6 - February 10, 2012 | Pelham - Windham News
School Board Asks for Approval to Sell Land
by Diane Chubb In 2009, the Pelham School Board voted 3-2 to purchase a piece of land across the street from Pelham High School. The property located at 86 Marsh Road, which included a vacant home, was sold to the school district for $124,000. The house was later demolished as a training exercise for the Pelham Fire Department. Now the Board is asking for permission from voters to sell the property. Warrant Article 9 asks, “Shall the Pelham School District vote to authorize
the School Board to sell the District’s property at 86 Marsh Road identified on Tax Map 28 parcel 7-149 on the terms and conditions that the School Board determine are in the best interest of the District?” Both the purchase and sale of property requires voter approval. However, the Board already had authority to purchase land. Voters had already given the board implicit authority for such purchases with an Expendable Trust fund for land purchases. Moreover, NH RSA 199:1 gives a school board the power to acquire land
for school purposes. NH RSA 194:2 gives school districts the power to “hold and dispose of real and personal property for the use of the schools therein.” There is a similar statute that governs the town acquisition of property, NH RSA 31.3. However, the Supreme Court has construed the town statue requiring the “legislature” exercise such power. There is no such requirement for the school districts. However, the sale of land still likely belongs to the voters. Pelham residents remain outraged that the property had been purchased without voter input. The property was purchased in 2009, and the sale closed on October 15,
2009. It was paid for with surplus funds from the school district budget. Unlike the town, the school district budget year begins on July 1, and ends on June 30 of the following year. For fiscal year 2010, there was an unreserved fund balance of $212,563. This was after $50,000 was appropriated to the maintenance capital reserve fund. Former board members Linda Mahoney and Lorraine Dube, and current member Debbie Ryan voted in favor of the acquisition. “As a new board member, I was led to believe that we needed to acquire this
land,” said Ryan. “The Marinace architect reports had recommended that the board take advantage of any opportunity to purchase adjoining land when it became available.” However, she never expected the backlash from voters. Nor did she expect that the land would be proposed for use as a parking lot. In March 2011, voters overwhelmingly rejected a petitioned warrant article seeking funds to construct a parking lot for the high school. Many felt that the lot’s location by a busy intersection made it too dangerous for use as a parking lot. Tests were conducted prior to the purchase of the land, it was determined that there were usable acres on the site, and perhaps it could be used for administrative offices. However, at this point, the school district has concluded that, for political purposes, it would be best to sell the property. “Right or wrong, the current school board constantly has this land purchase held against us,” says School Board Chair Rob Hardy. “With no realistic use for this land, we would like the voters to give us permission to sell it if the opportunity arises. In my opinion, returning these dollars to the taxpayers will go a long way in restoring voter confidence in the School Board.” “In hindsight, I would have decided differently,” says Ryan. “What the board
did was not illegal, but I believe it should have been on the ballot for the voters.” There are no current offers to purchase the property. However, the board wants to be ready to take advantage of potential opportunities to sell it. If and when the land is sold, Ryan says that she will propose the proceeds be used to offset taxes. The current appraised value of the land is $134,500. Passage of warrant article 9 requires a majority vote to grant the board permission to sell the property upon a suitable offer. The School Board requests that anyone with questions about the warrant article contact the school board members at email@example.com
PHS Athletes Receive NHADA Award
by Marc Ayotte The following Pelham High students received the NHADA
Scholar Athlete Award and were recognized in a ceremony conducted in Concord on Monday, February 6. The students, accompanied by Athletic Director Todd Kress, enjoyed a nice lunch after the ceremony with fellow Scholar Athletes from Windham High. The Scholar Athletes, who received the recognition based on the criteria of playing at least two varsity sports in their senior year as well as having a B+ or better GPA over their four year high school career, also had the pleasure of listening to guest speaker Governor Lynch. PHS Scholar athletes, front row, left to right: Ryan
Rhealt, Steven Hammar, Alex Hall, Kathryn Mostone, Anthony Spirou, Brian Finney, Alec Paradis, Ryan Birmingham. Top row: Broghan Golligan, Lauren Tocco, Justin Spognardi, Tom Lynch, Ben Cares, JP Cares, Erin Krawczyk.
by Diane Chubb For the past several years, the word “overcrowded” has been associated with Pelham schools. As time progressed, the classes were getting larger, and there were concerns regarding studies showing that enrollment would continue to increase. The need for more space has given rise to consideration of
various potential solutions, including a coop with Windham, a new high school, additions to the current high school and elementary school, and tuition agreements. However, in the past year or so, there have been claims that class sizes were actually decreasing.
As members of the public lose confidence in the district, and particularly Pelham High School, the number of students choosing a private school option has increased. This is one of the biggest concern for the current school board. “There are so many Pelham students going to Lowell Catholic now, it has been nicknamed ‘Pelham High South.’ There are enough of them that they even have their own bus,” says School Board member Deb Ryan. “Last year, we lost about 30 kids to
private high schools,” she says. “These were top students and top athletes who left because of their fear that the school may lose accreditation.” With the loss of these students, Ryan and School Board Chair Rob Hardy also fears that SAT and NECAP scores may continue to drop, thus continuing the downward cycle for PHS.
Enrollment at PHS has been steadily declining in recent years. However, there
Te Pelham School District provided the following chart which shows enrollment figures in the district for the past several years and estimated projections.
Is School Enrollment Declining in Pelham?
are several large classes that are currently in the 5th through 7th grades which will create a tight situation at Pelham Memorial School as well as PHS. The Pelham School District provided the following enrollment numbers. These figures represent the actual enrollment since 1995-1996, and the projected enrollment for the next 5 years. Note: The projected numbers are from the NH School Board Association. The SAU has stated that the enrollment figures for FY12 at the elementary school are not accurate.
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