By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – With enrollment projections on the decline, the Pinkerton Academy Board of Trustees has decided to pursue a contractual agreement with the Auburn School District. Most Auburn students now attend Manchester's Memorial High.
"Ten or 15 years ago we had a contract with Auburn, which changed as the population of Derry increased," Pinkerton Headmaster Mary Anderson told trustees last night.
She said currently only a percentage of Auburn students attend Pinkerton, based on a formula that shifts with enrollment of students from sending towns of Chester, Hampstead and Derry.
Adding a fourth district under contract would boost Pinkerton's enrollment by upward of 300 students, which is key to maintaining not only lower tuition costs, but also the academy's current comprehensive curriculum, Anderson said.
Any agreement with Auburn would be phased in over time as existing contracts between Auburn and Manchester's Memorial High School lapse.
Derry Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said after the presentation she was most taken aback by the news that Pinkerton was looking to contract with another town.
"Having a contract with Auburn was certainly unexpected. I know we're sending fewer students, and the fewer students we send, the higher cost per student the tuition will be. As for the overall project costs, for me, it's all about cost. Let's do the math and see what the tax impact will be," Hannon said.
Anderson said even with the projected drop in student population, the state's largest high school is currently operating well over the accepted norm of 85 percent capacity.
Projected tuition figures submitted to the state Department of Education would put Pinkerton's per-student tuition at about $9,473 -- the fourth-lowest among the state's 17 districts and well below the state average of $11,573. Only Hudson/Alvirne, Salem and Manchester have lower tuition rates.