Monday, January 30, 2017

Superintendent's Update: February 7 Deliberative Session

To All Bedford School District Community Members,

Tuesday, February 7 is an important date for the citizens of Bedford. It is an opportunity to participate directly in the governance of our school system.

At 7:00 pm, all registered voters in Bedford are invited to participate in the Bedford School District Deliberative Session, which is held in the Bedford High School Theater.

At the Deliberative Session, voters decide whether to make any changes to the Bedford School Board's Warrant. The Warrant includes the proposed ​operating budget​ for next year and ​the contracts with professional staff, school support staff, and custodians.​ The Board is recommending a "yes" vote on all of these articles. ​
I look forward to seeing you there. I have provided some background information below and the entire set of budget documents can be found at this link.

Chip McGee

Proposed Operating Budget​ for Next Year​
The School Board’s direction for the budget was to maintain the district’s high standards but not to add any new programs. The proposed operating budget is $71​.2 million for the 2017-18 school year. This is​ up $2​.2 million (or 3.2%) ​compared to the 2016-17 operating budget. There are three primary reasons.
  1. Health insurance premiums are projected to increase by ​$1.8 million (19.7%).
  2. New Hampshire Retirement System employer contributions are projected to increase by over ​$5​00,000.
  3. Special education services are projected to increase by over $400,000.
The three budget drivers total $2.7 million in increases.
The proposed budget increase of $2.2 million is lower than the total of these three drivers. This is a result of the Board’s efforts to take a frugal approach to the rest of the budget. The School Board reviewed the budget presented by the Superintendent and made some changes. They deferred some capital maintenance plans, cut some of the Superintendent’s proposals, and made changes to staffing and benefits for non-union support and administrative staff. In total, the Board’s actions lowered the Superintendent’s original budget by $1.3 million.​
Even with these actions, the projected tax impact of the School Board’s proposed budget is $1.17 per thousand. This increase is due almost entirely to those three drivers.
In case the proposed budget is voted down, the Board also develops a “default budget.” The default budget is calculated based on the previous year’s budget with certain adjustments. The default budget is $560,408 lower than the proposed budget.

Changing Our Health Insurance Approach For Our Employees
Health insurance is our largest budget driver this year. All three of our employee groups (teachers, paraprofessionals,and custodians) accepted significant changes in their health insurance plans to get to agreement this year. The changes include certain consumer-driven strategies.
  • Reference Pricing: The district will pay a fixed percentage of the consumer-driven plan. If an employee wished to stay on their current plan, it is the employee who has to pay the entire difference in cost between the less expensive plan and their current plan.  
  • Site of Service: The primary plan being offered will direct employees to specific providers that have a track record of high quality and offer lower costs for certain high cost items.
  • Deductibles: The primary plan offered has a deductible, which encourages the employee to think like a consumer.
  • Health Reimbursement Arrangement: For certain lower wage employees, the district has offered an arrangement where the district “self-insures” to share 50% of an employee’s deductible expenditures.
These are significant concessions from the employee groups. In total, this would shift $2.4 million in annual premium costs back onto the employee. This will work if all three agreements can pass.

​​Agreement with Professional Staff
This proposed agreement is with the Bedford Education Association (BEA) which represents teachers and other professional educators. The agreement is for two years.
  • 2017-18 - Net salary (salary minus the employee contribution towards health insurance premiums) would increase by an average of 4.0% (or $2,295).
  • 2018-19 - We do not know the increase in the employee contribution towards health insurance premiums for 2018-19. Salary increases would be $400 plus a step.
  • Employees have agreed to the changes in health insurance explained above.
The projected cost of this Article is $1.2 million for 2017-18. The tax impact in 2017-18 would be $0.36 per thousand.
Agreement with Custodial Staff
This ​proposed agreement is with the Bedford Education Support Staff Association (BESSA) which represents custodians and maintenance staff. The agreement is for three years.
  • 2017-18 - Wages would increase by $1.00 per hour.
  • 2018-19 - Wages would increase by $0.75 per hour.
  • 2019-20 - Wages would increase by $0.65 per hour.
  • Employees have agreed to the changes in health insurance explained above.
The projected impact of this article would be a budget reduction of $8,155 in 2017-18. The projected tax impact in 2017-18 is less than $0.01..

​​Agreement with Support Staff
Th​is proposed agreement is with the Bedford Education Personnel Association (BEPA) which represents paraprofessionals, school secretaries and clerks, and food service workers. This agreement is for three years.
  • 2017-18 - wages would increase $1.00 per hour.
  • 2018-19 - wages would increase $0.75 per hour.
  • 2019-20 - wages would increase $0.65 per hour.
  • Employees have agreed to the changes in health insurance explained above.
The projected impact would be a budget reduction of $368,454 in 2017-18. The projected tax impact in 2017-18 would be a reduction of $0.11 per thousand.

The mission of the Bedford School District is to develop a community of learners who are intellectually curious, resourceful, and respectful of self and others. Academic achievement, through constantly improving standards, is the district's highest priority.

Chip McGee, Superintendent of Schools
Bedford School District, 103 County Road, Bedford NH 03110
P: (603) 472-3755, F: (603) 472-2567,
Parents - If your cell phone number is in the District's PowerSchool Information System and you wish to receive alerts via text, you can text YES to 67587.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Five Signs

“I wish I had known the five signs 20 years ago, it could have made a difference in my family’s life; it can make a difference to you now.”  -- Former Chief Justice John Broderick

January 3, 2017

Dear Parents:

Happy New Year! I hope that you and your children were able to enjoy a little downtime during the holidays.  For many, the holidays are a time of joy and laughter. However, we know they can also be a difficult time for some families and friends because personal challenges are larger and more complex than we are prepared to admit or to handle without help.

In that spirit, our schools, along with public schools throughout New Hampshire, are sending home a simple informational card, called The Five Signs. It describes the five major signs of emotional distress, which can be connected to mental health issues.  Whether things in your family’s life are going well or someone is facing challenges, I am hopeful you will read this simple information and that perhaps it leads to a family discussion about the importance of mental health, and the need to communicate when and if there are any signs of problems that rise above what most of us would call a bad day or a tough stretch.

This letter is not intended to make any assumptions about your family’s state of well-being.  It is rather an invitation to shed light on a topic that impacts 20% of the nation’s families, and is frequently not met with necessary treatment that can and will make a tremendous difference to those facing mental health challenges.

Perhaps this information will be useful in your workplace, or among other members of the family, with neighbors and/or friends.  The Five Signs card is part of a statewide awareness campaign sponsored by Change Direction NH.  Co-chair, former NH Supreme Court Justice John Broderick, is touring the state, talking to civic groups, businesses, school leaders, students and families, encouraging them to help him break the stigma of silence around mental health challenges. Judge Broderick’s goal is for people to recognize these signs as quickly as they might recognize signs of a stroke.

John Broderick speaks from experience on this issue, and he has become a high profile leader in raising awareness about mental health.  His personal story is one of both tragedy and triumph, as his own family is dealing with mental health issues.  As his quote above suggests, if he had known about these five signs when his own grown son was much younger, he might have spotted trouble before it grew.  Justice Broderick will be speaking to our Bedford community on the evening of January 19th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. at the Lurgio Middle School Library. I invite you and all those in our community to attend, to listen to his message, and to join in this effort to recognize that mental illness is a disease. Just like any other disease, it cannot be treated with silence and stigma, but instead with communication and active treatment. [The evening event will be most appropriate for parents. There is a voluntary student event at the high school at 1:30 and a staff event at 3:30 at Peter Woodbury School.]

Talk to your children, invite them to learn the five signs and not to be afraid to speak out if they feel this way inside, or perhaps see these signs in others around them.  We can all take part in helping those who often don’t recognize they need help themselves, but can overcome their challenges with compassion and communication.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office or to email me directly at  My very best wishes to you and your family for a prosperous and healthy 2017.

Chip McGee