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Dresden Contracts Questioned

School District Meeting Has Low Attendance

Hanover — The number of School Board members rivaled the number of attendees at last night’s annual meeting for the Dresden budget, and it might have been because people didn’t receive mailers announcing the meeting.

At the end of last night’s hour-long meeting, former School Board member Kari Asmus took to the microphone and criticized the board for not getting information out to voters in a timely fashion.

The School Board decided not to mail out annual reports to each household this year because they are expensive and many residents toss them aside.

Instead, annual reports are available at town halls, libraries and the SAU 70 office, and small informational mailers would be sent out.

When Asmus didn’t receive a mailer before last night’s meeting, she was a little taken aback. But she shrugged it off and said she thought, “Oh well. I can come to this meeting and learn what I need to learn.”

So she headed to Hanover High School, but to her surprise, the doors were locked. Without the mailer, she hadn’t realized that the meeting had been moved to Richmond Middle School.

“I really feel that the legislative body of Hanover deserves better,” Asmus said. “This is an important meeting.”

Dresden School Board Chairman Carey Callaghan agreed and said the board should have done a better job getting information out. He said informational brochures should be in voters’ mailboxes by tomorrow.

Residents can also find information about the budget and warrant articles on the SAU 70 website.

“I don’t have a reason or an excuse. It should be better,” Callaghan said.

Last night’s attendance of about 15 people wasn’t that unusual. Only about a dozen people attended last year’s annual meeting and the budget and teachers contract elicited little debate.

The only part of last night’s meeting that stirred debate was the teachers contract. Teachers have gone two years without a contract after not being able to come to an agreement at the negotiation table two years ago. And last year, voters rejected the contract. But this year looks more promising.

The Dresden Finance Committee voted in favor of the teachers contract 6-2. That’s a shift from last year when the committee voted against recommending the contract.

The contract includes a 2 percent base pay raise for each of the three years of the contract, and annual step increases will be awarded to teachers with up to 13 years of experience.

After the contract was presented, Asmus asked if there’s any plans for a compensation system that reflects performance in the classroom and student outcomes.

School Board member Kevin Cotter said there’s nothing in the contract that rewards better teachers, but there is a process that could punish poor performing teachers by withholding salary increases.

Kim Perez, of Norwich, said she would like to see a contract that offers positive reinforcement and rewards high performing teachers with better pay.

Asmus echoed Perez’s sentiments after the meeting and said she’s heard other voters say they would like to see top teachers receive bonuses.

The School Board argued that it’s better to keep teacher evaluations out of the teachers contract and instead make it a policy that administrators and School Board members can regulate on their own.

“Policy can be changed by the board without waiting three years to get around to it,” School Board member Robin Carpenter said.

The board also went through the support staff and service employee contracts, as well as the $23.2 million budget, which is a 0.3 percent decrease from the current budget. All three topics elicited little debate.

Voting for the Dresden budget will take place on Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hanover residents should vote at Hanover High School, and Norwich residents should vote at Tracy Hall. There is also a district annual meeting for the Hanover School District on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Richmond Middle School. The Norwich School District budget will be discussed at 7 p.m. Monday at Tracy Hall.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.