School

Changes to Article 7 may mean we can’t fix the LAS gym floors this year

Are the LAS gym floors safe to use or aren’t they? This very question was raised during the school boards deliberative session held on February 10th, 2017. Since the start of the current era of school renovations and additions, it has been identified by the school board (SB) that the floors in the combined gymnasium/cafeteria are unsafe and could result in injury to either the students of LAS or those who attend events in the gymnasium.

Petitioners’ Article 7 to fix the gym was zeroed out through a majority vote of the attendees and will appear on the ballot with a sum of $0 dollars instead of the original $239,000 amount. This is a potential oversight on the part of the SB and the One Hampton Falls organization as they had nothing to lose and everything to gain by recommending the “renovate the gym” [Warrant Article 7].  If the gym renovation article had retained its original dollar amount on the ballot along with Bond Article 1 and both had passed, the Bond would supersede Article 7, as the current gym area would be renovated for classroom and meeting space as part of Bond Article 1.

However, if the Gym Bond Article 1 fails, which the SB conceded was a real possibility, and Article 7 had been on the ballot with the original $239,000 (instead of $0) and approved, as it would have required only a 50% majority, the SB would have had the necessary funds to immediately address a serious safety and liability issue: the gym floor. If the Gym Bond Article 1 fails this year, renovating the gym floor will be difficult without money in the SB’s budget.  Therefore, the SB will have to come back at a later date with another warrant article or budgeted amount to renovate the gym.  One can only speculate as to the SB’s motivation for voting 5-0 against recommending the more prudent “renovate the gym”, Article 7 as it nearly ensures that the gym floor will continue to be unsafe and a continued liability for another year.

The current school board has lost sight of their primary mandate as described in code: AB as the Hampton Falls School District Policy – The people and their school district:

The public schools belong to the people. The people govern the schools under rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution and statutes of our State. The people exercise their proprietorship through the elective process. They elect state and federal representatives who establish–-through the legislature and the Congress – the framework of law within which the schools operate. And they elect a School Board to represent them and to determine local educational plans and policy and to establish publicly-endorsed educational goals and objectives. The School Board functions as an agency of the public within this framework.

The Board is mindful that the people are the ultimate governors of public education and that the Board is directly accountable to the people. It is the responsibility of the Board to involve students, teachers, support staff, the Superintendent of Schools, building administrators, and the people themselves in this governance.

In its overzealous pursuit of an objective that has failed to pass these last past four years, the SB has demonstrated a lack of commitment to its own mission statement as defined in code: AD as the Hampton Falls School District Policy – Hampton Falls School Beliefs/Vision/Mission:

Lincoln Akerman School recognizes the importance of a partnership among school, home and community in order for every student to experience the greatest possible academic, physical, social and emotional growth. Through this partnership the student grows towards excellence in academic areas, and establishes high standards and patterns of health and personal conduct. With wholesome relationships in school, at home and throughout all society, the student will develop a love of America, an appreciation of this/her heritage, and a growing sense of responsibility for insuring the values of a democratic society in its continual state of change.

Where is this supposed partnership between the school, home and community? Repeatedly the voters have voted against the SB articles and yet they continue year after year coming back to the table with relatively the same proposal that puts academic space as the 1/3rd need and physical education and music/the arts as the 2/3rds need.

Vote NO on Article 1
Vote YES on Article 2
Vote NO on Article 3

Categories: School

6 replies »

  1. I am truly concerned about the sentiment this website and underlying authors are constantly perpetuating in this town. I advise you take a long and hard look at your real motivations for standing in the way of a needed renovation for our children and community. I don’t see any of you opposing other groups in town when they request money so I am hard pressed to believe that you truly have an eye out for ALL of our best interests. In your proposed Article 2, you do not have any allocations for all of the significant other issues in the building. So I am to assume that I am not only paying for your conceptual addition, but the ADDED costs of all of the other maintenance and repairs needed. I have repeatedly sat and listened to both sides of this argument and frankly anyone who is not only fiscally responsible, but also understands the importance of this renovation for ALL of our residents would vote YES on Article 1 and NO on Article 2. For less than $10/mos, we can ensure the safety and future education of our children, while creating a wonderful opportunity for our community to have a center.

    Like

    • Colleen, thanks for engaging in the discussion around these very important issues. I too have voted the last three years for the School Board proposal and this is the first year that I am voting in opposition for it and support for the citizens petition (article 2). I’d like to take this opportunity to go through some of your rational and provide my own perspectives for consideration.

      Let’s look at the facts though. The $10/month figure is an average. It depends on what your property tax rate is, valuation, and which of these warrants and bonds passes. If Article 1 passes, and depending on your individual property tax, your contribution to the $500k+ year payment that the Town of Hampton Falls has to make may be more or less. It’s easy to say that it’s “just $10 a month”, but that is not a fixed cost and we should be cautious in portraying it as such. I’d encourage you to do the math and figure out what your actual increase will be. For me, it’s $18/month, and while I am not saying this I cannot afford this, I do not support the view the school board has taken to ignore all sense and sensibility as a culmination of these last past years.

      You refer to less or no opposition to other efforts in town? I’d agree, because folks like Chief Dirsa and Chief Lord know that the citizens are very gun-shy when it comes to tax increases or taxation in generation and therefore do not submit for what they want to have, but only the bare minimum of what they need to have. Did the fire station get built exactly to the plan that was initially proposed? No! It’s actually shorter than what the plan called for eliminating hundreds of square feet of space that would be designated for public safety equipment and emergency operations. Personally I think that was a poor decision that the town made, but at the time that was the compromise that was made. Has the school board done the same due diligence in their plan? Absolutely not given their positions on wants verses need–everything is a need no matter it’s relevance to academic excellence.

      If the school board was really concerned about safety they would have voted to keep the dollar amount on article 7 and encourage members of One Hampton Falls to support that. Why? Because it hedges their bets and ensures that they don’t put all their eggs in one basket–like they have done year after year after year. Their attitude towards not supporting anything that they did not come up with exemplifies the problems that they bring to the table and their unwillingness to reach across the table and do what’s best to solve problems. Look around, show me one municipal project that stayed true to it’s original vision–it doesn’t exist because as with anything in politics you have to give a little and lose a little to get everyone to agree. Is it right? That’s more of a philosophical argument where there is no definitive right answer.

      Much emphasis has been made on the lack of specific details comparing the concept plan that the Citizens Petition provided and the concept plan that Eckman and the School Board have come up with. But let me ask you this question–how much did we charge the tax payers of Hampton Falls to come up with our concept plan? The impact to your taxes was $0. Whereas the School Board has spent at least $200k if not more (I have a right to know request into the SAU21 to provide actual details on this number so we aren’t just throwing around anecdotal figures; however, based on previous disclosures by the school board, the number is at least $200k paid to Eckman and it’s associates) to come up with their conceptual plan. I say conceptual because that is exactly what it is as it is described on their plan. That plan could change. It was designed back in 2012 and has not been revisited. As such more monies out of the Article 1 would have to be spent on an architect and re-estimate construction costs to current values. All this means that what is being proposed may not actually be what we get. All the Eckman contract does is guarantee you don’t spend more than what the $7.9M figure–it may mean that certain aspects of it may have to change or be omitted in order not to exceed that amount. I know, it’s splitting hairs, but these are the realities of any construction project that has been going on for as many years as this one has.

      Lastly, I point out that unlike the surrounding towns, Hampton Falls is a small, quiet, quaint and rural community. People still have farms and livestock, we have homesteaders who prefer a simplier way of life and McMansions with all the modern bells and whistles. The reason that Hampton Falls has this unique charm is that we have resisted those changes. Hyper-consumerism tells us that we should be “building new and building bigger”, but many people smarter than I have said that there are many advantages of having a smaller school compared to these modern schools we see around us. If there were acres of un-developed land where we could expect new housing developments to be built or new condo’s, apartments, and others where we would suddenly have an influx in both residents and children that would expect to be able to enroll at LAS, than yes, I would have to concede that the school is not suitable for those circumstances. As it is today, none of those are on the horizon and apart from the potential increase in commercial business along the Route 1 corridor, the town’s residential properties will remain relatively flat. Our needs are to fix and improve to allow the teachers to do what they need to do and allow the students to excel in academics. That’s what the citizens petition article 2 does. It allows us to address those issues and put a pin on items like a new gym or a new cafeteria both of which are secondary to keeping the awesome teachers we have and attracting new ones and giving our students the space they need to expand their minds and stretch their creativity. We will argue about the gym space and I’m happy to listen to any reasonable factual argument (I would encourage you to also read what the minimum standards for physical education by the State of NH http://www.education.nh.gov/instruction/curriculum/phys_ed/documents/guidelines.pdf where it describes the psycho-motor activities are not the principal factor in what should be considered as physical education) and recognize that the school cannot be expected to be the end all be all for everything and parents need to better engage to ensure that their kids have the access to additional extracurricular activities that can be found throughout the seacoast area. Keep in mind I am saying that with the expectation that my wife and I will have kids in the future who will be attending LAS and this is what I expect from the school, but also what I expect from us as parents.

      Like

  2. I know what it will cost my household for the proposed Article 1 and at no point did I feel bamboozled by the school board in that determination. On every slide I have seen presented as well as every conversation with a pro Article 1 individual, they have carefully presented that information as based on an average household with a property valuation at $440,000. So unless that was confusing to you on the first go around, rest assured that I am all set on my end with the proposed costs.

    Of course everything is a need in Article 1 because that plan has been dissected and reshaped over and over to satisfy the minority (that would be you guys George, remember that over 50% of the town’s population has over the last few year’s voted in favor of this). The plan has been streamlined to include what is essential for the ENTIRE community to have. That includes academic space, but also space for physical education and children with disabilities. And guess what George? That last part particularly engages me because I am a parent of a child that is currently in need of speech therapy. So I am fully aware of the nuances that go into helping and assisting kid’s like him in the school. So yes, this isn’t just about academic excellence, but our children and community as a whole.

    I am particularly in awe of your clear intimidation by the One Hampton Falls group. You mentioned that you feel that they are an exclusive group and you don’t belong if you don’t agree. You also go as far to label them as the group responsible for voting against the proposed gym floor fix. That’s a dangerous jump to make George. The entire purpose of that group is to raise monies to offset the costs of the renovation, in essence so both side’s “win”. Sad that you don’t feel the need to participate in that for those “future kid’s” you are planning. With the success of that group, we ALL benefit. Seems their mission statement was lost on you.

    It’s funny that you are using the school board’s decision to use professionals in their renovation plan. Why? Well this is the same tactic the opposition to Article 1 have used in year’s past. I was horrified at your conceptual rendition for a few reasons, but specifically that you would want us as voters and community members to vote on something that looks like it was thrown together. You also tout Lojek Construction as the generous donor of the plans, but a quick search online yielded zero results for even a website for this company. So if in fact, I am mistaken, please provide a list of the school’s this company has created conceptual designs for. I would be very interested in learning about their experiences.

    Lastly, you clearly have a major issue with physical education in the school. And you linked a pdf from 2005 above for my enjoyment over coffee this morning. I would also implore you to spend a few extra minutes today researching the benefits of p.e. in schools. Did you know that:

    Physical Health

    Physical education programs in schools directly benefit students’ physical health. Getting the recommended amount of exercise combats obesity, which subsequently reduces the risk for diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep disorders and other illnesses. Regular exercise also contributes to cardiovascular health and promotes muscle and bone development. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, school PE programs should require both fitness and cognitive assessments. In addition to participating in physical activity, students in PE learn the fundamentals of a healthful lifestyle, the building blocks upon which they can develop into healthy, knowledgeable adults.

    Academic Performance

    Though a lack of attention on PE is often justified as an opportunity to spend more time in the classroom, studies show that physical activity contributes to improved academic performance. Regular activity during the school day is strongly associated with higher concentration levels as well as more directed, composed behavior. A statewide policy in North Carolina required that children from kindergarten to eighth grade participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day. A survey of school representatives from 106 of the state’s school districts reported that the most recognizable benefit of the mandate was “improved academic focus.”
    Social Assimilation

    Activities in PE help children develop healthful social interactions. From a young age, children learn cooperation through group activities and form a positive sense of identity as part of a team. Such group activities are continually important as children grow older. The International Platform on Sport and Development states that “sport has been used as a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, resulting in higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism among young people.” Sportanddev.org also notes that positive character development through group physical activities depends on the program curriculum.
    Mental Health

    The benefits of PE to a child’s mental health are both complex and comprehensive. Improved physical health, academics and social interactions all contribute to good mental health. Physical activity sets the stage for a good night’s sleep, while obesity, caused in part by inactivity, is linked to sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation negatively affects the body’s immune function, aids in memory consolidation and may cause irritability and impatience. Regular physical activity, in addition to adequate sleep, provide more energy to participate in hobbies and interact with others.

    *Excerpt taken from Livestrong.org

    The bottom line, George, is that we exist on separate sides of this issue, but frankly, we need to stick to the truth which lies between us. You have a narrow view on what the children of our school community need and that is why the plan doesn’t fit with you. I could bombard you with many other things that the renovation could add to all of our lives (a community center), but I would expect you wouldn’t utilize it anyway. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and I hope you can appreciate the “Why” from where I stand.

    Like

  3. George what I don’t understand is why are you not voting yes on 1 & 2? It sounds like you do believe in the vision of the school board because you admittedly voted in favor for the past few years. I appreciate that there is another option to avoid mods (which no one in town wants to see) but I don’t see why it has changed your support behind article 1. We were all asked to vote yes on 1 & 2 but you are not willing to extend the same to our side, a side you were on until recently? As I stated in the deliberative session I have little confidence that we will save any money going with article 2 because it doesn’t address any of the needs for the 42,000 sq ft of existing building. If we go this route we are going to be stuck adding a few hundred thousand here and a million there to get the school where it needs to be (best evidence is the 200k+ requested in article 7 to fix the gym floor). A piece meal solution is NOT what is best for the health of our town.

    Why are we taking the slow, costly, time consuming road to a similar end point? This will do nothing but fracture our community further as we get together once a year to argue and complain that the school board is asking for more money. This is an inevitability if we don’t take care of everything now, things need to be fixed in the main building and we will end up doing it 500k at a time until we end up at, or above, the 7 million dollar price tag

    Like

  4. Colleen, its been awhile, but let me provide some responses. Instead of going after the issues, you are instead attacking me and my position. To me that is where this whole conversation has taken an improper direction. Nowhere in my original response did I make statements against you. I prefer to stick to the issues, something that I had hoped as a town we could do civilly. If you feel that you need to attack me personally:

    “I am particularly in awe of your clear intimidation by the One Hampton Falls group. You mentioned that you feel that they are an exclusive group and you don’t belong if you don’t agree. You also go as far to label them as the group responsible for voting against the proposed gym floor fix. That’s a dangerous jump to make George. The entire purpose of that group is to raise monies to offset the costs of the renovation, in essence so both side’s “win”. Sad that you don’t feel the need to participate in that for those “future kid’s” you are planning. With the success of that group, we ALL benefit. Seems their mission statement was lost on you.”

    That is your prerogative, but I urge you to reconsider and perhaps recant. Happy to discuss the issues, but let’s not make this for or against the people of town. That is my singular issue with 1HF as a group. It’s not us verses them. It’s how we discuss the issues. You may choose to attack for or against, stand for or against, but it’s the issues that we have to focus on and not the people.

    I will speak to your first point, the reason Article 1 has that level of detail is due to an expense that the school board made of $200k plus a $75k retainer on their school budget each year to retain Eckman. If we look at the math, we have spent a lot of tax payer money on Article 1 and as such, I agree, that presentation should be at the caliber of the monies spent. The school board has not however, reconsidered their position and looked into alternatives in the same way. It’s just not an apples to apples comparison.

    I have yet to discuss with a single person, that includes the Principal, SB Chair Mark Lane, his surrogate a teacher from Portsmouth, and those in town who have provided a sensible reason for a new gym. I have heard people refer to the poor conditions of it while they are at events that include people from other towns who have better gym facilities, but that’s more of optics than need. I welcome any sensible conversation to discuss why a gym is the most important piece to this solution and how we can’t go without it. Reach out to me, happy to have a coffee or anything to have that sensible discussion.

    Again you are attacking Lojek instead of considering the volunteerism that he has contributed. We are all part of this town, let’s be courteous to each other. Attack the issues, not the people.

    You’re arguments are fair with regards to physical education benefits; however, my point of the PDF (and that was from the state who haven’t updated their document–its not mine for clarification), was to illustrate what the minimum requirement is for the curriculum. Should every parent encourage physical education outside of school, you bet! There are a ton of extracurricular activities in and around the Seacoast. Are we saying that the school has to be the single source of that physical education? If so, that’s where I disagree. The school should be providing basic physical education. It is then up to the student to pursuit their own interests above and beyond that. The same goes with learning. Surely if a student has an interest above and beyond what’s taught in the classroom, we don’t expect the school to augment their curriculum to encompass all of those interests? We have to provide a curriculum that is generally useful and meets some or most of the needs, but there will always be a need to pursuit interests outside of school.

    Again, if you feel that you need to attack me to feel better about this issue, go right ahead–it’s your right and you are free to exercise it. But I will say that all of my arguments are on the issues (for and against) and encourage in an effort to help bring the town together that instead of going after each other, we go after the issues. That’s the way forward for this town. Just because a neighbor puts a sign on their lawn or speaks up at a deliberative session in an opposing view doesn’t mean that we turn our backs to them, vilify them, or shun them as not being for the town. It’s a slippery slope and I urge people to be cautious to not create a divide with the people of town as we can and should have differing opinions on the issues.

    Like

  5. Anthony, I appreciate your questions and let me take a moment to provide some additional details. For those who are undecided, they should vote for both. For those who want to go with the all inclusive, I would suggest they vote for article 1 and article 2. For those who are looking for the most benefit at the lowest cost, they should vote article 2.

    I’ll tell you that I had personal conversations with both the Principal as well as SB Chair Mark Lane, and it was after the conversation with Mr. Lane that my opinion on Article 1 changed. It was clear that he was not considering all options as part of a responsible school board, whereas in the discussion with the Principal, there was a path forward that didn’t include a gym. That and that alone right there tells me all I need to know. If the Principal see’s the need for academic space and can see a way forward without the gym, surely as a town we can agree that there are other ways to solve this problem that are not “piecemeal” but a pragmatic phased approach to a problem. Also while I don’t support the gym in this context, I do support a gym if it comes at a low or no tax impact to the residents. So if we are looking at a phased in approach, I can see a path forward where we address academic space now and after developing our commercial base use the increase revenue from that new tax base to fund a new gym at a later period of time. This is the most responsible way forward in my view.

    While we can call it piecemeal, I see Article 7 as hedging our bets. Isn’t it the best option to make sure that we can get what needs to be done through a variety of different funding methods? It’s one of the reasons why legislation gets so messy and this issue is no unique to Hampton Falls. In order to meet the needs of a variety of people, solutions sometimes don’t come in the neat little box that makes the most sense. More times than not, we have to take an approach that breaks large issues into smaller ones and implement them as we have funding for it. Would it make the most sense to have all the roads through New Hampshire fixed at the same time? Sure. But that will never happen. What about the bridges? Reports show that we have dozens of bridges throughout Rockingham and Hillsbourgh counties that are in the “red” zone and in desperate need of work. The best option would be to do what is needed to ensure all of those projects are done successfully–one and done, but the reality is that the tax payers in New Hampshire would not vote collectively to do what is needed to fix the issue at the upfront cost that it would come at. We can go around and around on that issue, but in order to meet the expectations and needs of all the people, sometimes we do need to break those larger projects up into smaller ones. That is a compromise and shouldn’t be seen as lower cost, slow, or time consuming. If we want to talk about slow and time consuming, one could argue that the various school boards have committed the town to just that by their do-nothing-but-the-same thing year over year. Taxes have gone up recently for the school to repair deferred maintenance that goes back many years. Instead of addressing the issues as they come up, they have decided to wait until they could include everything in one single solution. That goes back to my original comment on what changed in my view between Article 1 and Article 2. If the school board was committed to compromise and will do whatever the town decides, sure I could stand behind both. To say there is no other way forward simply does not make any sense.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s