Pelham - Windham News June 3, 2011 - 5
Tuition- continued from front page Windham School Board member Michelle Farrell questioned what
would happen in 10 years if Pelham no longer wants to continue an agreement with Windham. “We’d have all that additional space we wouldn’t need,” she said. “What if, 10 years from now, Pelham is left out to dry?” Pelham School Board member Megan Larson countered. “We’d have to figure out a way to continue longer term,” Horrigan replied. “There are a lot of great things about a small school enrollment,”
Dr. Anderson said. “With a big high school, less kids are able to participate on athletic teams and in other extra-curricular activities.” “We already need more sports fields at Windham High School. How would we accommodate double the enrollment we have now?” he asked. “This is a major issue,” Horrigan replied, “but also a major opportunity.” Pelham School Board Chairman Rob Hardy said he would recommend having certain athletics offered as non-cut, non-competitive sports. Windham School Board member Stephanie Wimmer said she has concerns about two towns and two School Boards being able to come together to accomplish a project of this scale. “This would take a tremendous effort when Windham already has significant needs to be handled at its other school facilities,” she said. Wimmer also questioned what types of municipal services might be affected by bringing out-of-town students to Windham High School. “The town’s expenses might very well rise with a bigger high school,” she said. Horrigan agreed that “an awful
lot” would be involved. It’s likely, he added, that Pelham students would be brought over in two phases, with the 9th graders coming to Windham first, followed by 10th through 12th graders the following school year. Farrell wanted to know what
would happen if Pelham defaulted on the bond to build the required addition to Windham High School. “Having two bonds at the same time would have a huge tax impact on Windham citizens,” she said. Superintendent Frank Bass said that Windham would carry the ultimate responsibility for the construction bond, if Pelham were not able to make the payments. “I’ve never seen a sending district forfeit on a bond, however,” Bass said. Windham School Board member
Jeff Bostic said, “Our foremost obligation is to what is best for our kids.” “What would our kids prefer?” he asked. Horrigan said the committee “did not get into that level” during the tuition feasibility study. Windham resident Tony Massahos got the ball rolling during the public input session. “Do you really think you can pull off a 10-year area agreement and get the support of voters?” he asked. “Absolutely not” was Massahos’ answer to his own question. Massahos said he realizes that Pelham has a problem regarding the state of its own high school, but has repeatedly turned down options to rectify these problems. “Pelham turned us down twice in the past,” Massahos commented. “And that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.” “I want to be a good neighbor, but God only knows where Pelham will be five years from now,” he continued, adding that the only way he would support Pelham students being tuitioned to Windham is if Pelham agrees to pay a fair share of what’s already been built at Windham High School. “We would need to refinance” the original bond, Massahos said. “Pelham already cost us 10% in State aid by rejecting us twice before,” he said. Wimmer said that the question at hand was not specifically a Pelham issue, but, rather, “should we tuition any students from elsewhere.” A number of people in the audience disagreed with Wimmer’s contention, saying that Pelham was definitely the subject of the discussion. For more than an hour,
Windham residents lined up at the microphone and listed their concerns and grievances with the recommended agreement. Only two Pelham residents chose to speak. Many Windham residents said they wanted to retain the small high school atmosphere. Others were concerned about the effect of a larger student population on athletic teams. One woman said, simply, “We didn’t elect the Windham School Board to fix Pelham’s problems.” Another Windham resident said all the risks seem to be on Windham’s side of the ledger, while all the pros are on Pelham’s. “We need to take care of our own students before we welcome any other students,” one Windham resident commented. “I welcome anyone to come to Windham,” said one property owner.
“Just buy a house first.”
As the evening proceeded, the atmosphere became increasingly heated. “Why do we keep revisiting this issue?” one Windham parent asked. “Keep things the way they are now.” Another Windham
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resident, referring to Pelham, said, “You’re looking at a town that doesn’t want to help itself. They need to step up and take control of their own situation” instead of voting everything down, then looking to Windham to help them out. One of the only two Pelham residents who spoke said, “We
do have problems in Pelham, but I’m not one of those who voted against” building a new high school in Pelham or joining a cooperative with Windham. “What I’m asking now,” she said, “is that you please look forward, not backward. Please, look objectively at what is right.” Another Pelham resident said that the last ballot taken to build a new Pelham High School was rejected by only 60 votes.
Long-term Windham resident Margaret Case was the last to come
to the microphone. “Pelham-Windham High School will never happen in this town,” she said. “It’s Windham High School.” No vote on the recommended 10-year agreement was taken during the May 24 joint School Board meeting. SAU Board Chairman Andy Ducharme of Pelham said this was the first time that board members had seen the tuition study committee’s report and, therefore, needed time to digest it. Ducharme said he felt that the Windham School Board and Pelham School Board should vote individually before a vote of the joint board is taken. Ducharme said it would likely be a couple of months before School Board members are ready to take action. Several residents asked that board members “take action sooner than later.”
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