School Board Candidates Butt Heads on Article 2
Dennis Senibaldi is challenging incumbent Dr. Bruce Anderson.
School board candidates Dennis Senibaldi and incumbent Dr. Bruce Anderson wasted little time Tuesday before trading verbal blows on the topic of a new school, with both taking opposite sides of the debate.
During a candidates night hosted by the Windham Woman's Club at Town Hall, Senibaldi came right out in saying that he will not support Article 2 on the school ballot. The warrant article calls for $31.63 million toward both a new 7th and 8th grade facility on London Bridge Road and athletic fields at Windham High School.
What Senibaldi said he does support is a phased addition to the current middle school, which was the other specific option considered by the Windham School Board.
Senibaldi explained that building a school all at once means that the project wont qualify for state building aid.
"Once you spend the 30 some-odd million, that's it," Senibaldi said. "(The district is) not going to qualify for state aid."
Anderson argued that interest rates are at an all-time low, and that Windham has too-often spent its money on addition after addition to the schools in the district.
"It's been this chipping and chipping and chipping away at it," Anderson said. "What this addition (on the current middle school) would do for the same money would be to start another series of additions."
The issue of class sizes also received plenty of attention during the forum.
Senibaldi criticized the need for 18 to 22 kids per classroom, saying that grades 5 through 8 would be fine with 25 students in each room.
He referenced his time spent on the Facilities Committee and the findings that the committee had.
"The Facilities Committee had a target number of 25 (students per classroom)," Senibaldi said. "There are just as many studies that clearly show it's not really the size of the class that makes the difference, it's the quality of the teacher."
Anderson argued that Windham's ranking is one of the worst in the state for class sizes.
"We are ranked in the bottom 10 in class sizes for school districts in this state," he said. "This isn't made up. This is data."
One resident asked whether the candidates supported the high water mark for the fiscal year 2012 of total tax dollars spent on capital projects.
Anderson backed the high water mark.
"I'm totally in favor of that," he said. "If you look at how we bonded it, with two different sales of bonds, you will see about four years into the project, the high water mark will be (what) you paid last year."
Senibaldi called last year's number "over-inflated" due to its inclusion of the payment for the kindergarten addition on Golden Brook School.
On the crux of Article 2, Senibaldi also slammed the inclusion of fields in the article, saying that he believes in a turf field and a track, but does not like them intermingled in the article.
"I believe they can stand on their own merit and I think they would have passed," Senibaldi said.
Voters last year knocked down almost all of the school warrant articles including one related to architectural and engineering fees toward a new school, Anderson argued that the ballot was confusing, but the overwhelming response in a survey given to 900 residents was that people are concerned about overcrowding.
"60 percent of the people in that survey said they were concerned with overcrowding at Golden Brook, Center and the Middle School," Anderson said.
Senibaldi argued that it was very clear what the intent and purpose of the architectural and engineering fees was.
Portables were also knocked down last year. Anderson said that in the survey, voters said they don't want something temporary like portables.
Anderson is a nine-year veteran of the school board and currently serves as chairman. Senibaldi was previously a member of the Windham Board of Selectmen and is seeking his first term on the school board.