Oyster River Decides to Offer Tuition Agreement to Barrington
At its December 18, 2013, Board Meeting, Oyster River decided to award a tuition agreement to the Barrington School District. The biggest issue working against a partnership with Newmarket was the updated enrollment projection developed by their Long Range Planning Committee in November. The projections exceeded their Board policy maximum enrollment of 915 students for the High School. This decision ends the tuition agreement discussion.
Effort of School Board and Superintendent Questioned
Despite the efforts to secure a tuition agreement with Oyster, some members of the community have the impression that the School Board and Superintendent did not make a full and complete effort to reach an agreement. This opinion was fueled by an Article in the Fosters Democrat Newspaper following the December decision by Oyster River which quoted the OR Superintendent as saying that Newmarket "did not return an agreement at the time of the meeting. Superintendent Hayes provided a report to the School Board at its December 19 meeting which contradicts that claim. It shows that he clearly communicated approval of an agreement prior to Oyster River's December 18 meeting. This was done on behalf of the School Board, who actually voted two motions on October 24th "To direct our District team to continue to meet with Oyster River representatives to negotiate the final terms of the Tuition Agreement." and "To instruct the Superintendent to communicate to Oyster River that, if offered a mutually agreed upon tuition agreement proposal, we will place it before the voters at our March 2014 school district meeting." The documents which support all of this are provided below.
Merger and Tuition Talks 2010-11
At the March 2010 School District Meeting, voters approved an article "To see if the residents of the community desire the School Board to enter into discussion with neighboring districts to consider merging grades 9 through 12". Oyster River, Exeter, Barrington, Epping, Somersworth, Portsmouth, and Raymond school districts were contacted to see if they were willing to discuss a merger involving approximately 300 students. Exeter, Barrington, Raymond, and Somersworth declined because they did not have the space. Discussions were held with Oyster River, Portsmouth, and Epping, none of whom was interested in a “merger” as a long-term arrangement for our high school students.
Discussions with these three districts also covered a possible tuition agreement. Oyster River would consider a short-term (five years or less) agreement but they could accommodate no more than 100 students. Portsmouth would also consider a short-term agreement and could accommodate all 300 students. Only Epping would consider a long-term tuition agreement. We continued to speak with Epping to learn further what a long-term agreement would look like, but in the end the voters in Epping did not support joining with Newmarket in a tuition agreement, and the Epping School Board subsequently voted to discontinue investigating this option.
Tuition Talks with Oyster River
In May 2012, it was learned that Oyster River would consider a long-term (10 or more years) agreement, not short term (5 or less years) and would consider an agreement that would include both middle school and high school students. Oyster River was currently accepting tuition students from Barrington but was looking to have a more stable number of tuition students from year to year, which would then allow them to plan on a more stable revenue stream. Barrington students have three options for attending high school – Dover, Coe Brown, and Oyster River.
The two districts formed representative teams made up of school board members and school and SAU administrators. The transition to a new Oyster River Superintendent slowed discussions, but in October 2012 formal meetings of representative teams from each district began. A summary of those meetings is provided below. At the same time, Oyster River was having similar discussions about a long-term agreement with Barrington and Deerfield.
In early October 2013, a final tuition agreement framework was approved by the Oyster River Cooperative School Board. The tuition agreement framework and accompanying letter from the OR Superintendent is provided below. We were offered the opportunity to negotiate terms for the final agreement. A negotiation session was held on October 22nd, and a follow-up session was held on December 3rd. Our School Board discussed their latest offer at their regular meeting on December 5th and authorized the Superintendent to work with the OR Superintendent to finalize a tuition agreement. That work continued until Monday, December 16th. The final agreement presented to the Oyster River Cooperative School Board is shown below.