Following the Whitingham School Board reorganization at the beginning of the meeting, the board elected Seth Boyd and Aimee Reed to serve as representatives to the Twin Valley board. Thanks to a slight drop in the number of Whitingham students attending Twin Valley, the town’s representation dropped from three to two. Last year, for the first time, Twin Valley had a six-member board with three members from each town. John Doty, who served as one of the three Whitingham representatives over the last year, won’t be a voting member of the board this year. “I think there will still be plenty for me to do,” said Doty, who serves on several of the board’s subcommittees.
After their reorganization, Wilmington board members voted to return Phil Taylor, Dennis Richter, and Adam Grinold to the Twin Valley Board.
Twin Valley Board members elected Boyd for another term as chair.
Several Searsburg students will be returning to Twin Valley from Halifax this week, board members learned. The students had been riding on a bus operated by Barry Gerdes, but with Gerdes’ recent death, there’s no transportation from Searsburg to Halifax school.
Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Business Manager Karen Atwood said the Searsburg School Board is currently paying parents mileage for transporting students within a 20-mile radius, but they’re anxious to find transportation for students. Atwood asked board members what Twin Valley would do to accommodate Searsburg students.
Board members discussed several options, but decided against sending a Twin Valley bus to the top of Searsburg Mountain to pick up students at the Searsburg Town Office. “I would hesitate to ask our bus drivers to go to the top of Searsburg,” said Boyd. “That’s something Barry was willing to do.”
Board members eventually agreed that Searsburg students could meet the Twin Valley bus at the Medburyville Bridge, an existing bus stop near the Wilmington/Searsburg town line.
Atwood also updated the board on the school’s end-of-year financial picture. Several weeks ago, Atwood warned that the school was in a financial squeeze, thanks in part to tuition revenue that was below that anticipated in the budget. Searsburg will be billed on a pro-rated basis for the students returning to Twin Valley, and purchases have been curtailed since the announcement, but Atwood warned that the budget will still be tight right down to the end of the year. Board members asked if there should be additional limitations on spending.
Twin Valley Elementary School Principal Rebecca Fillion questioned whether every purchase needed to be vetted before it’s approved. “We’ve been very careful, but when we needed guppies to run the science unit, we spent $20 on guppies.”
Doty suggested that some purchases might be made more inexpensively outside the usual institutional channels. “If you purchase a book from Amazon, it’s got to be less than buying it directly from a publisher,” he said.
“Actually, I’m telling everyone I don’t want to see anything from Amazon anymore,” Atwood said. “Someone buys a $10 book from Amazon, and it’s $16 with the shipping. I’m telling people to go to Bartleby’s, where you can probably get it for $10 and there’s no shipping.”
Board members eventually decided to leave it to the administration to scrutinize purchase orders. “As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t be managing every purchase,” said Boyd.
Taylor updated the board on construction progress at the middle/high school. He said everything is on schedule according to the contractors. “At least, that’s what they keep telling us, but we want to see things move faster,” he said. “We’ve told them there’s no option for a late opening. The gymnasium may be finished a month after school starts, but I think that was always the plan.”
The interior renovation of the existing middle school rooms is nearing completion, Taylor said, and middle school classes are scheduled to move into their new quarters after spring break. At that time, work will commence on the former elementary pod and other rooms now occupied by the middle school.
Taylor said work in the former gymnasium is also nearing completion. “The media arts center is close to completion, and so is the auditorium,”
Steel framing is being erected for the art and industrial arts building located behind the existing school, framing is up for the gymnasium, and the administrative wing at the front of the school is framed and nearly enclosed.
Taylor said the project was also on budget, but he also noted that the building committee has been holding off on some nonessential expenditures. At some point, he said, the committee will have to commit to some of the options in the budget, with the hope that there won’t be any unexpected expenses or cost overruns.
Richter urged the board to upgrade the school district’s websites to match the upgrades at the buildings. Board members agreed, noting that many of the pages on the site aren’t updated. “I think if every board member spent some time poking around on the website, we’d all want to hold an emergency meeting,” said Grinold.
Grinold said the page should be a key element of the school’s image, not only for current students, parents, and community members, but also for prospective tuition students and people considering a move to the area. “Just take the main page for example,” he said. “There’s no picture of Devin Logan, an Olympic alumnus. And it’s not that they’re not proud of Devin Logan, it’s how little they care about the platform. It looks like it was designed by a committee.”
Several solutions and strategies were proposed, and Richter and Grinold volunteered to serve on a committee or work with any group that aims to update and streamline the site.