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Sunday, March 17, 2013

In Hudson, it’s time to think outside the box for alternative revenue sources, School Board member says

HUDSON – Hudson School Board member Patty Langlais has been sounding the drum for change for three years now and promises she won’t stop beating until something gives.

After voters issued a resounding no to all six of the School District’s warrant articles on Tuesday, Langlais – who was re-elected to another three-year term on the board – said those in charge of the district must start thinking outside the box. ...

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HUDSON – Hudson School Board member Patty Langlais has been sounding the drum for change for three years now and promises she won’t stop beating until something gives.

After voters issued a resounding no to all six of the School District’s warrant articles on Tuesday, Langlais – who was re-elected to another three-year term on the board – said those in charge of the district must start thinking outside the box.

“It’s time we look for revenue outside our community. It’s coming to the point that we need to look for funding for things. … Stellos Stadium, for instance, they put signs all around and advertisers pay for that signage,” she said about the sports complex across the river in Nashua.

Langlais said these are her ideas and she doesn’t speak for the School Board.

Superintendent Bryan Lane said the results of Tuesday’s vote were disappointing, especially since the budget and teachers and support staff contracts were supported by the School Board and Budget Committee.

The $47.2 million default budget that will be implemented in place of the proposed spending plan put forth by the two bodies leaves a $500,000 shortfall for district administration and the School Board to deal with.

“I was hoping for a different outcome. … The vote is what it is,” Lane said. “We will work collectively together to determine the best way to get to the default budget and still meet the needs of our students.”

None of the district’s defeated warrant articles came close to passing. The biggest defeat was the article asking for $250,000 for a study for building improvements and grade reconfiguration. It failed by more than 1,700 votes.

Lane said he didn’t feel it was the details or monetary amounts in the teacher and support staff contracts that caused residents to shoot it down.

“Considering that on both the town side and the school side the warrant articles that had tax increases were all defeated, I don’t necessarily think it was the contract itself,” Lane said. “I think it was the sentiment of the voters who came to vote, and their voices are heard as the majority at this time.”

Significant cuts will have to be made districtwide, but Lane said it has to be done in a manner with the least impact on academic program.

He and other district administrators are meeting internally and will soon meet with principals to figure out the best way to tackle the $500,000 gap.

Once the details have been hammered out, recommendations will be made by district administration to the School Board, Lane said.

Langlais said other school districts are looking at different ways to help support the academic and extracurricular programs, and that Hudson needs to follow suit. She said the district’s budget is already bare bones, and she fears where the future will lead if something doesn’t change.

“People think it’s funny, but I make comments on the School Board, simply like this: ‘Today’s lunch brought to you by Birds Eye peas. The peas that everybody loves to eat.’ We need to start being creative and trying to come up with solutions to that effect,” Langlais said about her quest to find alternative funding for the School District.

She is aware of the potential resistance her ideas could experience from parents and community members regarding their concern of inundating students with advertising.

Langlais said any ads would have to be healthy and appropriate for school-age children and teens.

“I know people get the pushback, but if you’re not willing to open up your pocketbook – and I get why; people are out of their jobs – but then you also have to allow us to be creative,” she said.

Other ideas Langlais has include naming a computer lab after someone who donated computers to the district, which is a practice at higher education institutions. She said she has been asking the district to offer a pay-to-play – or as she prefers to call it, pay-to-participate – program since she moved to Hudson 20 years ago.

Langlais said creating such a system wouldn’t just cover sports, but all extracurricular activities and programs in the district. She pointed to the after-school enrichment program in the district elementary schools, which is paid for by parents and guardians. Once students reach the middle school, the system no longer exists, she said.

“It’s time to set fees and pay to participate,” Langlais said. “If you want to be in a club, you want to be in a group, there’s going to be a fee attached to that.

“What I want to make very clear is I am not out to exclude any child. If you can’t afford it, we will still make sure your child gets to participate. … But there are certainly plenty of people in Hudson who can pay to participate.”

Langlais said she’s ready to go to the Statehouse and start schmoozing elected officials to help enact change in Hudson.

“I’m not letting it go,” she said. “I’m going to push until it’s in place,” she said.

“If you don’t like it, what I encourage you to do is email me, call me, stop me when you see me. Don’t be a coward and thumbs-down me. I can’t respond to you.”

Erin Place can be reached at 594-6589 or eplace@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Place on Twitter (@Telegraph_ ErinP).