Friday December 14, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- School Superintendent Dr. David Crisafulli presented the town's School Board with some eye-opening statistics and outlined the school district's goals for its students moving forward.

Crisafulli told board members at Wednesday night's meeting that the district is $1,900 behind where it was last year. He said while town voters may not want to increase local taxes, he doesn't believe they want the school system to suffer or go without any necessary funding.

Crisafulli reported that the local education tax per pupil in 2012 is $8,359, while the state median is $10,006. The district enrollment is close to state median. He said Hinsdale relies on a greater amount of state and federal aid than the average district.

During budget discussions later in the meeting, board member Angela Schill expressed concern over the amount of money designated for the Hinsdale After School Program. She said she knows the program has its merit but does not think taxpayers should have to finance it.

Crisafulli defended HASP, saying it is probably the most important program in the school district.

"I think that there are recent studies shown what happens to kids between 3 and 6 p.m. It is very, very accurate as to what the assessment is. I think we deal with anywhere from 70 to 150 on a daily basis," he said. "I think it's had tremendous success. I think it provides not only a community need but it also provides an outlet for our students who basically do not need to be in a latchkey situation or getting into some of the difficulties that some of these studies have shown.

"Per your request, we basically have done a few things," he added. "First of all, we asked the director (Maryanne O'Malley) to design a program, which she's reviewed with a subcommittee, that will look at a $90,000 budget. And part of that budget is that $15,000 would be raised in revenue, which is about the annual amount we raise now based on fees."

Crisafulli also said Schill previously asked if the program could be managed as a self-funding program. He, Chairwoman Holly Kennedy, Vice Chairwoman Jeana Major and board member Ed Patenaude Jr. said they don't think most families could afford to pay all the fees necessary to keep the program afloat.

He said the benefits of the program are well-worth the costs.

Schill said she has spoken with the parents of children who utilize the after-school program and she said many of them don't feel the program should be funded by taxpayers. She also said the studies Crisafulli cited were very subjective.

Right now, HASP is in the budget as a line item for about $75,000, but budget talks are still in their infancy.

Crisafulli said the Fall 2012 enrollment consists of 586 students -- 286 from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade and 300 in grades 6 through 12. He said 48 percent of students now qualify for free-and-reduced lunch and 21 percent identify as special education students.

The superintendent also highlighted some trends regarding Hinsdale High School graduates. According to his statistics, 48.1 percent of the Class of 2008 went on to attend four-year colleges or universities whereas that figure dropped to 27.5 percent of those who graduated in 2012. The number of students that opted for schools that don't offer four-year enrollments increased from 22.2 percent to 32.5. Those entering the United States military has gone up from 1.9 to 5 percent of graduates.

Crisafulli also said the unemployment of students once they graduate has jumped significantly.

He mentioned promoting a positive learning climate, improving instructional practices for all students and engaging in data-driven decision-making as district goals.

In other business: Kennedy said the Winchester School Board authorized Superintendent James M. Lewis to contact Hinsdale to see if the high school is interested in meeting to discuss the possibility of tuitioning-in Winchester high school students. She said Winchester currently is in a contract with Keene and it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter in a public meeting.

The Hinsdale School Board voted unanimously to give Kennedy permission to contact Lewis about the possibility.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.