A Move of Historical Significance

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SAU 90 Strikes Out On its Own July 1

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, left, speaks with Hampton School District SAU 90 Superintendent Kathleen Murphy in her new office, before the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
[Deb Cram Photo]

HAMPTON -- School Board Chairman Rosemary Lamers said Hampton has a rich history when it comes to being an educational leader, including being the home of the first public school in the state of New Hampshire to be co-ed in 1649.

She has no doubt in her mind the district will continue its tradition of leading the way and being an innovator come July 1, when it officially leaves School Administrative Unit 21 and goes out on its own as SAU 90.

More than 100 people, including state Board of Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, gathered Friday morning for the official ribbon cutting and unveiling of the new office of SAU 90.

The new office at Marston Elementary will serve as the new headquarters for the Hampton School District.

For Lamers and other board members in attendance it was a "momentous and historical occasion."

"We are SAU 90," said Lamers, as she cut the ribbon to rounds of applause.

Hampton's initiative to leave SAU 21 was approved at the March 9, 2010 election by a vote of 1,724-1,120.

Hampton's withdrawal means it will have its very own superintendent, Kathleen Murphy, for students for its three school — the Centre School, the Marston School and Hampton Academy.

High school students will continue to go to Winnacunnet High School overseen by SAU 21 superintendent Robert Sullivan.

A lot of hard work, Lamers said, has gone in to preparing for the moment, starting with the work of the Hampton Withdrawal Committee.

It was its recommendation that it was in the best interest of Hampton students to withdraw from SAU 21 that led to the historic vote.

"I truly believe this will bring great things not only to our students but the Hampton community at large," said Kathy Terry, who chaired the seven-member committee.

The committee members supported withdrawal because they said the current SAU 21 — serving six distinct districts — was becoming unwieldy.

In a perfect world, officials said, the role of the superintendent would be the visionary leader responsible for aligning curriculum and planning for the future.

But they said because of the current size of the SAU, that wasn't happening and the superintendent was more reactive than proactive.

They also argued Hampton had no say in the SAU budget and, at times, was held hostage by decisions made by school boards in other member communities.

Lamers said they spent last year enacting the withdrawal plan, which included hiring staff and constructing SAU 90 office building led by the school's facilities manger Keith Lessard.

In addition to implementing the withdrawal plan, the board spent countless hours creating a policy manual for SAU 90 and reviewing and updating all of the School Board polices.

Lamers said they couldn't have accomplished all of that work without the aid of the community, staff, and administrators of SAU 21.

Murphy called the occasion a milestone and is excited for the future.

"It's a milestone because it's only the start of the journey and we have a long way to go," Murphy said.

Lamers said its fitting that Hampton is now SAU 90.

It was 90 years ago when Hampton became part of SAU 21.

"Ninety years ago we joined SAU 21 and interestingly enough starting July 1, 2011, we will be known as SAU 90," Lamers said.

Hampton has tried to withdraw from SAU 21 previously, once in 2004 and again in 2007. While the question always received a majority vote, the 2010 vote was the first in which the three-fifths voting majority needed was obtained.

Rosemary Lamers, chairwoman of the Hampton School Board, welcomes a huge crowd to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Hampton School District SAU 90 at Marston School Friday.
[Deb Cram Photo]
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