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Franklin to send withdrawal plan to state

  • Over 30 people attended a public hearing Tuesday April 12, 2016 on whether the Franklin School District should withdraw from SAU 18. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Franklin Withdrawal Study Committee voted Tuesday night to make minor changes to its report, which recommends to the state board of education that Franklin School District withdraw from SAU 18. 

The vote came at the end of a two-hour public hearing at Franklin Middle School. More than 30 people attended and held a heated discussion on a proposed financial consolidation plan and whether the withdrawal would benefit Franklin students. 

Franklin school board Chairman Greg Husband was particularly critical of the committee’s report. His board voted unanimously against the financial consolidation plan in February, which could put Franklin in charge of the school district’s finances as a sub account of the city’s overall expenses.

While the committee proposes the consolidation as a potential cost-savings option – $113,000 worth – in its report as well as some general budget cuts, Husband said it shouldn’t even be in there since his board doesn’t agree it.

“You’re trying to go and box the school board into a corner,” he said. 

City Councilor Tony Giunta, sitting as a public member on the committee, said that under the RSA, the report needed to include budgetary considerations for Franklin School District.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to cover cost-savings,” he said. 

Franklin City Manager Elizabeth Dragon also assured Husband that the report’s financial consolidation proposal held no authority, and was simply a concept for the state board of education to consider as part of the withdrawal plan.

Husband also disagreed with the premise of separating from SAU 18, which hosts Franklin School District and its 1,140 students, plus Jennie D. Blake Elementary School in Hill, which has 64 students.

Hill students in grades 7-12 are now at the Newfound School District following a vote during the 2014 Hill School District annual meeting. The agreement is for 10 years. 

“Should we lop off Hill and cut off funds to Franklin because we’re upset they went to Newfound?” Husband asked. “Why should we double the mistake and hurt us financially even more than they already have?”

The report indicates that Hill currently pays $93,700 for administrative services, and a new SAU for Franklin could cost an estimated $2,500 to set up.

Even without withdrawal, SAU 18 Superintendent Daniel Legallo estimated Franklin School District will still have a $400,000 shortfall in its budget.

School board member Lisa Tremblay further asked, “What is the educational benefit? It’s not like we’re going to save $300,000 and put that right back into the kids.”

Tremblay added, “The problem for Franklin has always been people don’t want to move into our community because of our schools.”

Others in the audience felt that the withdrawal would be a positive change for Franklin students. Tamara Feener, a former Franklin School Board member, said, “I see an educational benefit in that we get our superintendent 100 percent working with our principals.”

Near the end of the meeting, committee member Leigh Webb made a motion to take the financial consolidation plan off the report, though the motion was defeated 4-3. 

The committee did agree to note the Franklin school board’s disapproval of the financial consolidation plan, and they also planned to create a more explicit representation of SAU 18 in the report.

Chairman David Testerman, a member of the public, assured the audience that the committee’s recommended plan to withdraw – approved 4-3 during a March 23 meeting – was generally not a finalized decision.

Webb and both school board members on the committee voted against the report in its current form. 

“We have to send the plan to the state board,” Testerman said. If approved during a 60-day review there, he added that the withdrawal plan would then go to the Franklin City Council to be passed or defeated.

Under state law, 100 of the district’s residents can also sign a petition within 60 days of the council vote and request the matter be voted on by ballot in a regular election.

Tuesday night’s report was put together over a period of seven months by the committee, which includes two school board members, a city council finance committee member, four members of the public, and LeGallo. LeGallo is a nonvoting member. 

 

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)