By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, April 16, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
HAMPTON -- The state Board of Education has signed off on Hampton's withdrawal from School Administrative Unit 21 and designated the district as the newly created School Administrative Unit 90.
"Everything is signed, sealed and delivered that Hampton has gone through the withdrawal process," said Hampton School Board Chairman Rosemary Lamers. "Ninety years ago we joined SAU 21 and interestingly enough starting July 1, 2011, we will be known as SAU 90."
Hampton's attempt to establish its own SAU was approved at the March 9 election by a vote of 1,724 to 1,120. With a 60.66 percent majority, the proposal just barely achieved the 60 percent (or three-fifths) required for passage.
Withdrawal will go into effect starting July 1, 2011.
The one-year interim period is to give Hampton officials, as well as the remaining school districts within SAU 21 — North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook and South Hampton, as well as the Winnacunnet Cooperative School District — time to adjust.
Hampton is currently in the process of implementing the withdrawal plan which calls for a one-time start-up cost of $212,600.
Lamers said the district has already identified $100,000 of that from projected surplus funds at the end of this year's budget.
She noted that is a conservative number and they probably will have more to work with.
The funds will be used to set up a new administrative unit office that will be housed at Marston Elementary.
It includes construction costs of converting two classrooms into office space as well as technology and software to do payroll and other functions.
The board also took a vote this week to hire a consultant from the New England School Development Council to aid in the search for a new superintendent.
Lamers said the goal is to bring on a new superintendent early to have him or her aid in hiring the remainder of the staff needed, including a full-time business manager.
School officials recurring costs to operate the new SAU office are conservatively estimated to be $504,796, which is an anticipated increase of $62,131 over Hampton's current cost to SAU 21 in 2009-10 of $442,665.
"But that is without any cost reductions," said Lamers, who noted they already have additional savings with the recent resignation of Curriculum Director Kathy Bates.
One of the recommendations from the withdrawal report is to have the superintendent be the curriculum leader of the school.
Hampton tried to withdraw previously, once in 2004 and again in 2007. While the question always received a majority vote, the March 9 vote was the first in which the three-fifths voting majority needed was obtained.
Supporters of the withdrawal effort have argued that Hampton pays the lion's share of the SAU budget, but doesn't get much in return.
They have also argued 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 communities.