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Parent Must Pay for Grantham Student



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, July 06, 2018

Concord — A Grantham parent’s attempt to obtain taxpayer funding to cover the cost of her son’s private school tuition ended last month, when state officials ruled the high schooler could receive an adequate education within the public school system.

The New Hampshire Board of Education voted unanimously on June 13 to deny Tanya McIntire’s request to have her son Noah McIntire’s educational situation qualify as a “manifest educational hardship,” which could have opened the door for her to get the Grantham School District to cover the cost of tuition at a private school.

The board’s decision affirmed the findings of a state arbitrator, who said there was insufficient evidence that Noah McIntire was performing poorly while enrolled at Lebanon High School, where neighboring Grantham sends its high school students.

And because Noah McIntire is now enrolled at a private boarding school, public funds cannot legally be used to pay for his education, the arbitrator said.

McIntire said she enrolled Noah McIntire in the Holderness School last year, after watching him struggle with reading and writing in the public school system; first at the Grantham Village School and then at Lebanon High School.

Noah McIntire, who will be a junior this fall, requires a structured program to maintain his academics, his mother told the state board, and the school just outside of Plymouth offered his best chance at success.

“The private schools pick up on (Noah’s needs), and they address it, and they deal with it and they educate him,” McIntire said in a video of the June 13 meeting. “He’s done very well where he is.”

Tuition at the Holderness School next year will range from $41,600 for day students to $63,000 for boarding students, money that McIntire said is well spent.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but so is special (education),” she said. “Yeah, $60,000 is a big number, but hiring a special educator for my kid for the past five years, or the past eight years, would have cost me more than what I’ve (spent).”

After enrolling her son at Holderness, McIntire asked the Grantham School District to foot the bill under a new state law that allows towns lacking a public school for certain grades to cover the cost of sending children to nonsectarian private schools.

Known as the “Croydon bill,” the legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu last June allows public education dollars to be spent on private school tuition, so long as the district has an agreement with the school.

But the Grantham School Board declined to pay for Noah McIntire’s tuition, arguing the district has a longstanding agreement to send students to Lebanon High School. The new law, they said, applies only to towns without a designated public school for students.

After the denial, McIntire changed tactics and argued that her son qualified as a “manifest educational hardship” because he wasn’t being adequately served by Lebanon High.

Under New Hampshire law, parents and guardians who can prove that their child’s academic, physical or personal needs aren’t being met in their current school can request a change in placement if they can demonstrate such a hardship.

The law requires parents to make their case locally before a school board and superintendent before being able to appeal to the New Hampshire Board of Education.

Again, the Grantham School Board declined to pay the tuition costs, saying state law forbids public dollars from going to private schools. They also argued the Holderness School has no special education program, and that Noah McIntire wasn’t performing poorly in public school, with a grade point average of 2.99.

Grantham officials made similar arguments during the June Board of Education meeting. Having recently found out about a special education assessment performed while Noah McIntire was in elementary school, the district also offered the family an individualized education program, or IEP, that specifically would address his needs at Lebanon High.

Noah McIntire was enrolled at the Mid Vermont Christian Academy in 2009, but later came back to the Grantham Village School after state officials declined to contribute public funds to the Quechee private school’s tuition. Around the same time, the Hartford School District performed an assessment that found Noah McIntire had a “working memory issue,” according to his mother.

“We don’t want to play the blame game of whose fault it was that it took this long for the student to get the referral,” Grantham School District attorney Jim O’Shaughnessy said. “Let’s figure out what he needs and let’s work through an IEP team process to provide the services he needs.”

State board members asked why McIntire didn’t take the district up on its offer to provide special education services or contest the proposal.

“No. I don’t want him in that because that is just as much of a scam as some of the other things that go on in the public school,” she replied. “And the private schools did a perfectly good job, a better job I think, than an IEP could have done.”

Board member Cindy Chagnon also asked why McIntire would enroll her son in such an expensive school knowing the costs might not be recovered.

“It seems like you should have assumed that ‘this cost may be mine,’ ” Chagnon said. “It seems like you jumped so many steps ahead without even thinking about thinking ‘this might be my cost.’ ”

Passage of the Croydon bill made her believe she would be likely to get public funding, McIntire said, stressing the educational services are worth it.

She later went on to criticize Superintendent Sydney Leggett for using tax dollars to “hire a lawyer to come here and tell lies about me.”

It’s unclear what the state board’s decision means for Noah McIntire’s future at the Holderness School.

Messages requesting comment from Tanya McIntire were not returned on Thursday.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.