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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hudson school warrant unchanged after meeting

HUDSON – There was a lot of discussion but no action, as voters didn’t change any of the school district’s spending proposals Saturday at its Deliberative Session.

The five proposed spending items that would finance next school year and pay teachers, paraprofessionals and other district employees will now face an up-or-down vote on the town election ballot next month.

A four-year teachers contract generated the most talk at the meeting, as a self-described “number-cruncher” presented recent student assessment scores to oppose giving educators raises.

Resident Richard Patterson ran his own slide show, highlighting results of the New England Common Assessment Program.

With students scoring weakly in several areas – including math and science – their performance should thus be tied to teacher pay, he said. Teachers shouldn’t receive step increases with their pupils underachieving, he said.

Should the contract pass in March, teachers will collectively receive a $587,094 increase in 2010, $382,545 in 2011 and $635,154 in 2012.

Several residents – including a couple of teachers – rejected Patterson’s remarks and said he had distorted the NECAP scores.

Charlotte Schweiss, a member of the Budget Committee, said she opposed the teachers’ contract proposal but considered changing her mind after hearing Patterson. She defended the district’s teachers, and said Patterson had attacked their integrity.

Patricia Peterson, an eighth-grade math teacher at Hudson Memorial School, also spoke out. Peterson said that on Friday, she pinned a Telegraph article summarizing the latest NECAP scores to a classroom wall and congratulated her students for progress. The school’s three grade levels had increased math scores by 10 points over the past three years, she said.

After the lengthy discussion, none of the dollar figures of the proposed teachers’ contract were changed. The same held true for proposed contracts for administrative personnel and other union employees.

Collective bargaining agreements for all union positions failed at the polls last year. The agreements appear again on this year’s ballot with no retroactive raises for the current school year.

Discussion didn’t last as long on the school district’s proposed $42.88 million operating budget.

Patterson applauded school officials and the Budget Committee for proposing a budget that he said could have been higher because, for the first time, the district must pay for kindergarten. State and federal financing backed kindergarten this school year, the first year that Hudson public schools offered the program.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com.