As the 2017-2018 school year continues forward, the Town Council has been hoping to gain a better understanding of how the Derry School Board is functioning.
In order to do this, Council Chairman Joshua Bourdon invited the board’s Chairman Dan McKenna to the council’s most recent meeting on October 17 so that he could give the council an update on the status of the board’s activities.
McKenna began his brief by noting that budget season is right on the horizon and that the board will be beginning these discussions in the coming weeks at Derry Village School, with a meeting with the Fiscal Advisory Committee taking place on October 23 at 6:30 PM and a budget proposal taking place on November 6 at 6:30 PM as well.
McKenna spoke highly of the committee from how he has worked with them in the past, commending them for their hard work.
“We’re looking forward to working with them again”, McKenna noted.
McKenna then brought up the recently completed facilities report completed by members of the Derry school district. The report took place over the course of three years, delving into what could be changed to improve the district’s performance and what actions the board needed to start taking in order for these changes to take place, including the possibility of closing one or more schools for the sake of grade redistribution.
Finally, McKenna mentioned the recent renewal of Pinkerton Academy’s contract with the district and how it was recently renewed by five years, as is standard when its contract moves from its startup of twenty years to only fifteen years.
McKenna seemed very satisfied with Pinkerton’s teaching capabilities in the past, although he did hope to increase communication between the board and Pinkerton staff in the future, as Pinkerton is one of the major pillars of the Derry community.
“A lot of people come to Derry for our schools”, McKenna stated.
When it came time for the council to provide some input on McKenna’s overview, Councilor Richard Tripp inquired about the idea of the council getting a tour of one of the schools in Derry to get a feel for their current state. McKenna has a meeting with the district’s board of trustees on November 1 and will go ahead and discuss the idea with them.
Councilor Neil Weatherbee spoke out about why the upcoming budget discussions at Derry Village School are not televised for the public. McKenna noted that it has been done in the past, but that the practice simply slipped away from them. Bourdon requested that McKenna get back to the council on working with town staff members on continuing to record these meeting, to which McKenna agreed to follow up on.
Councilor Charles Foote mentioned that issues with school buses transporting students to and from school seem to have improved dramatically since last year, with McKenna feeling that a new contract with the busing company, along with changes to the company itself, lent to these improvements.
Finally, several members of the council voiced their concerns over the possibility of one or more schools closing down in the district upon McKenna bringing up the idea. Several members, including Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores, questioned whether or not enrollment numbers may play a role in such a change, while others also wondered how closing down a school would affect payment scheduling for other projects.
McKenna felt that many of these concerns are up in the air at the moment and further details surrounding how to resolve them are best to be discussed during the upcoming budget discussions.