Proposed Move From SAU Goes To Voters
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, November 17, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON —- The state Board of Education gave the OK for the Hampton School Board to move forward with its plan to withdraw from School Administrative Unit 21.
The board's approval, handed down last Wednesday allows the withdrawal plan to go before voters in March.
"The state recommended that Hampton be allowed to ask voters to withdrawal from SAU 21 by a vote of 7 to 1," said Hampton School Board Chairman Sandra Nickerson. "The one person who voted against it did so because he thought that it should go before all the other districts for approval first."
Nickerson said the plan doesn't need to go before all districts because the law has changed, allowing Hampton to make this decision without the permission of the other towns in the SAU: Seabrook, North Hampton, Hampton Falls and South Hampton.
"The interesting thing was that the person who voted against the plan, voted for it in 2004," Nickerson said.
The withdrawal plan has been in the works since last spring, when voters approved establishment of a withdrawal study committee. The committee worked through the summer and submitted its final plan to the state on Oct. 1.
Nickerson said if Hampton voters approve withdrawing from SAU 21, Hampton will have its own superintendent for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. High school students will still go to Winnacunnet High School.
"I honestly believe it's in the best interest of the students and the taxpayers to allow us to do this," said Nickerson, who also served on the withdrawal study committee.
Nickerson said Hampton pays 40 percent of SAU costs, but receives less than 40 per-cent of the SAU's attention.
The town has to share a superintendent with six other districts, it doesn't have a say in the SAU budget and, at times, is held hostage by decisions made by school boards in other member towns, Nickerson said.
For Hampton to set up its own SAU, it would cost roughly the same amount of money it currently pays to SAU 21, Nickerson said. The Hampton School Department would have to hire four new positions, a superintendent, business manager and two support staff.
Not everyone thinks Hampton should withdraw. Other school districts within SAU 21 expressed opposition, since they would pay more for central office services. The teachers union as well as the support staff union are against the move, fearing loss of membership.
Winnacunnet School Board member Richard Goodman said he's against the plan because costs will go up for all the other districts and a K-12 district needs one educational leader to maintain consistency.
"We need to have one leader to make recommendations to the boards to do what is in the best interest of all of the students," Goodman said. "We should all be on the same page when it comes to curriculum for every student (to) succeed at Winnacunnet and in life."
Nickerson said that argument doesn't hold up because every school district is not on the same page. All districts within SAU 21 are separate, and every district has its own unique needs and educational philosophy. Voters will get their chance to examine the plan and ask questions at the school's deliberative session on Feb. 5 in the Winnacunnet High School auditorium. The plan is also available on the school's Web site at www. sau21.k12.nh.us.
The withdrawal plan needs a three-fifths majority vote in March to pass. If approved, Hampton will separate from SAU 21 in July 2007.
This is the second time in three years the town has considered withdrawing from SAU 21. In 2003, a majority of the voters supported withdrawal, but there was not enough for the necessary three-fifths vote for approval.