CHESTER – The Chester school board and interim superintendent Jim Gaylord are looking to work with the Derry school board and Derry Cooperative School District superintendent Laura Nelson to review their contracts with Pinkerton Academy and determine if they can work together to improve them.
Chester, along with Derry, Hampstead and Auburn, send their high school students to Pinkerton Academy in Derry by tuition.
The Chester school board has called foul on portions of its contract with the semi-private high school, most recently a provision that restricts contract renegotiation. While the school board has been clear that it is pleased with the way Pinkerton educates its students and that it does much of its work very well, the board is looking for more give and take in different aspects of their relationship.
Last year, according to chair Royal Richardson and Chester superintendent Jim Gaylord, attempts at renegotiating the district’s contract with Pinkerton met a brick wall. The contract was up for renewal, but according to Gaylord, Pinkerton responded to Chester’s request by saying the existing contract lacked language that would allow for negotiating its contents.
“They are a series of extensions,” said Richardson, adding that the document was full of archaic language and in many ways was unreasonable. Gaylord called them unilateral negotiations with the school, considering that the high school often asks to add additional students from non-sending towns, which to Gaylord is a form of contract renegotiation.
At the board’s July 17 meeting, Richardson explained that he and Gaylord had recently met with Nelson and Brenda Willis, chair of the Derry School Board, to discuss various issues both districts are facing. One of the items discussed was a shared desire to get together and review and compare the two entities’ Pinkerton contracts. Richardson asked the board for its approval to move forward.
Other issues Richardson noted as having arisen in the past between sending schools and Pinkerton were communication with the districts, handling of disciplinary issues, more input into decisions Pinkerton makes, and special education issues.
“The thing we all agreed on is that there could be areas of improvement,” said Richardson.
Richardson also noted that there were inconsistencies among sending towns’ contracts, including that Derry can renegotiate its contract. That was a surprise, he said, considering that all the towns are sending kids to the same school.
The effort will also likely involve the Chester district’s attorney. Richardson said he’s hoping that all sending districts work together to see if there are opportunities to move forward. The board gave its unanimous approval to move forward with the first stage of the discussions.