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June 22. 2014 8:07PM

Nashua School Board spars over spending on counselor positions for high schools

NASHUA — After cutting two high school guidance counselor positions to reduce the 2015 school budget and then adding them back, BOE members voted to recommend hiring two interim directors of guidance, one for each high school.

The BOE’s Human Resources Committee voted 2 to 1 to recommend moving two members of the district’s guidance department into supervisory roles at salaries of $79,000 and $82,000. If approved by the full board, the two new directors will replace former Director of Guidance Maureen O’Dea who earned $85,000 overseeing the departments of both schools as well as other programs.

Human Resources Committee Chairman Sandra Ziehm voted against hiring a guidance director at Nashua North, saying the district cannot afford it. During the budget review, it was Ziehm who originally proposed reducing the guidance staff. While that motion passed, it was later rescinded when the board opted not to hire two new elementary school teachers to reduce class sizes. Ziehm has consistently supported channeling district resources to classrooms and teachers, particularly at Nashua’s elementary schools.

While she praised both candidates, Ziehm objected to the $27,000 hike in salary that would come with the position at Nashua North.

“That’s more than a 50 percent raise at a time when we cannot afford to pay a paraeducator $13,000,” said Ziehm who reminded board members that they have been under fire for school spending in light of declining assessment test scores.

“I cannot imagine you would give someone with four or five years experience almost the identical money you are giving someone with 24 years experience, and that is the case with these two guidance directors,” she said. “This board continues to disappoint me in that it is willing to pay these salaries even though the public has clearly said it cannot afford it, and it don’t want us to do it.”

Ziehm voted to recommend approving the second candidate at a salary of $82,000 which represents about a $10,000 or 10 percent increase in pay.

Fellow board member Dotty Oden said she understood those concerns, but added the board did not have many choices.

“We lost one director of guidance because it was a job that even superman couldn’t perform,” she said.

Oden added that it was best, at this point, to have two directors who know the students and are aware of the many changes in scheduling and grading taking place at both high schools.

“These are the two who stepped up,” said Oden.

This year, the budget for Nashua North’s guidance department was $600,227, which included salaries for eight counselors and three administrative assistants. In comparison, the school spent $885, 136 on salaries for math teachers.

Nashua South’s guidance budget was $790,597 which included eight counselors and four secretaries. The school paid $995,683 to its science teachers.

During the budget review, the board agreed to cut one secretary from each of guidance departments.

btaromina@newstote.com


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