Hill students moving from Franklin to Newfound School District

Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Hill residents voted to withdraw from the existing agreement with Franklin School District and instead send students to Newfound Regional School District at last night’s annual school district meeting.

“Newfound was the proper alternative,” said Michael Brady, a member of the committee that studied withdrawing from Franklin.

The vote to withdraw from the longstanding agreement with Franklin passed by a clear margin, 93-68, but the vote to approve the agreement with Newfound was so narrow that a recount was demanded.

The 10-year tuition agreement with Newfound passed by just two votes, 75-73.

Hill will still have some financial obligation to Franklin, but school board members said going forward the yearly cost will be comparable. Hill owes about $25,000 a year to Franklin, in addition to the agreement it just approved with Newfound.

“It’s a wash,” said Shelly Henry, Hill School District member.

Hill students have attended Franklin Middle School and High School for just over a decade. Students will now attend Newfound’s middle school and high school.

“The receiving district really holds all the cards to make the changes,” Henry said about the existing agreement with Franklin. “We really have no say.”

The reason the change was brought to the town, according to information from the withdrawal study committee, was to answer a question: “Is Franklin providing a quality education for Hill students in grades 7 through 12?”

“That’s why we’re here tonight, to bring that choice back to you,” Henry said.

Residents passionately responded to that question, both defending and criticizing Franklin’s educational opportunities.

“You go anywhere else in New Hampshire . . . you’re probably not going to get that same community,” said Brian Pickowicz, the 2012 Franklin High School class president. “Franklin is there for your students.”

Hill resident Janet White said she had two children graduate from Franklin High School, an education she has no qualms about. “I don’t think anything’s wrong with Franklin schools, period,” she said.

Others were less confident about the current agreement.

A mother of a fifth-grade student in Hill, Tracie Elder said she has been a substitute teacher at Franklin Middle School, a school she would not like her son to attend.

“I have serious concerns about sending my son to Franklin Middle School,” she said.

The decision was presented to residents as two separate articles. Hill residents could have voted to withdraw from Franklin and reject the proposed Newfound agreement, an option that many at last night’s meeting advocated for. If that route were taken, the school board would not have a clear path to follow.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Henry said. “We would have to negotiate another agreement with a district. I don’t know which one.”

An alternative considered by the study committee was an agreement with Winnisquam Regional School District, but the agreement with Newfound was the only option, brought to voters on this years warrant.

The withdrawal from Franklin was not a short process for the Hill School District. Discussions began last year and the district received approval from the state Board of Education for its withdrawal plan in April 2014.

School board members said that students currently at Franklin High School will not be forced to withdraw and attend Newfound.

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, sdoucet@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @susan_doucet.)