Music Session at Nesmith Library Enjoyed by Toddlers
by Karen Plumley
A music session for toddlers led by certified Kindermusik specialist Rose Lemay was held at the Nesmith Library on Thursday morning, January 19. A one-time preschool teacher, “Miss Rose” began to notice that there was a demand for more enrichment programs outside of school, so she got started with the program and has been running it at local preschools, libraries, and also at Barnes and Noble in Salem. The children warmed to her immediately and enjoyed the music, stories, and activities during the hour-long session. All in attendance learned a little something about music, had a great time, and got some exercise too!
Will Kindergarten be Mandated by State?
The House Education Subcommittee on HB1241, sponsored by four state representatives, one from Chester, two from Merrimack and one from Nashua, would mandate that every school district provide kindergarten by 2007 even when the local community has decided against such a proposal. Communities that do not currently have public kindergarten and would be directly affected by this bill include Auburn, Chester, Derry, Fremont, Hudson, Lyndeborough, Greenville, Mason, New Ipswich, Milford, Pelham, Salem, Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow, Sandown, and Windham.
As of October 2005, only two of the school districts not operating public kindergarten, Hampstead and Goffstown, have voted to implement public kindergarten and have funds for kindergarten construction grants already reserved for them by the state. Others have voted not to fund kindergarten, and one, Litchfield, is in the middle with a town vote from last March to preserve Litchfield’s place in the kindergarten construction aid lineup. Litchfield had a warrant article with a zero appropriation passed last year.
According to the fiscal note attached to the bill, “Based on first grade enrollments for 11 of the 12 remaining districts during the 2003 - 2004 school year, as well as the kindergarten construction grant request from Timberland Regional, the Department [of Education] states an additional 65 kindergarten classrooms would be needed. The estimated cost to construct and provide the cost of initial equipment needed to operate a kindergarten classroom is $240,000. Total kindergarten construction costs would total $15,600,000 (65 x $240,000), of which the state would pay 75 percent or $11,700,000, and the school districts would pay 25 percent or $3,900,000. Currently, the state has $1,719,120 available for the 12 districts that have not yet voted to implement kindergarten, reducing the state’s share to $9,980,880 ($11,700,000 - $1,719,120). The department assumes half the classrooms would be constructed and equipped in fiscal year 2007, and the other half in fiscal year 2008. The estimated costs for the additional kindergarten construction (including equipping the classrooms) are as follows:
No opposing comments were heard during the public hearing for the bill on January 10. The most notable comments were those from Salem residents, who want the state to force the town to provide and pay for public kindergarten even though Salem has voted down public kindergarten several times.
Although the New Hampshire constitution prohibits unfunded mandates (Section 28A), it is clear from the fiscal note that this legislation will not provide 100 percent of the costs.
Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell estimates that Hudson would need to build 10 classrooms. “At 1,000 square feet per classroom, and $150 per square foot construction cost, that would be one and a half million dollars. Then we’d need to hire ten teachers. At an average cost of $60,000 for salary and benefits that would cost $600,000 per year. We’d have to have more buses, more bus drivers, furniture, supplies, books – lots. It’s more than just getting 75 percent of the building construction costs.”
Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler, of Windham and Pelham, is also concerned about the effects of this legislation. One member of the Pelham School Board wrote a letter about the funding impact for the school board’s review.
While no one denies the positive effect that kindergarten brings to students, Hudson Budget Chairman Howard Dilworth commented, “Kindergarten will come to Hudson when Hudson is ready for kindergarten,” and noted that the constitution requires funding for mandated programs. “You still cannot override Article 28-A of the state constitution. It was put in for exactly these types of things,” he concluded.
Windham Selectmen Look Ahead
by Lynn McNamara
At a recent meeting, selectmen set forth some items for future agendas. These “New Year’s Resolutions,” as Selectman Alan Carpenter termed them, included the following:
Pelham Budgets Summarized
by Lynne Ober
Pelham Budget Committee Chairman John Lavallee summarized both the town and the school budgets at the recently held reconsideration budget session.
The school district budget has numerous fixed costs that cannot be cut. According to Lavallee 63 plus percent goes to salaries and benefits, which have been previously approved by town vote.
On the town side, nearly 65 percent goes to salaries and benefits.
In addition, the town has a debt service amounting to another eight percent.
The town’s budget is up 9.9 percent over last year’s default budget after the Budget Committee made its recommended cuts. Selectmen had submitted a budget that was up more than ten percent.
“So 73 percent of the town budget is fixed costs,” stated Lavallee. “We can’t cut any of those fixed costs.”
Both town and school have experienced and, therefore, budgeted for higher utility costs and fuel costs. The rise in fuel costs is especially difficult for the school district because school buses are not fuel-efficient vehicles.
Lavallee told the audience that the Budget Committee had made approximately two percent cuts across the school district budget.
The largest segment of the school district budget is the district-wide budget. That budget has all the health and dental costs, the transportation costs for students, life insurance costs, social security costs and the entire special education budget.
“$556,685 is budgeted for out-of-district placement for 12 special education students,” stated Lavallee. Altogether the special education budget is $2,126,613 and of that $368,370 goes just to special education transportation.
With the town-wide revaluation underway, no one is certain what the new tax rate will be per thousand. That will depend upon the final evaluation figures. At this point in time, the Budget Committee can provide an educated guess as to what the tax rate impacts will be of the budget requests, but cannot provide absolutely certain figures.
In fact, those final figures will not be available at the time of the town’s March vote, which may cause concern on the part of some voters.
Reflections Artisans Honored at Pelham Elementary
by Lynne Ober
At a reception held to honor all the Pelham Elementary School students who entered the PTA Reflections program, community members applauded, laughed, and enjoyed the evening.
This annual program, held at many schools across the country, is designed to promote the arts. Students are given a topic and then produce an original piece of work that can be a story, a poem, a photo, or a piece of artwork. This year’s theme, “I Wonder Why,” inspired the students in many different ways.
A top piece of original work is chosen from each category and sent onto the regional competition held on Wednesday, February 22 from 6:30 – 8:30 at Mont Vernon Village School in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. (bad weather date is February 23).
By Patrick Collins, Grade 1
By Tia Floyd, Grade 3
Learning to Make Books
by Lynne Ober
Families enjoyed learning to make books at Nesmith Library. In the morning 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children worked on books and in the afternoon a session was held for older children and their parents.
Both sessions were taught by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord who began making books in 1987 when her first child was just two years old. Today she’s turned her love of homemade books into an art form and teaches others how to enjoy making books.
“Books are intimate objects,” Gaylord told her students. “Books have spirits. They are dwelling places for our thoughts and dreams.”
The bookmaking sessions were second in a series of three offered by Friends of Windham Library. “We wanted something that families could do together. So often we just have programs for children.”
Gaylord has taught more than 10,000 students since 1990 how to make books. She told her students that “books are something you can make with your children or for your children and I hope that you do both.”
Although Gaylord’s books are frequently exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York, at Yale University Library, and Wellesley College Library, she has a unique and enthusiastic manner that soon had all of her students raptly listening and watching.
With materials spread on the table in front of them, Gaylord slowly and clearly walked them through the various stages of making a book.
She passed out a detailed handout that showed how to make nearly a dozen different books. Each one described in detailed steps and little sketches. “We can easily do this at home,” said one entranced mom.
Students first learned how to make their book and then they moved into the challenging and fun part – making their books unique and interesting. Gaylord had stamps and other materials that students could use to adorn their books.
“This is so much fun,” grinned Jody. “I want to make more books.”
“I have a bow on my top and I’m going to put a bow on my book,” said three-year-old Casie.
In addition to making books and sharing her love for making books, Gaylord is an accomplished author who has written Hands-on History, Middle Ages, Super Pop-up Reports for American History and multicultural books to make and share. All of her books are available from Scholastic Professional Books.