The following post was originally published in the Windham Independent and is being with permission by the author, Kathryn Bates, Principal of Windham Center School
Background In 1939
Windham Center School opened its doors as Windham’s first public elementary school, Windham Grade School. At that time, Windham Center School had a total of three classrooms. As the years went by and the population of the town grew, renovations were completed at the school that included the addition of a gym and several classrooms. After the last renovation in 2000, Windham Center School was designed to accommodate 472 students (WSD Facilities Study, 2011); however, over the last five years, WCS enrollment has averaged between 630 and 750 students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2000), a school is overcrowded “when the number of students enrolled in the school exceeds the number of students the school was designed to accommodate.”
Currently there are 743 third, fourth, and fifth grade students enrolled at Windham Center School. Our students are housed across two separate campuses: Center School and Windham High School. There are 32 regular education grade level classrooms for grades three through five. The average class size for each grade level includes: Grade 3 at 21, Grade 4 at 24, and Grade 5 at 25.
The most significant impact of overcrowding at Windham Center School is the fact that our students are housed across two campuses. Four of our third grade classrooms are currently at Windham High School. In addition, class sizes are above the NH state average of 19 for grades three and four, and 20 for grade five. WCS has no designated space for art, music, band, physical therapy, English as a second language, or computer. Staff members often share small instructional spaces throughout the school. For example, seven response to intervention staff share a single small location. In addition, programs such as enrichment and foreign language were eliminated six years ago due to capacity issues. There is simply no additional physical space available to accommodate the current enrollment at Center School.
Other effects include a strain on current services such as administration, guidance and special education. Travel time between campuses, for students and staff, reduces available instructional time. In addition, Center School relies on four Golden Brook School teachers to provide gym, art, and music classes for our four third grade classes at Windham High School. There is also a lack of adequate parking. During the course of the day, and when events such as open house occur at the Center School campus, families and volunteers find they must park along the road, across the street, and across the intersection. This presents safety concerns and causes significant traffic flow issues at dismissal time and during events.
Plans Implemented to Alleviate/Mitigate
Windham Center School has already initiated numerous plans to help alleviate/mitigate the impact of overcrowding. Most notably, Windham Center School houses four third grade classrooms, and associated support services, at Windham High School. In addition, band takes place on the stage, some concerts take place in the WHS auditorium, art and music are on carts, and response to intervention and English as a second language take place in various spaces throughout the school (one space being utilized is a stair landing). A former classroom space was converted into five dedicated spaces for special education, and a former conference room and two staff bathrooms were converted into a single special education space. Parking spaces have been added along the rear driveway for staff/parents, and plans to move the rear fence, add additional parking spaces, and move the paved playground area to behind the playground equipment have been proposed. Other plans include a request to extend the front driveway in order to alleviate the dismissal and event traffic congestion.
Conclusion and Next Steps
As noted by a parent on the WCS Facebook page, Windham Center School is a school “for children and about the children; the way it should be.” This is our primary focus. We continue to provide for the needs of our students, but do so under the constraints of our capacity issues. Our next steps are dependent upon any construction that may take place to alleviate this serious issue. Barring construction, we will need to examine how our classrooms are configured and likely need to further increase class size. Windham Center School simply has no available and usable space left.
Architects and Engineers Finalizing Cost Estimates For Renovation and Addition to Golden Brook School and Windham Middle School
On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 7pm Banwell Architects and Eckman Engineering will present preliminary cost estimates of two proposed addition and renovation plans for Golden Brook School and Windham Middle School. The plans are intended to alleviate the overcrowding that has been plaguing the Windham School District for the last five years.
Windham LINK attended the joint meeting of the School Board and the Building & Grounds Committee last week during which Banwell Architects presented several options that were subsequently narrowed down to two; Option C Prime and Option D. Option C Prime includes the purchase of four acres of land adjacent to GBS and more readily allows for future expansion. Option D reuses several components of the existing GBS building and has a more compact floor plan.
Banwell noted the options presented last Tuesday included 3,000 square feet more program space than the School Board originally requested. This program space was added based on reviews by the Administration and to accommodate special education needs. Including the additional space will increase core capacity essential space (ie: circulation and large gathering areas), which need to be addressed. Banwell also proposed that one new gym should be built to align with the Department of Education recommended size of 7,000 sq. ft, versus the originally requested 6,000 sq. ft. gym.
Final cost estimates will also include renovations and a possible addition to Windham Middle School. Ultimately, the solution being proposed will result in Golden Brook School transitioning from a 600-student school (currently grades K-2) to a school with 1,000+ students (grades Pre-K - 4). The following is our understanding of the proposed Option C Prime and Option D that are specific to Golden Brook School.
Option C Prime
It was clear during the meeting that Option C Prime was preferred by the architects and Administration. Both Tina McCoy, our Interim Superintendent of Schools, and Ken Eyring, Chairman of the School Board, expressed their concern for the enormous overcrowding and the serious problem our District is facing.
Please attend the School Board meeting on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 7pm in the Community Development Room to see initial drawings and hear preliminary cost estimates for the plans.
Site Walk at GBS Followed by Joint Meeting of Building & Grounds Committee and School Board Today at 6:15 PM
There is a joint meeting of the Building and Grounds Committee and the School Board tonight, October 6, 2015. The meeting begins with a non-public session followed by a Site Walk and Renovation Discussion at 6:15 PM at Golden Brook School.
The meeting will continue at 7:00 PM at the Community Development Department. It is our understanding that the architects working on the addition and renovation to Golden Brook School and Windham Middle School will be present at the meeting.
Agenda items include:
*The Estimator is a document that was created during the planning phases of Option 2, which is what the renovation/addition to GBS was previously referred to as. It was used by the Citizens Facilities Committee to estimate costs based on square footage, class size, and a variety of other factors.
Your Link to Responsible Education in Windham
Welcome to Windham LINK and the start of the 2015/2016 school year. All of us at Windham LINK would like to thank our readers for your comments, feedback, and support over the last several years. As you know, we are an independent organization with no affiliation to the School Board, school administration or political organizations. We are parents and members of the community who, like you, believe that we need to understand and be engaged with issues involving education in Windham.
We believe that we should be responsible to our children and provide outstanding educational opportunities today and in the future.
We believe that we should be responsible to ourselves as taxpayers and ensure that we are as efficient and effective as possible with our school expenditures, with particular emphasis on smart short and long term planning.
We believe that we should be responsible to the people of Windham and to our reputation as a highly desirable community in which to live.
Please take a moment to visit our website and sign-up for our e-newsletter or follow us on Facebook. Together, we can make a difference.
JOIN US AT THE NEXT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2015 at the WINDHAM HIGH SCHOOL at 7PM.
Wishing all of you and your children a fantastic school year!
The July 21, 2015 School Board meeting was scheduled as a workshop meeting with the newly appointed Building and Grounds Committee to discuss facilities survey questions. Board members Ken Eyring, Daniel Popovic-Muller and Tom Murray were present.
The meeting began with the announcement that Panorama, the Boston-based survey company the Board voted to contract with on June 2, 2015 (3-2, Breton and Senibaldi opposed) and again on July 7, 2015 (3-1, Breton opposed), has backed out of working with the Windham School District. The Board indicated that they were looking for another survey company.
School Board Chair Ken Eyring stated that the reason for the meeting was to figure out the purpose of the survey and what the town is willing to support. School Board member Daniel Popovici-Muller stated that he would like to present the public with a base option and then see what residents are willing to pay over and above that.
A member of the Building and Grounds Committee said that he is skeptical about starting with a questionaire to the public to figure out what the threshold is for education. He expressed concern that the survey discussion has already pushed back the timeline for moving forward with a facilities plan by 2 months, from September 1 to November 1. Other Committee members weighed in on the survey and offered suggestions for questions.
Mr. Pratte, the newly hired Windham School District Facilities Manager, weighed in about the overcrowding in the Windham School District. He stated that there are Life Safety issues in the District noting that, “If you increase the Middle School by twenty or so kids, theoretically the state may come in and shut us down. We are at the point where the major part of the Life Safety concern is because of the capacity issue.”
Members of the public commented on the need for a survey. One resident addressed the Board and said, “We have elected you to lead. I want you to do your work, do your research, and make a decision. I do not understand why we are waiting again and again for survey questions to go out there.”
After hearing additional public input, the Board decided not to pursue a facilities survey. They agreed that the next step should be to choose an architect to begin further vetting Option 2.
The next School Board Meeting is Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at the Windham Town Hall.
At the July 13, 2015 Windham School Board meeting, the Board voted to hire Dr. Tina McCoy as the Interim Superintendent of Schools, through June 30, 2016. (Vote: 4-1, Dennis Senibaldi opposed)
Dr. McCoy is the owner and Executive Director of McCoy Educational Consulting and was previously employed by the Windham School District as Director of Student Services for eight years.
School Board Chair, Ken Eyring indicated that he'd like the search for a permanent Superintendent to begin sooner rather than later. Daniel Popovici-Muller said he would like the process to begin in early fall, depending on when the Board gets a recommendation of when the proper time to conduct the search would be. Rob Breton noted that he would like to see the District utilize a search firm to assist in the process for a permanent Superintendent because he doesn't believe the five school board members are qualified to evaluate the proper candidate like a professional who does that for a living would be able to.
For a transcript of some of the individual Board member comments please click here.
The next public School Board meeting is scheduled for July 21, 2015 at 7:00 PM at the Community Development Department located at 3 N. Lowell Road in Windham
There is a School Board meeting today, July 9, 2015 at 2:30 PM at the SAU 95 Office on Rte 111 in Windham.
The only agenda item listed under Main Issues/Policy Updates is Minutes from the non-public meeting July 6, 2015.
It is our understanding that the Board sealed the minutes from the July 6 meeting for 50 years, so we are uncertain what will transpire today.
The Board has not yet announced who will be the interim superintendent and did indicate that a decision could be reached as early as this week. There may or may not be an update at today's meeting.
Please attend if you are available at 2:30 PM today.
At the June 30, 2015 School Board meeting, the Board appointed Kori Becht as the acting Superintendent of Schools, effective July 1, 2015. Mrs. Becht was previously the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and will serve in this appointed position until an Interim Superintendent is selected.
The candidates for interim Superintendent are Adam Steel, Tina McCoy and Jeffrey Herr. Mr. Steel is currently the Director of Business, Finance and Operations for the Windham School District. Dr. McCoy is the owner and Executive Director of McCoy Educational Consulting. Mr. Herr is employed as the Head of School and Senior Regional Director of K12 Middle East.
On June 23, the public had an opportunity to question the three candidates during a public forum at Windham High School. On Monday, June 29, Mr. Herr traveled from Utah to Windham and was interviewed by the School Board. On that day, he also met with several residents in an unpublicized Meet and Greet. Subsequent Meet and Greets for Mr. Herr were held on Tuesday, June 30.
There is a non-public School Board meeting scheduled for June 6, 2015. The next public School Board meeting is on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at 7:00 PM at the Community Development Department located at 3 N. Lowell Road.
Superintendent Candidate Update
One of the interim superintendent candidates, Jeffrey Herr, is in Windham to meet with the School Board. The School Board sent an AlertNow to School District parents late Monday night informing the public that there will be a second Meet and Greet (there was one held today that was not publicized) on Tuesday morning, June 30, at 7:30am at the Village Bean in Windham.
Mr. Herr is one of three interim candidates. The School Board has indicated that it will afford the other two candidates, Mr. Adam Steel and Dr. Tina McCoy, an opportunity to meet the public later this week.
School Board Meeting
There is a School Board Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 7 PM in the SAU Conference Room. (The SAU is located on Rte 111.) The only item on the Agenda is Administration Contracts. The meeting will be recorded but not televised live. Please attend or watch for a LINK update later this week.
If you benefit from the information provided by Windham LINK, please let your friends and neighbors know and follow us on FB for more updates. Thank you for taking the time to be informed.
Windham LINK attended the June 2 and June 9 School Board meetings. The following is an update based on our understanding of the proceedings.*
It has come to the attention of the public that there has been a delay in issuing contracts to the Windham School District Administrators, who would typically expect to see their contracts in April or early May with a July 1 start date. Administrators (which include Directors) are part of the non-union pool of School District employees. They have been working with the District to amend the terms of their compensation and benefits for over a year.
At the June 2 meeting, Dennis Senibaldi made a motion “to approve the signing of Administrator's contracts, as they currently are, with revisions to happen as soon as possible that are considered fair and equitable by Administrators and the District.” The motion was seconded by Rob Breton. The motion failed 2-3. (Tom Murray, Daniel Popovici-Muller, Ken Eyring opposed.)
At the June 9 meeting, the Board took action to direct the Superintendent to issue signed contracts to the Administrators with benefit packages at the status quo and with no more than a 3% raise (herein referred to as “current contracts”). Subsequent to that action, there will be negotiations between Board and Administrator representatives, which, if successful, will result in new contracts with new benefit and salary parameters, and the current contracts will be null and void. If the negotiations are not successful, then the current contracts will be revised to reflect raises (3% +/-), based on merit increases recommended by the Superintendent.
On June 2, the Board discussed conducting a survey to gather information about education issues and public opinion about facilities. Preliminary quotes for the survey range from $8,300 - $27,000, depending on the scope of outreach. Based on these quotes, the Board voted 3-2 to move forward with the survey with Panorama Education as proposed. (Rob Breton, Dennis Senibaldi opposed.)
On June 9, former School Board member Jerome Rekart addressed the Board and offered to conduct a survey on behalf of the District at no cost. Dr. Rekart is the Director of Research and Analytics at College for America at SNHU. He suggested this would be a fiscally prudent use of local resources. He also spoke of the potential to bring together former and current School Board members.
Center School Roof
Business Administrator, Adam Steel, along with Russo Bar, a professional firm hired by the District, recommended the replacement of Windham Center School roofs sections “C & E” this summer. On June 2, a motion was made by Dennis Senibaldi, "to replace the roofs as outlined by the Business Administrator for Windham Center School roof sections C & E.” The motion was seconded by Rob Breton. After discussion, the motion failed 1-4. (Tom Murray, Daniel Popovici-Muller, Ken Eyring, Rob Breton opposed.)
Interviews of potential Superintendent candidates will begin this week. If the Board does not find a suitable candidate, they will appoint an acting or interim Superintendent. There has been extensive public input encouraging the Board to appoint an interim Superintendent, rather than going through a search process.
On June 2, Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said that he does not want the Board to underestimate the job at hand. He stated, “It is a complex job”, and went on to say the Board should, “be mindful that as much transition time as you can give whoever comes in is going to be beneficial to the District as well as the person.”
Golden Brook School Facilities/Option 2+
During the June 2 meeting, Tom Murray asked that other professionals be brought into the Option 2 review process. A motion was made by Dennis Senibaldi "to move forward with Phase 2 of Option 2 as prescribed by the Business Administrator." The motion failed 3-2. (Tom Murray, Daniel Popovici-Muller, Ken Eyring opposed.)
Phase 2 would be for the Board to authorize the Administration to engage an architect, civil engineer, and construction manager to develop potential conceptual designs for Option 2, choose a preferred conceptual design and obtain input and to further develop the design, site plan, and project budget by September 1, 2015 for a total of $87,500 (Note: These monies were approved in the FY2016 budget that was passed in March 2015.)
On June 2, a second motion was made by Tom Murray "to engage groups B & C with K-8 educational experience and disclose that they have worked for or with any school board member in the past." The motion passed 4-1. (Dennis Senibaldi opposed.)
During an update on June 9, it was reported that two other firms have agreed to meet with the District on a pro-bono basis and provide input on Option 2. The timeline for Phase 2 has been pushed back to October, 2015.
The next School Board Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 7 PM.
For more information, please visit www.WindhamLINKtoEducation.com.
*Meeting Minutes and video recordings are available on the SAU95.org website under the School Board tab.
We welcome your comments, but you must be a real person. Please provide your first and last name. Any comments that are not viewed as appropriate by LINK will not be approved. Thank you!