As I work through my eighth year of being the Superintendent of SAU 67, I find that much has changed. My first task in preparing this report was to edit the header to reflect our first year of implementing the partnership of our two districts. I believe this has been a positive change for both districts, and we continue to work through implementation issues and build toward a mutually beneficial future. I am careful to respect Dunbarton’s and Bow’s history and ways of working, while at the same time moving our two districts toward the common vision of caring for each person every day, focusing on learning and teaching to touch the future.
This year, under the guidance of Dr. Don Gage our Curriculum Director, we worked on developing strategic plans to identify projects and goals at the school, district and SAU level. We are working on system report cards that will accurately communicate organizational progress using a number of different measures. We have been encouraged to think of students as having plastic brains that can always learn and grow instead of having fixed intelligence that does not change. We are working to align instruction in our system using Curriculum Mapping and common standards. We are working on developing competency based education focusing on what students should know and be able to do and using rubrics to give students actionable feedback on how to improve their learning. We want to accurately tell students what they know and what they need to work on, and allow, as much as possible, for differentiation and individualization so that students can move on when they are ready.
As I travel around the state, I see that SAU 67 is seen as a leader. Bow High School is consistently ranked very high on a number of different factors and rankings. We have very supportive families and communities, we have strong leadership and administration, we have veteran and professional faculties and we have students who desire to work and to excel. Our task is to continue the quality of the system while looking for more cost efficient ways to deliver services.
The budget process for Dunbarton this year has been dominated by increases in Special Education costs, and dealing with a larger than average fund balance from the last year in SAU 19. The Dunbarton administrators have vision for improving instruction at the school and are forging ahead with increased professional development and differentiated services for students, while keeping an eye on the bottom line. The issue over continued obligations to Goffstown still remains unsettled and an appeal of the State School Board’s decision has been filed with the State Supreme Court.
In Bow, the operating budget as approved by the board and sent to the budget committee is tax neutral, which means that the increase in revenue from additional Hooksett and Dunbarton students offsets increases in proposed expenditures. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding special education and how to effectively supervise and administer those programs. With the replacement of the SAU Special Education Director due to retirement, there is a proposal to also restructure special education administration by adding a preschool- grade 8 coordinator.
However, there are ongoing negotiations with the Bow Educational Association representing teachers and the warrant could include costs items from a new Master Agreement. Also, a study of All Day Kindergarten was commissioned by the board and a petitioned warrant article could come forward regarding adding that program. As I write this, the budget committee and board are still in the process of finalizing their recommendations and both are conscious of the tax implications of proposed programs in light of the power plant assessment issues and possible town plans for facility improvements. Looking forward, it is very possible that the Bow Elementary School will need an update in the next decade. To that end there will be a warrant article to “pass through” a return of health insurance payments to a capital reserve fund for that future project.
We have two long serving administrators retiring this year. Dan Ferrreira will be leaving SAU 67 as Special Education Director, and Deb Winings will be leaving the principal positon at Bow Elementary School. Both of these employees have served our district well and cared for the children of Bow deeply. We have begun search processes to fill the positions, but we will never be able to replace the people.
We continue to work on innovation in all of our schools and will be working on a technology initiative to make 1:1 computing the norm in our schools. This will be a “game changer” and our approach to education will change as we consider ways that technology can help us deliver content to allow our face to face time to be devoted to more critical thinking and higher order collaboration, synthesis and processing.
In closing, there are many decisions to be made this year during our districts’ annual meetings. Bow and Dunbarton value education, and I’m sure our debates will be vigorous about how to best implement our present programs in light of costs and tax impacts, and there are a number of new programs proposed also. Please contact the SAU if you have specific questions about the budgets or warrants
Dean S.T. Cascadden
Superintendent SAU 67