Souhegan school board will look at budget cuts

AMHERST – In the wake of an election that saw the high school’s operating budget approved, but just barely, the Souhegan Cooperative School Board is trying to put together a plan to reduce next year’s spending.

At its March 25 meeting, the board voted unanimously to direct schools Superintendent Adam Steel to do a feasibility assessment of advanced placement courses. The idea, said board members, would be to make AP offerings more efficient, but not necessarily reduce the number of courses.

“The last thing we want to do is diminish educational quality,” said Amy Facey during the long discussion. She compared it to advice about cleaning out a garage – take everything out and only put back what you want to teach and dispose of what you’ve outgrown the need for.

That’s a good metaphor, said Principal Rob Scully, but over the past six years, that’s what the high school has been doing.

There was also talk about sharing AP courses with Hollis Brookline High School, and Scully said they have been working a lot with Hollis Brookline administrators to do that.

Board Chairman Jim Manning had asked the superintendent to look at what a $904,000 budget decrease would be like, and it amounts to about 5 percent.

That would mean school officials will have to look at “what will we not do that we do today,” Steel said, and the only other way to keep the offerings the same is for teachers to teach more courses, which is an issue for contract negotiations.

Souhegan offers AP courses in a number of areas, including English literature,U.S. history, human geography, calculus, statistics, chemistry and environmental science, physics, French and Spanish and computer science.

Board member David Chen asked about class sizes and enrollment projections, and Steel said the number of students, now at about 740, is projected to stay “fairly level” over the next six years.

Former board member Dwayne Purvis urged them not to cut extra-curricular activities – “if you do, you’ll need more police.”

On Facebook, he said, people are suggesting cuts to the arts and even to English, and the board needs to “do a better job of letting the public know what’s going on.”

The board will continue the discussion at its April meeting.