, Kingston, NH

Letters to the Editor

April 3, 2014

To Hampstead School Board:

To Hampstead School Board:

Except for the inconsequential Acceptance of Reports article, all Hampstead School Warrant articles were defeated on March 11th, even the $23.8 million budget, just a measly $10K above the default.

What an indictment of the School Board!

In case the Board is too shell-shocked to understand what the voters meant, let me explain.

The administrators report to you, not vice versa.

Stop being bullied into sheep (“team players”): stand on your own two feet and have the guts to lead, which is the legal obligation you assumed when we elected you. Else, resign.

Question everything until you understand and are fully satisfied: don’t just do a cursory review and hide behind the “they are the professionals” excuse to justify your vote/decision.

Recognize that schools are public service corporations where salaries and benefits are the largest expense, driven by union schedules based on “time in the saddle,” not performance.

Your often repeated claim that 80% of the budget is “outside our control” and the Board is powerless to make any adjustments is false. Yes, union contracts—that you negotiated—determine employees’ salaries/benefits but the Board determines how many employees it hires and keeps. Thus, you have absolute control of the size of all salary/benefits accounts.

Don’t claim that you cut the budget when the proposed bottom line is larger than last year’s: that’s a lie.

Forget the Bread Loaf facilities dream: it’s beautiful but will not be built. Never give an architect a blank check to “suggest improvements” because “we are overcrowded and need 21st century facilities” without providing firm boundaries.

Lower the budget! Its growth is inversely proportional to student enrollment.

The Board can begin immediately to redeem itself by investigating and implementing ways to lower the current cost-per-student from $16,532 to at least the state average of $13,627, such as: 1. Justifying the need for each of the 95 administrative and professional staff positions in the context of the current 908 students (PreK-8.); 2. Reducing staff without layoffs by not replacing the seven teachers retiring this year. 3. Filling the voids left by retiring teachers by reassigning personnel and/or redistributing responsibilities among current staff; hire only as last resort. 4. Transferring a teacher from Central School to 6th grade instead of hiring two budgeted teachers (4th and 6th grade).

Then, start work on a $22.8 million budget proposal for 2015-2016, which is $1 million less than the 2014-2015 budget.

Impossible? Here is a tip: you can save approximately $735K in basic salary/benefits, or 74 cents on the tax rate, by not replacing the seven retiring teachers.

Remember: we elected you to lead. Make us proud.

Jorge Mesa-Tejada


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