by Janine Lesser
Chair, ConVal School Board
The day to vote on the 2023-24 ConVal budget is March 14th in your local polling place. All households in the nine towns in our regional school district will receive an annual flyer with the budget and the warrant articles, and information on your voting locations and times. We sincerely hope you will make the commitment to vote for the school budget on the 14th — our students are counting on you.
We all know it’s crucial we make good decisions. If you have children enrolled in the district schools, if you are a community-oriented person who believes in investing in our children, or if you are simply thinking about real estate values and taxes, the school budget vote makes us sit up and pay attention.
But the issues are complicated and straightforward, understandable facts can sometimes be hard to come by. The ConVal School Board would like to offer some information that we believe is important to your decision. The Board has posted a series of articles on the ConVal School Board website. The information includes the proposed 2023-2024 budget, a PowerPoint including highlights of the proposed budget, the warrant, a sample ballot, an explanation of the trust funds, and information on how property taxes are determined. You can find that information here: schoolboard.convalsd.net/budget.
There is a Community Forum on March 6th at 6:00 PM in Lucy Hurlin Theatre, whose subject will be the proposed budget. The Forum is live-streamed at this link: youtube.com/c/ConValEvents. You will be able to find the recording on YouTube, after March 6th. You can also contact your school board representative with questions, those representatives are also listed under the school board link.
The ConVal 2023-2028 Strategic Plan is now finished and approved and moving into implementation. You can find the plan in the “Quicklinks” section of the ConVal website under the heading “District Strategic Plan 2028.”
Included in the proposed budget is the ability to begin the work of reaching our identified student-centered outcomes. The increase in the budget is at 1.35% — an accomplishment during these challenging economic times. Kudos to the school and SAU administration: their hard work and ability to balance student needs and taxpayer limits was accomplished through skill and creativity.
Public education is facing challenges across the country. ConVal has fared better than most but the ever-decreasing state funding and an onslaught of legislation and unfunded mandates present serious barriers.
Despite this reality, our schools continued to gain recognition and awards. In academics and the arts, last year alone, the ConVal High School Choir won a Gold Medal and the ConVal High School Band won a Platinum Medal at the Great East Music Festival (well-deserved!!). A ConVal High School student won first prize at the New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival, “Everest to End Duchenne.” Juniors and seniors achieved: 15 AP Student Performance and 4 Scholars With Honors Awards; 4 Scholastic Writing and 35 Scholastic Arts Awards; 2 National Merit Scholarship Commendations.
The GBS and SMS Robotics teams respectively won First Place and participated in the World Championships in Dallas. A ConVal Applied Technology Center student garnered the Best Overall Project award from the New Hampshire Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANH).
ConVal students also demonstrated good citizenship, winning the First Prize in the American Legion Oratorical Contest and the DAR Good Citizen Award. Two high school students received the Peter R. Marsh Foundation Silent Servant Award in the fall.
Our sports teams brought home their share of honors as well, among them the Division 3 State Championships, Middle School Girls Cross Country, teams A & B; SMS Boys Soccer, 2nd in Tri-County Championship; ConVal High School Lacrosse WMUR Hometown Hero Award; Athletic All-State Honors for ConVal High School Boys Soccer, Golf, Girls Field Hockey, Soccer and Volleyball; the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Sports Awards (ConVal High School Soccer and Volleyball); Keene Sentinel Player of the Year Awards Soccer and Volleyball; Keene Sentinel Player of the Week Honors Boys Soccer, Football and Girls Volleyball. And just weeks ago, two Cougar alpine skiers qualified for the NHIAA Division II Meet of Champions.
Our staff are great, too, and were recognized for their excellence this past year: ConVal staff received the School Librarian of the Year Award and the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education Technology Impact Award. The Applied Technology Center was recognized by the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers with the Program of the Year Award. ConVal High School’s soccer coach received the Division II Soccer Coach of the Year Award, and a Great Brook School teacher was a semi-finalist for the honor of New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.
Beyond classroom learning, our students enjoy expanded educational opportunities with a variety of community and state-based organizations: the Harris Center for Conservation Education; Lab Girls; the Cornucopia Project; and New Hampshire Fish and Game.
There are cooperative partnerships with the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF); Keene State College; the Community College System of New Hampshire; Upward Bound; Career Day; and Stem Fest UNH.
Our students are matched in Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) and internships with a wide variety of local employers. They engage with service organizations like the Rotary, the Lions Club, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. They also regularly connect with local emergency management departments, fire departments, and police departments; local libraries and senior centers; and community organizations like the River Center and the Grapevine.
In addition to classroom visits by a wide variety of local artists, such as writer-illustrator Marty Kelley and Cy Montgomery, our students also get to expand their physical education and movement skills through artist–in-residency programs like those offered by the Wunderle’s Big Top Adventures Circus and the New Hampshire Dance Institute (NHDI).
Music enrichment activities are provided by Monadnock Music, the Temple Band, and Electric Earth Concerts. At the high school level, student writers and photographers gain valuable experience through their collaboration with the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript by editing and publishing “The Link.” And for those who are interested in serving as first responders in their communities, ConVal offers EMT training, scenario-based firefighter training, and LNA certifications.
All of these expanded learning opportunities are designed to help connect our students to the nine towns that make up ConVal, explore the rich cultural resources in our district, and offer them pathways to their future careers.
Again, the budget for which we are asking support is conservative: the operating budget has a 1.35% increase over the current year’s budget. In the face of declining state revenues, the school board fully recognizes both its responsibility to taxpayers and to the children and families of these nine communities.
The need for an education that prepares our students for the rigors of independent and informed decisions and action in our democracy has never been greater. The Board is fully invested in comprehensively addressing one of our most pressing problems — managing the cost of education while maintaining excellence and equity in education for all students.
We hope that you agree and vote yes for the budget.