Randolph directs GRS Cooperative School District to study wiithdrawal

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun
RANDOLPH — Citizens on Thursday night voted 47-22 to direct the Gorham Randolph Shelburne Cooperative School District to study the feasibility and suitability of the town of Randolph withdrawing from the district.
That vote was the final action at the contentious three-hour-long town meeting. Thirteen petitioners had placed an article in the 2017 warrant regarding the study.
Dennis Tupick, who served as the petitioners’ spokesman, presented dollar figures that indicate that while overall enrollment in SAU 20 has dropped 25 percent, its per-student costs have risen significantly, especially in contrast to SAU 3 (Berlin) and SAU 36 (White Mountains Regional).
“I’m not an expert in education, but I am an expert in paying taxes,” Tupick said, pointing out that he owns property in both Randolph and Gorham.
Both 14-year Randolph school board member Angela Brown and SAU 20 Superintendent Paul Bousquet of Gorham explained that creating a cooperative had given all three towns “a seat at the table” and a voice in policy-making, budget-building, staffing and curriculum decisions. Back in the day when Randolph paid tuition for its students, townspeople were not part of the decision-making process and Gorham High School was in danger of losing its accreditation.
Passage of Article 27 means that a committee will now be formed, made up of at least one school board member and one select board member from each pre-existing district, plus any other members the committee chooses to appoint.
Within 180 days after its formation, the committee shall report its findings to the state Board of Education: either a report that withdrawal is not feasible or suitable or a report that includes a withdrawal plan.
If the committee determines that withdrawal is not feasible or suitable, Randolph — the town that voted to undertake the study — may submit a minority report or the report may include one.
If the BOE approves a withdrawal plan, whether submitted by the committee or by minority report, it must then be submitted to the voters of the cooperative school district.
In other action, voters turned down, 26 to 31, spending $30,000 that had been appropriated — but not spent — in 2016 to install surveillance cameras designed to photograph license plates at five or six intersections. Retired Troop F State Police Commander John Scarinza, who served as the select board’s volunteer researcher, explained that such a network would both deter crime and assist law enforcement to apprehend lawbreakers, particularly burglars.
Paul Jadis said he thought that this substantial sum, plus annual operational costs, could be better spent elsewhere.
Former town librarian Yvonne Jenkins said that she was reluctant to see cameras installed on some utility poles because they would, in essence, make everyone a “suspect” when crimes take place, creating a “personal violation.”
Two related articles that will add 138 acres to the Randolph Community Forest passed handily on voice votes.
Voters first adopted legal provisions that authorize the town Conservation Commission to buy interests outside town boundaries, subject to public hearings and town meeting approval.
Voters then authorized the ConCom, with select board approval, to buy two parcels — one of 50 aces and the other of 88 acres — in Jefferson held by Brady Family interests, including some 720 feet of frontage on Ingerson Road and on both sides of Stag Hollow Brook.
Civic-minded Randolph residents who are keen to add suitable land to the 10,000-plus-acre Randolph Community Forest (RCF), of which 1,100 acres are already in Jefferson, have pledged private dollars to fund buying both parcels. Permanent conservation easements designed to keep the land in open space and “working” forest will be placed on both parcels, and a yearly Payment in Lieu of Taxes of some $65 will be added to the $500 the town already pays its neighbor. The RCF’s operating costs, including a $5,000 a year PILT payment to Randolph, are generated from timber harvests and maple taps.
Residents also voted to spend $600 to support the recently revived Civil Air Patrol at the Mt. Washington Regional Airport, $3,000 to support the Family Resource Center, and $3,000 to support the Gorham Community Learning Center.
Both the town meeting and election balloting in which there were no contests were delayed two days from the traditional second Tuesday in March because of a heavy two-day snowfall in which 24 inches were measured on Randolph Hill. Voters gave a standing ovation to both Chuck Lowe and Scarinza for filling in to plow town roads after road agent Kevin Rousseau had to undergo an appendectomy in the wee hours on Monday, March 13, at AVH.
It may have been cabin fever that led to more than the usual number of detailed questions and criticisms directed at the select board members — chairman Michele Cormier, John Turner and Lauren Bradley — none of which ruffled moderator David Willcox.