Hillsboro-Deering district gives 24 employees notice of possible reduction in staff
Ten percent of the teachers and 20 percent of the support staff in Hillsboro-Deering School District received notice Friday that a reduction in force is being considered in response to budget cuts approved by voters at last week’s district meeting.
Last night, after nearly an hour-long nonpublic meeting, the school board postponed any decisions on the budget because one member was absent and the teachers union requested time to prepare and present alternatives to layoffs. They scheduled a special board meeting for next Tuesday.
“I hope everyone can understand this is a very trying time for all of us,” said board member Nancy Egner Denu. “We’re going to try our utmost to make this a comprehensive process and not compromise the good work that’s been done to this point.”
Last Tuesday, voters in the district approved by a 602-526 vote, a 2014-15 budget of $19,662,098, $35,000 less than the current operating budget and $1 million less than the school board and administration requested at the deliberative session last month.
Much of the requested increase was due to what Superintendent Robert Hassett called non-negotiable increases.
The largest single increase in his proposal was $252,529 in payments to the New Hampshire Retirement System, the result of the state government reducing its share last year.
His proposal also included $225,254 for an English teacher, contracted pay increases for teachers moving up the pay scale and a basketball program at Hillsboro-Deering Middle School, as well as a $121,667 increase for rising health insurance premiums and $153,000 for new computer equipment and books.
More than 50 parents, teachers and staff attended the board meeting last night, where “budget actions” were listed on the agenda.
“I do not think anybody in this room or anybody who voted on the budget last week meant to have our staff eliminated,” Hillsboro resident Laurel Woolner said. “We’re finally getting to a point where we can be proud of our school district again,” she said, referring to the district’s designation several years ago as one of the five poorest-performing in the state.
At the time, the state average on an index of mandated test scores was 156 points; Hillsboro-Deering earned 129, according to Merry Fortier at the Department of Education. Last year, Fortier said, the state average was 157, and Hillsboro-Deering earned 151.
Former board member John Segedy and resident Leigh Bosse, who both advocated for the lower budget before the vote, also urged the board to consider cuts other than staff layoffs.
“This is not a million-dollar problem,” Bosse said. “I’ve said in the past that you have too many teachers, but not 10 percent too many.”
The notices distributed to 12 teachers and 12 support staff members were not announcing a reduction in force, but informing the staff that one is being considered, a requirement of the staff contracts with the district. But in the light of the vote Tuesday, some teachers had already sent out resumes before the notices were distributed Friday, said Heidi Welch, a teacher at the high school.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)