By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Facing difficult cuts from the public school budget, Derry parents and teachers took a hard line at a recent public hearing with Pinkerton Academy and the school’s tuition increases planned for next year.
Sending towns will pay Pinkerton $9,712 per regular education student next year, up 3.65 percent over this year.
Derry will send 84 fewer students to Pinkerton in the fall, which with the new tuition rate will increase the town’s regular education budget by $58,000, said Derry School District Business Admin-istrator Jane Simard. With decreases in special education tuition, the district will save $161,000 in total Pinkerton costs next year.
But some present at a recent public hearing of the Derry School Board said the Pinkerton cuts were not enough, considering the millions the Derry Cooperative School District has had to cut from elementary and middle school budgets.
“If I was on the (Pinkerton) Board of Trustees, I would be embarrassed by their complete lack of any participation in this process,” said Jim MacEachern at Thursday’s public hearing. “To come up with $161,000 when we had to cut $4.3 million, it’s embarrassing.”
Simard said the district would’ve seen savings of more than $700,000 if Pinkerton’s tuition had remained the same.
The Derry Cooperative School District has proposed $4.5 million in budget cuts for next year — including 45 teaching positions — to account for an anticipated loss of more than $6.4 million in state funding.
But Pinkerton Academy Headmaster Mary Anderson maintained Thursday that the Pinkerton trustees did take Derry’s financial hardship into consideration when putting together the school’s budget for next year.
“We cut almost $2 million off the budget that originally came to us,” Anderson said. “We looked very critically at it and anything we could put off, we put off.”
Pinkerton Finance Admin-istrator Glenn Neagle cited increases in health insurance costs, the opening of the new freshman academy building and required expansion to the Haynes House as the primary reasons for the increases.
Still, many present at last week’s school board hearing said they hoped Pinkerton trustees could go further.
“I feel like we’ve been held hostage,” said Meg Morse-Barry, president of the Derry Education Association and a teacher in the Derry schools. “As the spokesperson for the association, I feel like we get held hostage by what (Pinkerton) decides is going to be important.”
Though most present at the public hearing commended the School Board for their work this budget season, some parents said they worried about cuts planned for the accelerated PACE program.
Under the current proposal, the PACE program would be scaled back next year and some elementary schools would share PACE teachers for certain subjects.
The school board will finalize its budget proposal on Jan. 25.