Front Page Candia Deerfield Northwood Nottingham This Week's Poll

Withdrawal from a School Administrative Unit (SAU) -School Article #3

Steve Soreff, MD
Start Date:Issue Date:
With all the School and Town Warrant Articles (WA) on the Ballot June 8, 2021, this is one in the series of articles about the Warrant Articles. The purpose of these reports is based on the idea that the more informed the voters are, the better the decisions they make. This article is about Nottingham School WA #3. All the Nottingham School Warrant Articles can be found on the SAU 44 website.

Warrant Article 3 reads: "Shall the School District accept the provisions of RSA 194-C providing for the withdrawal from a school administrative unit involving school districts of Nottingham and Northwood in accordance with the provisions of the proposed plan? (3/5 majority vote is required.)"

To find out more about the Article, this reporter interviewed Debbie Ricker,
Community Member, Nottingham SAU Planning Committee on Friday, June 4, 2021. Ricker talked about what has led up to this article. It began about two years ago when the town of Strafford initiated its plans to withdraw from School Administrative Unit (SAU) 44. Up till then the SAU was comprised of three towns - Northwood, Nottingham and Strafford. At that point, the SAU had a staff of about 15 and was paying an annual office rental space for about $50,000 of which Nottingham was paying about 40% of these costs. With Strafford withdrawing, leaving just the two towns, Nottingham would now be paying about 55% of the SAU’s costs.

Strafford’s leaving prompted this Nottingham response. On the March 10, 2020 election ballot was Warrant Article 10. This called for the creation of a committee to study the advisability of Nottingham to withdraw also and become its own SAU and as dictated by RSA 194-C. The voters approved that article which designated a 7 member Nottingham SAU Planning Committee consisting of 4 from the community, 2 from the school board and 1 budget committee along with a non-voting representative of the SAU Superintendent. Here is a list of the members, when they served and from what organization. Scott Reuning, SAU #44 Superintendent, non-voting member (April-August, 2020), Dr. Monica Henson, SAU #44 Interim Superintendent, non-voting member (August 2020-present), Susan Levenson, School Board Member, Kelley Gordon, School Board Member (April-October, 2020), Christine Dabrieo, School Board Member (October 2020-present), John Decker, Budget Committee Representative, Karyl Martin, Community Member, Gail Mills, Community Member, Debbie Ricker, Community Member, and Jason Spearin, Community Member.

The committee started meeting in April, 2020. On November, 23, 2020, it by Zoom held a public hearing meeting to present the report and recommendations to the public. Immediately following the hearing, the committee voted unanimously to recommend withdrawal from the SAU, with estimated cost savings of $150,000 annually. It sent this report and recommendation to the New Hampshire State Board of Education. In December 2020, the NH State Board of Education unanimously approved the committee's Withdrawal Plan. Here is the Committee's full report.

Ricker made the following points about this article. First, “having a Nottingham SAU ensures that the sole focus of our SAU is on Nottingham students, therefore every dollar spent on a Nottingham SAU would be directed toward Nottingham student outcomes.” Second, “withdrawal from SAU #44 has no impact on the Nottingham School District's high school contracts with Dover High School and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, as these contracts are with the District itself not the SAU.  Students would continue to have their choice of high school.” And third, “withdrawal from SAU #44 also does not sever the agreement with Northwood to continue as part of the Joint SAU Preschool. Both Nottingham and Northwood districts have agreed to continue participation in the preschool, and to notify each other prior to each budget season if that were to change for the upcoming school year. This does not preclude Nottingham School District from offering Preschool locally if/when space becomes available.”

She added, if approval of this article occurs a transition committee would then be formed to manage the planning of Nottingham’s own SAU with a separation date of June 30, 2022, from SAU 44. She also noted the committee prepared 3 informational videos explaining the SAU study and its recommendation for withdrawal. Video 1, Video 2, and Video 3. She concluded with reiterating that separating from SAU 44, which is the subject of School Warrant # 3, was unanimously recommended by the committee.