Bow votes for teacher layoffs
As enrollment drops,
reductions would save $500,000
By TRENT SPINER
BOW - Despite pleas from dozens of Bow students, teachers and parents, the school board voted unanimously Monday night to lay off up to seven teachers next year.
Their decision is preliminary; the town’s budget committee can still make changes and voters will have the final say March 12 at town meeting. But that didn’t stop more than 200 people from attending Monday night, many waiting in long lines to have their three-minute shot at convincing board members to change their minds.
As the meeting began, a handful of peaceful protesters — mostly high school students and recent graduates — held signs outside and formed a human chain in an attempt to block off a portion of the parking lot while sharing hugs with teachers.
Inside, only two residents spoke in favor of the cuts, which were proposed during two all-day budget work sessions earlier this month. Monday night, Superintendent Dean Cascadden said cutting teachers is the only way to avoid a budget increase in the face of mandatory increases in contributions to the state retirement system and pay raises for teachers.
The proposal would cut five teachers at the high school and one each at the middle and elementary schools in exchange for a $500,000 savings. At the high school, it would bring the average class size in core classes up from 17 to somewhere in the low- to mid-20s.
Resident Jim Hoffman said the cuts were needed because the high school is facing a drop in enrollment. To keep the number of teachers in line with the number of students, he said up to 10 teachers should be cut.
But Hoffman, who spoke first, was followed by a slew of students and parents who said they would pay a premium for the personal attention they have come to expect from high school teachers.
Howard Zibel has had at least one child in the district for the last 23 years. He said the school board should not look at average class sizes from across the state, instead they should look to beat them.
“Average education in New Hampshire is not a pretty picture,” he said. “That is not what most of us moved to Bow for. The school board is being short-sighted. If you continue on this path, you’re going to lower the value of all of our homes. Granted, I’m not giving a blank check but prudent investment needs to be made.”
Other residents said those who could not afford the extra taxes next year — estimated to be less than $100 for an average home — should cut their expenses at home.
“It comes down to a few bottles of cheap wine, a few cartons of cigarettes or a pair of fashionable jeans — whatever addiction you want to inform,” said Kyle “Mitch” Michaud, a 2009 graduate and Keene State College student.
In the end, the board said they appreciated the input but must also take into account the plight of others in town.
“You may not believe it, but there are people in Bow who have lost their jobs, there are foreclosures in Bow, there are people who have lost their homes,” Chairman Warren Fargo said.
After the vote, Kara Hinck, president of the Bow Education Association, said she was upset about the vote. She represents about 118 professionals in Bow.
“I think it’s a no-win for everyone,” she said. “Obviously, there is a lot of community support for the school. “How can they listen to all this and not change their mind?”