Sending Towns Update Pinkerton Academy on Plans

Though their campus is almost at sea level, Pinkerton Academy Headmaster Griffin Morse and his Board of Trustees will be looking at the school from a figurative 32,000-feet height as they make plans for the next year and the near future at their annual retreat this weekend.

The retreat was one of the items on Morse’s agenda as he chatted with the trustees and the boards and administrators of the four sending towns – Derry, Chester, Hampstead and Auburn – during the Winter Meeting Thursday, Jan. 29. Hooksett tuitions students to Pinkerton as well.

The meeting, in the Astro Café, included a dinner cooked and served by students in the semi-private high school’s Culinary Arts program. The stakeholders relaxed and chatted over the main meal, and during dessert focused their attention on several presentations.

Morse, who took over this summer after Headmaster Mary Anderson’s retirement, said the school got off to a good start and is in “good shape.” There are no new positions planned for 2015-16 and no building projects. Rather, he said, he and the Trustees will take a good long look at resources and the big picture in their retreat. “We’ll be looking at how to find and use grants,” he said.

In the question and answer portion of the meeting, Alan Villeneuve, an Auburn school board member, brought up traffic conditions on Route 28 Bypass after an accident last fall when students were crossing the road after band practice. “I would like to see more lighting,” Villeneuve said, noting that his daughter is in the band and his son is planning to join next year.

Villeneuve also expressed concern about the number of parking spaces for students, especially sophomores. “In the future could you provide some parking for sophomores, maybe with an incentive like ‘Student of the Week’?” he asked.

Morse wasn’t optimistic, pointing out that the school barely has room for parking for its 500 employees and 1,800 seniors. “It is a perennial problem,” he said.

The administrators of the sending towns took turns updating the group on their schools. Laura Nelson, Derry superintendent, thanked the speakers for their presentations, noting, “We all realize we need to be proactive with the concussion issue.”

There is a cost, Nelson agreed, but as an attorney she said, “It’s ‘mitigate or litigate.’”

Nelson referred to the Derry deliberative session, to be held that Saturday, and said there had been “extensive discussion” on the proposed budget.

The district has completed its Strategic Plan, with two issues highlighted this winter and spring: finding a permanent home for the Next Charter School and reviewing, with the help of a new committee, the Facilities Report that was completed in October. A Next report and public forum was expected the same night as the Feb. 3 meeting. In addition, she said, Assistant Superintendent MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian will give a presentation on class sizes in the Feb. 10 meeting.

Nelson thanked Morse for working with her and the other sending towns on a common calendar, noting that they were able to synchronize two “early release” days with Pinkerton and collaborate on professional development.

Darrell Lockwood, superintendent for Chester, said Chester residents were due to vote on a collective bargaining agreement for teachers. “We have brought in a high-deductible insurance plan and are saving 12 percent, which we will put toward raises,” he said.

Lockwood said the district has started a maintenance fund, with an eye to replacing the Chester Academy roof, and had $160,000 set aside. In addition, he said, they are looking at a 20-year contract with Pinkerton.

Roxanne Wilson, assistant superintendent for Hampstead in the Timberlane-Hampstead SAU, said her high school population was up by 28 to 30 students.

“We have been busy actively collaborating to create a budget,” Wilson said, noting that highlights include a 1.15 percent increase and no staff reductions.

Hampstead is also proposing a bond for an addition to the elementary school that would eliminate the portable classrooms, she said.

Assistant Superintendent Marge Polak represented SAU 15’s Auburn and Hooksett. Polak said, “We’re experiencing what everyone else is regarding Smarter Balanced. Our teachers have taken the practice test, and they’re ready.”

“From both towns, our kids are doing great here,” Polak said.