HAMPSTEAD – The Hampstead School Board raised a number of issues and had numerous questions for Pinkerton Academy, particularly in the area of enrollment and Pinkerton’s budget, and Headmaster Mary Anderson and Financial Administrator Glen Neagle arrived to provide the answers.
At the Tuesday, Jan. 28 School Board meeting, member Greg Hoppa asked for validation of Pinkerton’s rationale for increases in staff and programs in view of declining student enrollment. Chairwoman Natalie Gallo asked about plans for construction projects, and Jason Cipriano wanted information on how Pinkerton arrives at its per pupil cost for the sending towns and a look at Pinkerton’s strategic plan.
Hampstead students, along with those from Derry, Chester and Auburn, are tuitioned to the semi-private Pinkerton Academy in Derry for high school.
Anderson acknowledged a steady enrollment decline since the 2004-05 year, when student population was 3,411. In 2013-14 the student population was 3,013, or a loss of 424 students. She said projected enrollment shows a continued decline without the inclusion of Hooksett students, with a projected population of 2,489 students by 2019-2020.
She said the loss of 50 students would not result in staff reduction in regular education and would have minimal effect on textbook and supply expenses. Enrollment of 100 fewer students would lead to a reduction of five teachers, saving roughly $400,000 in salaries, benefits, books and supplies, but would also result in the loss of $1.1 million in reduced revenues.
As a result, Pinkerton has asked the sending towns to agree to allow the school to bring in more than the contractually allowed 75 outside students. She said 106 Hooksett eighth graders chose Pinkerton for their high school last month. A four-year contract is now in place for those freshmen to come to Pinkerton, and Hooksett is set to vote on a 10-year contract in March which, if approved, will stabilize the school’s population.
Anderson said the school also has six international students and is looking at expanding this program.
“A stable enrollment is the best control of program opportunity and tuition costs for taxpayers, parents and families,” Anderson said. “It is all about opportunities, and Pinkerton has over 300 course offerings, which is an above average high school offering. You are getting an above average education for the below state average per pupil cost of $10,467.53. We need to maintain a 3,000 population, which is the optimum enrollment, for the best educational opportunities.”
And as far as any further construction plans, Anderson said bluntly, “We’re through.”
Neagle told the board the salary increase is 2 percent, which includes a merit increase as well as new positions. He said Pinkerton plans to hire a full-time Technology Integration Specialist, two part-time CTE (Career and Technology Education) instructors – one for expanded cosmetology offerings and another for expanded Animal Science courses, a part-time para-educator in math, a full-time benefits coordinator, a full-time groundskeeper and a full-time campus monitor.
Neagle said health benefits are a huge issue, with many staff making changes, and an additional $80,000 had to be built into the budget. The school saves money by self-insuring.
He added that improved technology systems would add $150,000 in each of the next two years to the budget.
Neagle and Anderson assured Cipriano that all sending towns pay the same per-pupil amount. Anderson said the school starts each year with a zero-based budget and each line item is validated.
As for the strategic plan, Anderson said this was provided at the sending town meetings three times a year, which she encouraged all board members to attend.
In response to questions about Hampstead pupil data, she responded that whatever Hampstead wanted they could get, but noted the vast majority had already been supplied, either at the sending town meetings or sent directly to Hampstead. Gallo said she had never seen any such information in her years on the board.
Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson said she would check disks in her office.
The Pinkerton per pupil cost of $10,731.53 is well below the state average of $13,489.88 and below Timberlane at $12,793.28.