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Resident Dan Ryan speaks at Dunbarton School District Meeting on Saturday, March 16, in favor of Dunbarton choosing Bow to educate approximately 200 middle and high schoolers. The majority of voters agreed with Ryan. (Kathy Remillard Photo)

Dunbarton: We choose Bow

More than 500 Dunbarton residents packed the School District Meeting Saturday, March 16, and voted to remove the town’s approximately 200 students from Goffstown’s middle and high schools and send them to Bow instead in 2014.

Article 3, which asked voters to approve an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) with Goffstown, was defeated 286-161. Voters then approved Article 4, which was to send Dunbarton’s students to Bow, by a vote of 298-101.

The move means a loss of $2 million in revenue to the Goffstown School District, which translates to a possible future tax hike of approximately $1.40 per $1,000 of property valuation, according to Budget Committee Chairman Peter Georgantas.

The Dunbarton Community Center, also the Dunbarton Elementary School’s gym and cafeteria, was filled to its 550-person maximum, according to Fire Chief Jon Wiggin – a turnout likely due to the heavily debated vote. At one point, it was announced that no one else would be permitted to enter the room.

“This is unprecedented, the number of people here,” said moderator Fred Mullen.

Voters debated the AREA issue for two hours before the vote was called, with some questioning the status of Goffstown’s Mountain View Middle School Principal Jim Hunt, whose resignation was announced the day before the vote.

Hunt was facing increasing criticism for allegedly creating a dysfunctional and hostile educational environment for faculty and staff, and some had speculated his resignation could prompt Dunbarton voters to stick with Goffstown.

The school district commissioned a consultant, at a cost of $35,500, to review the middle school’s problems and recommend solutions. Hunt did not participate in the consultant’s study.

Voters were mixed on whether Hunt’s resignation had an impact on the vote.

“I personally don’t think so,” said John Trottier. “I’ve had no problems with Mountain View.”

“I think it could have,” said David Schroeder, “but I don’t think it was discussed enough.”

Resident Theresa Williamson said she “did a happy dance” when she heard of Hunt’s resignation, but had still planned to vote in favor of Goffstown.

Goffstown High School senior Molly Goldstein earned applause from the audience after she spoke in favor of Goffstown.

Goldstein said she polled as many Dunbarton students as she could at school the day before, and arrived at the microphone with a stack of papers in hand, which included signatures from Dunbarton students who wanted to remain in Goffstown.

Goldstein praised Goffstown’s music and academic programs, its rigor, diversity and teachers.

“Our teachers – they care about us, they really do,” Goldstein said. “We’re not dollar signs, we’re not revenue.”

Williamson said she was disgusted by the vote, which she said will fragment the Dunbarton community.

“I’m devastated,” said resident Anne Carney. “I just felt we were so much of a community there.”

Those in favor of Bow spoke highly of its reputation and small size, even those that did not yet have school-aged children.

“We’re pleased,” said Allison Rees, who has a 20-month-old daughter. She said she prefers Bow because it is more convenient, but she likes the size of Goffstown schools.

“I’m responsible for my children’s education, no matter what school they go to,” said husband Scott Mills.

Beth Ayers said she was ecstatic about the outcome, citing a preference for Bow’s smaller size, its likeness to Dunbarton and academic reputation.

Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden attended the meeting and said he is looking forward to working to transition Dunbarton’s students into the Bow community.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to having Dunbarton as a partner.”

Cascadden said his district will work on a transition that will work for Dunbarton students and their families.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

The agreement between Bow and Dunbarton would take effect July 1, 2014, and many Dunbarton students would leave Goffstown’s schools in September 2014, though not all at once. Discussions will be under way for a phase-out of those students who want to graduate from Goffstown High School, officials have said.

Voters also approved all other warrant articles:

• The district’s operating budget of $5.4 million, which saw an increase from the floor of $50,000, to pay for a fifth-grade teacher position that had been cut;

• A three-year collective bargaining agreement for teachers;

• A $31,570 deposit to the Dunbarton School Capital Reserve Fund; and

• $1,000 for the Dunbarton Kitchen Equipment Fund.

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