Teacher Jobs Restored After Angry Parents Rally

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, April 24, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Kate Portrie of Hampton, center, and other Hampton residents protest against the Hampton School Board before their meeting at Marston Elementary School in Hampton on Thursday. Portrie, who has one child currently at Hampton Academy and one who graduated from there, says, "I think the world of our teachers and our programs just the way they are."
[Scott Yates photo.]

HAMPTON -- The School Board decided Thursday night to reinstate five teaching positions slated to be eliminated as part of a plan to restructure Hampton Academy.

The board voted 3-2 to reverse its April 10 decision to eliminate the positions after nearly three hours of public comment from parents and teachers.

School Board members Sandra Nickerson and Charlotte Peppa Ring were the members who changed their initial votes.

As a result, Grade 8 teachers Sandra Tilton and Christina Hamilton, Grade 6 teacher Laura Bullard, consumer science teacher Joan Greenwood and Technical Education teacher Carole LePauloue have all been reinstated.

The board also voted to restore one art teacher and two foreign language art teachers back to full-time.

Previously, the board voted to reduce their hours.

Prior to the meeting, more than 200 parents and teachers protested the board's actions to reduce staff and change the school schedule.

Holding up signs stating "Our Children are not guinea pigs" and "Leave Our School Alone," parents said they were outraged the decisions were made without input from teachers or the community.

During the public comment period, parents expressed frustration about the way in which decisions were made.

Parent Robin Day, who formed the Hampton School Board Watch Dog Group in response to the board's actions, handed the board a petition signed by 483 residents asking the board to reconsider its vote.

"You seem to be setting the principals up for failure and using our children as political pawn," said parent Linda Morrison, who called for all the members who voted in favor of the restructuring to resign.

Others blasted the board for the resignation of Hampton Academy Principal Chris Sousa and the impact the changes would have at Marston School.

Others questioned the need to eliminate programs and staff when the approximately $18.2 million school budget that included them was passed by voters in March.

Teachers at Hampton Academy, the teachers union and the Hampton Parent Teacher Association also spoke out against the move.

Previously, School Board officials explained that the changes were the result of the need to eliminate excessive teacher planning periods.

Officials did not comment on what the schedule will now look like with the staff restored. Ward said the Academy teachers will work on the new schedule.

The additional teachers, she said, will just make class size smaller. Currently, there are 18-20 students per class.

Shea Libbey, a Winnacunnet High School student, adds the finishing touches to a sign that reads "Abuse of Power" during a protest against the Hampton School Board before its meeting at Marston School on Thursday night.
[Scott Yates photo]
Kate Portrie of Hampton protests against the Hampton School Board.
[Scott Yates photo]
Two women walk past discarded protest signs while entering Marston School for a Hampton School Board meeting on Thursday night.
[Scott Yates photo]
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