town, falling more than eight percent short of what was needed for the bond to pass. Each School Board member engaging in the discussion questioned whether or not it was a waste of time to form a study committee, or whether the time spent weighing options would be worthwhile. Whatever recommendations the committee should derive from its investigations would still need to be approved by voters in both Pelham and Windham before anything could be implemented.
Gallagher said one of the issues a committee would need to undertake would be a cost/benefits analysis of tuitioning students from out of town. “I feel it would be an injustice to the voters not to explore this idea,” Gallagher said. Gallagher also emphasized the need to implement a long-term strategic plan. Windham administrators would not want to allow Pelham students to attend Windham High for just a year or two, then to expect them to go elsewhere if the number of Windham students suddenly rises. “Everyone needs to understand that this is an investigation,” Anderson said. “At this point, we’re not saying it’s a good idea or a bad idea, but that we should have a conversation.” “In complicated times, there’s a need for looking into options,” Bostic said. “But we need to do what’s best for our students first.” Would allowing Pelham students to attend Windham High School “be in the mutual best interest of both towns?” he asked. Bostic said he was only interested in an exploration committee at this
point in time, adding that if Pelham students did attend Windham High School, he would expect Pelham to partner in construction costs. “We have an obligation to look into mutually beneficial options, but our responsibility is to Windham,” Bostic said. “We need to make it clear to the public that we are only exploring options, not taking a huge leap,” Farrell said. Farrell also said that the feedback she has received from other Windham residents in regard to allowing Pelham students to attend the new high school shows there are still a lot of hard feelings from the past on the part of Windham taxpayers. Pelham voted NO twice on building a cooperative school with Windham, Farrell said, and then they voted down their own new high school. Some people feel that Pelham residents were just waiting for Windham to build its own high school (at a cost of more than $50 million), and then they’d come on over, she said. Farrell said she didn’t want to establish a joint study committee
with Pelham “just to be nice to Pelham.” She also said she didn’t think it would be wise to waste Pelham’s time at this critical juncture, if there is no real intent on Windham’s part to permit Pelham students to attend Windham High. Farrell also said she has nothing against Pelham in particular, but would feel this way about any community asking to send its students to Windham High School.
In response to one resident’s question as to whether or not
Windham High School is large enough to accommodate students from both towns, Anderson said, “The building is expandable, but that’s a big question; one which we don’t have an answer for, yet.” Last year, only freshmen and sophomores attended the new
Windham High School. Starting this September, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will be in attendance. Seniors will finish their high school careers at Salem High School under a tuition agreement. All four classes will not be in attendance at Windham High School until the 2011-2012 school year. About 425 students are expected to be in attendance at Windham High during the 2010-2011 school year, which gets underway on September 2. Another resident attending the August 10 meeting said that she
doesn’t feel Pelham taxpayers put sufficient emphasis on education and that they are more concerned about cost-sharing options than improving the education their students. Another resident said he thinks the Windham School Board “should slow down” and put the idea of tuitioning students on hold until Windham High School, at least, has its first graduating class in June 2012. “We shouldn’t be afraid to open a dialogue,” Gallagher said.
“There’s no rush. We can take time to implement, but we need to give it a good faith effort,” he said. “I think we all have some trepidation of the end state.” Anderson then suggested that Windham form its own internal committee to study the idea rather than a joint committee with Pelham. “Then, we can do it on our own terms,” he said. “Find out if it’s worth us opening up our high school to a neighboring town.” There was insufficient support for Anderson’s suggestion. “There are certainly educational pros and cons” to allowing out-
of-town students to attend Windham High School, Superintendent Frank Bass said. “We definitely need a clear timeline in which to review joint cost-saving options.” During its next workshop, Windham School Board members plan to look into committee expectations, as well as how such a committee should be organized, including the constituency of its members.
Delahunty Nursery Makes Long-Term Donation to Town
by Barbara O’Brien Wanting to give something special back to the
place that he has called “home” his entire life, Jay Yennaco, the proprietor of Delahunty Nursery, has donated up to $100,000 in labor and trees to the Town of Windham. These trees are to be used to beautify and provide shade in Griffin Park and other recreational areas around town. Yennaco, who met with selectmen and other
town officials on August 9, said his donation is based on up to $10,000 in plantings and labor, per year, for a 10-year period. “This is a local business giving back to the
community,” Yennaco said, adding that both he and his wife, who also helps to manage the nursery and florist, have lived in Windham their entire lives. “We remember when this was a farm,” he said. Delahunty Nursery and Florist is located at 41 Range Road in Windham. As for taking the time to gradually plant
trees over a 10-year period, Yennaco said, “Landscaping is a long, on-going process. We have to come up with a plan that makes sense.” Selectman Bruce Breton, who serves as the
Board’s vice chairman, talked about the creation of the town-owned Griffin Park. “Just about every tree was taken down when the park was built,” Breton said. “There is a great need for shade
trees out there.” Yennaco agreed with Breton, saying that many
of those who use the park are young families with small children. “There is nowhere for them to sit in the shade,” he said. Yennaco will be using an existing plan created
for landscaping Griffin Park, making adjustments where deemed necessary or prudent. In addition to this recent donation, Delahunty Nursery donated about $35,000 in labor and plantings to the Town of Windham last year. Selectmen voted 3 to 0 to accept the $100,000
donation from Delahunty Nursery, thanking Yennaco for “stepping up” and committing to such a generous offer. Voting in favor of accepting the donation were Selectmen Bruce Breton, Roger Hohenberger, and Galen Stearns. Chairman Charles McMahon and Selectman Ross McLeod did not attend the August 9 Board meeting.
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the curriculum leader positions. The positions are now dissolved and the stipends will merge in the salaries of the assistant principals. Viger, the former reading
specialist for Pelham Elementary, will resume her role as reading specialist as well. La France is excited about this new plan because it will require no extra cost, as it will merge the salaries from other positions into one, and include the corresponding responsibilities as well. “We were able to be very
creative from the use of our funds from the previous assistant principal’s salary and the teacher curriculum leader’s stipend to create two positions,” LaFrance said. The school is only adding one
additional position since they are replacing former Assistant Principal Kathleen Turner, who took a position as Principal of Parker Varney Elementary in Manchester. “The original design for the
school was to house one principal and two vice principals, one in each wing of the school,” LaFrance said. “I’ve been asking for the additional assistant principal position for the last five years as student enrollment has grown.” La France also added that
the student population was 940 when she was hired seven
years ago. Last year grades 1-5 were up to 990 students with 55 kindergarteners. This year grades 1-5 total 875 students with 80 kindergarteners. Viger is a resident of Pelham
and has been in the school district for 22 years. She began her career as a Title I tutor, and then was a Special Education Case Manager. She has also been a multiage classroom teacher for second and third grade. Viger has been most recently been a reading specialist for the last four years. She earned a B.A. and Masters from Rivier College. “I’m really excited to be
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