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Melissa Suckling joins Newfound Area School Board

January 23, 2019
BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board has appointed Melissa Suckling to serve as the member from Danbury until the next election in March.

Suckling, the sole candidate for the position, replaces Sharon Klapyk, who resigned late last year for personal reasons. Suckling said she wants to get a feel for the job, but expects to run for the position when the filing period opens.

The focus of the Jan. 14 school board meeting was the budget and the upcoming deliberative session, but the board also reviewed a number of new policies and requests for field trips.

One policy that Christine Davol of New Hampton made a point of discussing is one dealing with drugs in the workplace. Davol, who serves as chair of the policy committee, said she had some concern about the addition of language prohibiting the possession of medical marijuana at school, even when the employee holds a medical marijuana card certifying a need for the drug.

"I'm concerned about the legality of that," she said, given that other medical prescriptions for potentially dangerous drugs are allowed.

School Board Chair Jeff Levesque of Groton reminded the board that federal law prohibits marijuana in all its forms.

The board formally adopted the five-year strategic plan, outlining general goals for the district.

"We didn't want this to be limited by concerns about funding," said Superintendent Stacy Buckley, noting that the committee had used 4,000 "data points" to develop the goals.

"In the past, strategic plans sat on a shelf," she said. "We didn't want to bog ourselves down in paperwork, and instead focused on what the goals are. A lot of this is fluid so we can tackle it a little bit at a time."

The board approved two student field trips, the first to attend a student leadership conference at Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods for student athletes — the last for retiring athletic director Pete Cofran.

The second field trip is a three-day excursion for eighth-graders to Washington, D.C. Buckley said the cost of the trip has been rising and, in order to keep it affordable, they looked into working directly with a trip provider instead of going through a tour company. In doing so, they found they could save a considerable amount by moving the trip up from the spring to the fall, and taking advantage of an early-bird price of $680 per student, instead of the $842 it had been projected to cost. The company also added a stop in Philadelphia that earlier field trips had not included, and also agreed to provide a bottle of water for each student for each day of the excursion.

The board readily agreed to the changes, citing the importance of the trip in understanding history and civics.

After reviewing the Jan. 11 budget hearing and the budget committee's decision to make no changes in its preliminary proposal, the board voted to recommend the $23,366,492 operating budget, even though it is less than the school board had approved and less than the district's tax cap allows.

The board also voted to recommend the article placing $200,000 into the expendable trust fund to replace the $200,000 the district intends to withdraw next year to use toward the paving of Newfound Road and the high school parking lot, a project that will total $463,259. Budget committee minutes show that school administrators had suggested delaying the project rather than cutting into academic needs and building maintenance, and residents at the budget hearing also questioned making the road project a higher priority. The budget committee, however, agreed to leave the road project in this year's spending plan.

Finally, the school board voted to recommend the teachers' contract, which will cost $228,414 in the first year. The cost items will add $227,765 to the 2020-21 fiscal year budget and $220,980 in 2021-22.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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