Frank Edelblut speaks at Dublin Education Advisory Committee forum

The basement of the Dublin Town Hall was filled Tuesday night for a forum with state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

The basement of the Dublin Town Hall was filled Tuesday night for a forum with state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks at the Dublin Town Hall Tuesday night.

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks at the Dublin Town Hall Tuesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks at Dublin Town Hall.

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks at Dublin Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut fields a question from Dublin Education Advisory Committee member Jesse Marcum.

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut fields a question from Dublin Education Advisory Committee member Jesse Marcum. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks to Dublin residents.

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut speaks to Dublin residents. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Dublin Education Advisory Committee Chair Jay Schechter introduces State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

Dublin Education Advisory Committee Chair Jay Schechter introduces State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Dublin Education Advisory Committee Chair Jay Schechter poses a question to State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

Dublin Education Advisory Committee Chair Jay Schechter poses a question to State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-02-2024 12:05 PM

Modified: 05-03-2024 1:21 PM


Speaking at a forum held by the Dublin Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) Tuesday night, New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said it’s becoming increasingly common for towns to withdraw from their cooperative school districts.

Edelblut was responding to a question posed by Dublin Select Board member Carole Monroe, who explained that Dublin had proposed the current withdrawal study for the town to leave the ConVal School District because they felt that the district’s current Articles of Agreement don’t fit the needs of the town.

Dublin, along with Francestown, approved seeking a feasibility study regarding withdrawal at Town Meeting this year. The approval resulted in the formation of a study committee that includes School Board and select board members from each of the district’s nine towns, which will submit a report to the state Board of Education recommending for or against withdrawal, with minority opinion allowed. 

Monroe noted that the school district’s attorney, Dean Eggert, indicated during the first meeting of ConVal’s feasibility study committee that it is rare for a request to withdraw to be allowed.

“We’re going to go down this path because I think it’s the only way we can renegotiate terms within our Articles of Agreement,” Monroe said. “But how is it that a town can be held hostage – I’ll call it that – not being allowed to choose where their children go to school, or whether they have an elementary school in our town, if we have to depend on the nine towns to vote in favor of withdrawal? What can be done at a state level to make that an easier process?”

Edelblut compared the withdrawal process to divorce.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “I can tell you that this year, it was made easier – now you at least get a chance to vote. It used to be that you didn’t even get a chance to vote.”

Edelblut was referencing House Bill 530, signed into law in 2023, that allows a three-fifths majority vote in a withdrawing town to approve withdrawal, unless three-fifths of voters in the district as a whole vote against it. Withdrawal can also be approved by majority votes in the withdrawing town and the district as a whole.

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“So I don’t disagree that it’s difficult,” Edelblut said. “Disagree that it doesn’t happen – even in my term, I’ve probably only seen two or three that didn’t succeed. So it’s not like it can’t happen.”

According to Edelblut, several towns had recently voted in favor of withdrawal after going through their own feasibility studies, including Hebron and Bridgewater, who are in the process of potentially withdrawing from the Newfound Area School District.

Edelblut said he didn’t know exactly how many towns had ultimately managed to withdraw from their cooperative school districts, but estimated about a dozen in the last five years.

After Edelblut’s answer, Monroe said, “Well that’s a relief, because that’s not what the attorney implied.”

Edelblut, who said he has spent his tenure working toward creating more education avenues for New Hampshire students, advocated for Dublin to do something similar. If the town were to withdraw from ConVal to seek other options, he said they should consider multiple tuition agreements with nearby schools.

“I’m not a fan of cooperative school districts because they get put in place 40 years ago,” he said. “I like the idea of tuition agreements. Enter into an agreement; if you don’t like the agreement, it’s got a termination clause. It’s a much more dynamic and flexible thing.”

Many of the questions fielded by Edelblut were related to charter schools – specifically, the difference between them and traditional public schools. Edelblut noted that charter schools and public schools have different regulatory schemes, as charter schools are regulated by RSA 194B, while traditional public schools have several laws established that regulate their operation.

Edelblut noted that there was an “innovation school rule” that allows school districts to apply for regulatory waivers if they feel there is a law that is preventing them from providing an effective education for their students.

The DEAC was also interested in learning more about who would be responsible for special education costs if the town were to withdraw. Edelblut said that the student’s resident district is responsible for providing special education, and if Dublin were to withdraw from ConVal, it would be the town’s responsibility to find special education services, either through potential tuition agreements or contracts with a third-party provider.

One challenge the DEAC has faced recently is determining where Dublin students who don’t attend ConVal are receiving their education. Using ConVal enrollment data and the town’s most-recent census, the committee estimates there are 107 Dublin students receiving an alternative method of education, either through charter, private or homeschooling, but have been unable to identify where exactly the students are going.

Edelblut said that data was difficult to get, because the state isn’t counting those students from individual towns, and suggested that DEAC poll residents about their school-age students and how they are receiving their education.