Forum, March 9: Lebanon High needs auditorium

Friday, March 08, 2019
Lebanon High needs auditorium

The Lebanon School District articles calling for modernizing the schools and constructing an auditorium at Lebanon High School are well thought out. I’d like to speak to the auditorium issue, as many have said the wonderful Lebanon Opera House is “good enough.”

Did you know that the student actors and stagehands and the support staff call the week prior to a performance “Hell Week”? Why? Because instead of being able to build and test their sets as rehearsals progress, everything has to be loaded into the Opera House in one day, after the previous group has moved out. Understandable logistics, but counterproductive to a learning environment. Athletes would never be expected to practice separately, or in small groups, then come together as a team a week before the state championship. And yet the Lebanon High Wet Paint Players do this repeatedly.

One of my fondest memories of high school is the time spent building sets, and then rehearsing for hours — on the stage where we would perform. The camaraderie, teamwork and fun are exactly what an extracurricular activity is supposed to promote. Theater arts are incredibly inclusive. There is a part for everyone to play — onstage or backstage. That’s why we need an auditorium at Lebanon High School.



We can’t afford a new auditorium

The 2019-20 Lebanon School District proposed budget and warrant articles would raise taxes on an average Lebanon home by $375 a year. This would be a big increase for Lebanon taxpayers who are already being hit with several years of increases in their water and sewer taxes. A new $9.4 million auditorium is neither affordable nor necessary.

The Seminary Hill auditorium is barely used. Why not renovate it, improve the backstage area and add the technology the board says it needs? Make it a showpiece, and do so for far less than the new auditorium would cost.

Also proposed is an astounding $20 million for renovations of three buildings, including additional classrooms at Hanover Street School. Why are these necessary when student enrollment is declining? The average number of students in a Lebanon elementary school classroom is about 16 (the New Hampshire average is 21). This is hardly unmanageable.

With the enormous taxes Lebanon residents pay, we should challenge the board to come up with more affordable ways to meet space and service needs. With the new school requests, taxes on an average home would increase, and many Lebanon residents struggle now to pay their tax bill. How and why should they be expected to come up with even more money that they don’t have? There are more affordable ways to meet the needs of our students. It’s time to say enough is enough.



School upgrades are important

As a parent of a fifth- and eighth-grader and a Lebanon taxpayer, I write in support of the SAU 88 modernization plan. The upgrades provided by Article 2 are vitally important. They provide increased safety and security at each school and additional classroom and instructional space to reduce crowding. In addition, it corrects a shameful deficiency at Mount Lebanon School, namely the lack of a kitchen for preparation of lunch. These changes will help bring the schools into alignment with recommendations from regional accreditation associations.

The auditorium provided by Article 3 is also a significant need in our district. I’m sure many readers of the Valley News have enjoyed student performances in venues such as the Lebanon Opera House. I certainly have. However, having space that the district controls will eliminate scheduling issues and allow for set-building and rehearsals to occur without expensive transportation. In addition to the performing arts, the new auditorium would be an ideal space for school and community meetings and gatherings.

I do wish New Hampshire had a more equitable way of funding education and I am very sympathetic to people on fixed incomes having to deal with property tax increases. I am happy to see that the School Board is committed to pursuing both state building aid (pending legislation) and private donor support for the project. But, in my understanding, legally, the project must be approved by voters beforehand.

I have seen the differences in towns that invest in their schools and those that do not. Towns with superior schools grow, attract young families and businesses, and see their property values increase. Towns that do not experience the opposite. To that end, I strongly urge all Lebanon voters to vote “yes” on articles 2 and 3 on Tuesday.



Vote for proposed Mascoma budget

I urge voters in the Mascoma Valley to vote in favor of the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year. Please be aware that the proposed budget is less than the default budget. Thank you.



For John Streeter in Charlestown

I am supporting longtime Charlestown resident John Streeter for Selectboard. Three other good candidates also running, but I believe Streeter is the best qualified.

The hot issues are the articles on the town and school ballots and the proposal to withdraw from the Fall Mountain Regional School District. Whether or not you support the ballot questions, when it is over you are going to want a selectman who can work with the School Board. Streeter, who has served on the School Board, has a good relationship with the administration and worked to cut the budget with fiscal responsibility without affecting learning.

Streeter also has a good working relationship with many House members, our senator and executive councilor. He can make sure our issues are heard as we look to the state to help address our school funding issues and help change Charlestown’s status as the fifth-poorest town in the state (in property value per capita) that pays the highest school property tax. Affordable housing, education and finding a balance between business and the environment are high priorities. Streeter will make intelligent, informed decisions on capital expenses moving forward.

Please vote for John Streeter for Selectboard on Tuesday at the Charlestown Senior Center.



Watching O’s vs. Panthers from afar

The basketball gods have brought us another all-Upper-Valley matchup in the Division III girls state championship game, as Oxbow will look to extend its Cinderella run and Thetford will vie for its third championship in six years.

It wasn’t that long ago that Oxbow-Thetford was a great rivalry, and sources tell me it’s been trending back in that direction. Who could forget the semifinal game in 1996, when Jolene Thurston and Jazz Huntington’s teams squared off in an epic 61-59 Oxbow win. Then in 2012, the Olympians got the best of the Panthers in a double-overtime semifinal affair, 44-39.

Two years later, Oxbow was edged by Williamstown, setting up a Thetford vs. Williamstown match that was the most exciting high school basketball game I’ve ever watched in person, a record-setting 90-84 Panther victory.

The Barre Auditorium will be a special place to be on Saturday night, with most of Thetford and Bradford in attendance. My father, Ted, who has taught at Oxbow for the last three decades, will be there, cheering on his students. I’ll be rooting for Thetford Academy, my alma mater, but I’ll be watching from afar, streaming the game online.

Down here in North Carolina, people often ask me, “What kind of sports do people like up in Vermont? Hockey? Curling?” Our best athletes are skiers and snowboarders, I tell them, but Vermonters absolutely love basketball. This gets all kind of reactions, and when they inevitably ask if the basketball is any good, I just go with, “it sure is exciting.”

I’ve been to high school basketball championships here, played in the huge arenas of the ACC. Even if 10,000 people show up, you can still see swaths of empty seats. I always think, I bet these kids would love to play in the Aud.

Good luck Oxbow, but go Panthers.


Burlington, N.C.