One parent at the meeting said she was concerned about parking at Twin Valley Elementary School, particularly after reading the latest school newsletter, which said that parents could be ticketed and fined for parking along Route 100. Although there’s more parking at the school than there was when it served just one town, it falls short of the number of spaces originally planned to accommodate parents from both towns. In an effort to deliver the project on time and on schedule, board members cut an additional parking area. Other parents have expressed concerns about the adequacy of parking for schoolwide events such as grandparents’ day and school open house.
School board chair Seth Boyd said two school committees were looking into the situation. “The building committee has discussed the parking lot itself, and what our opportunities for expanding it may be,” he said. “And the transportation committee is working on circulation and bus drop-off and pickup times. We have the same concerns as parents and staff have when everyone is here at the same time in the morning.” Boyd said there would be a short-term parking plan soon, but indicated that there would also be a long-term plan.
In other matters, the board discussed a letter from Dover School Principal Bill Anton proposing an afternoon preschool session for 3-year-olds from Wilmington and Whitingham. Board members said Twin Valley would have to bear the cost of full tuition for the program for the first year, but would eventually pay only the difference between state aid and Dover’s tuition price – about $161 per student using current figures.
According to board members, the tuition cost would be about $4,000 per student, and Dover would require a minimum of nine students, for a minimum expenditure of $36,000 the first year.
Board members agreed to investigate the proposal, but noted that there’s nothing in the budget to support it this year. “I think it’s an interesting proposal that deserves more study,” said board member John Doty. “We should meet with Rebecca (Fillion) and Bill Anton.”
Fillion said she was concerned about the program’s availability for families. “What if we go over their maximum?” she asked. “Will you have a lottery?” Fillion referred to last year, when a lack of space and time at the school led to a pre-K lottery, which caused an uproar among parents.
“That’s always fun,” said Doty.
“I’d also like to know more about what we might be on the hook for,” said board member Aimee Reed. “Is it just tuition, or will we be required to pay for other things, like teachers aides or special education.”
Fillion also urged a cautious approach. “We also have to think about our partnerships with our neighbors,” she said. “It would have an impact on child care providers. The 4-year-old program had an impact on them, a 3-year-old program would have a further impact on them.”
“So the bottom line is, not this year?” asked a parent.
“I think it would be difficult,” Boyd said. “But we’ll meet with Bill Anton to discuss it.”
The board also picked up their discussion regarding board members’ stipends that had been tabled at their previous meeting. At that meeting, the board noted that some districts pay board members as much as $50 per meeting, and that most Twin Valley board members don’t take advantage of the current stipends that are available. Some of the board members who do, donate the money back to the school for programs that need additional funding.
Board member Dwight Williams asked if the school board should ask the selectboards to weigh in on board members’ compensation. “I feel a little like Congress, raising our own salary,” he said. “It’s a little awkward. Maybe we could ask the selectboards to come up with a policy for what we want to do as a town.”
But Doty pointed out that selectboard members set their own salaries. “I think we’re within our right to set a rate that’s fair.”
Reed said that she thought the high pay received by at least one board was excessive. “$50 per meeting is somewhat ridiculous,” she said. “If you’re on the board to make money at it, you’re here for the wrong reason.”
Board members agreed. “I think we should keep it simple,” said Boyd. “I don’t think anyone is here for the money, but there are expenses, like travel. Nobody’s here because they needed a third job.”
Board member Adam Grinold suggested taking an average of other local boards, and setting that as Twin Valley’s base. Board members agreed, and also agreed to pay the money in a lump sum at the end of the year. “That will be available in bullion?” joked Grinold.
“Coupons,” quipped board member Phil Taylor.