Weare says teachers contract needed to stop staff from leaving

The Fun Run on May 21 at the Weare Middle School lived up to its name. More than 100  official runners participated and more came by to cheer them on. The top four finishers were Mike Veilleux (Ethan and Owen's dad), Rio Calle (eighth grade), Ethan Veilleux (eighth grade), and Owen Veilleux (sixth grade). 

The Fun Run on May 21 at the Weare Middle School lived up to its name. More than 100  official runners participated and more came by to cheer them on. The top four finishers were Mike Veilleux (Ethan and Owen's dad), Rio Calle (eighth grade), Ethan Veilleux (eighth grade), and Owen Veilleux (sixth grade). 

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 02-08-2024 3:12 PM

In the previous three years, according to data presented Wednesday night, the Weare School District has hired 46 new teachers, yet only 25 of them are still working in the district.

Most of the rest have left to work in other districts, often nearby.

That fact was central to the argument from the school board that voters should pass a new teachers’ contract and help keep the district from “hemorrhaging staff,” in the words of one speaker.

The first year of the contract would see average increases of between 10% and 23%, adding from $4,500 to $23,000 more per year to their pay, depending on seniority and education, with those who are maxed-out getting 3.5%. The second year of the contract would offer an average 8% increase for everyone.

The estimated cost of the contract would be an extra $901,000 the first year and $369,000 the second year. That cost has led the finance committee to vote 9-2 against the contract, which Chair Thomas Clow called “a bridge too far.”

All but one of the 10 speakers at Wednesday’s session, most of whom indicated they were teachers or parents of children in the school, supported the contract. Many talked about the effect that salary-driven turnover has had in the school, either in students seeing classrooms cycle through as many as three teachers in one year or in specialists being pulled from their job to fill in for regular classrooms.

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“We’re at a tipping point with the education in this town,” said David Trumble. “We are the bottom because we can’t offer intervention to the kids who need it.”

According to Department of Education figures, the Weare district’s average teacher salary of $53,649 is at least $6,000 less than in nearby school districts, including Merrimack Valley, Goffstown and Henniker, which shares John Stark High School with Weare.

Turnover has been so high and hiring so difficult, said School Board Chair Christine Heath during a presentation, that at the end of summer parents couldn’t be told the name of their child’s teacher “until the very last minute” as officials scrambled to fill positions.

The salary situation is even worse because of a tight labor market for teachers, she said: “In the past, we would have 10 applications for each position. Now, we’re lucky to get one.”

The proposed operating budget for the coming school year includes a cut of four teaching positions, partly to reflect a continuing decline in enrollment, which fell to 832 this school year, some 17% below the figure in 2017.

The proposed operating budget for the town’s two schools is $18.71 million, an increase of $231,000 or 1.25%. It is unanimously supported by the finance committee.

If the budget and contract pass, the estimated tax impact will be an extra $1.40 per $100,000 of assessed valuation atop the local school tax rate of $7.58, adding $420 to the annual tax bill of a $300,000 home.

All items will be voted on by ballot on election day, March 12.