EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 24, 2008

Town to vote on whether to open Windham High with two grades

By John Basilesco , Staff Writer

WINDHAM - Voters will decide at Town Meeting whether to allow Windham juniors and seniors to finish their careers at Salem High School after the town opens its own high school.

Christine Lane, one of the organizers of a citizens petition presented to the selectmen this week, said it is in the best interest of Windham students who will be juniors and seniors when the new high school opens in 2009 to finish their education in Salem.

The article will be on the town warrant in March, following an emergency selectmen's meeting Tuesday. The board voted 4-0 to issue an unfavorable recommendation on the article, saying it should be on the school district warrant, not the town warrant, Selectman Roger Hohenberger said.

But the selectmen were legally bound to put it on the town warrant because the petition was submitted to the town and enough registered voters signed it.

It will be up for debate at the deliberative session on Feb. 9. The first issue is whether it's even legal for the article to be on the town warrant, Town Administrator David Sullivan said.

Lane, who gathered 36 signatures with the help from another resident, blamed inexperience with the process for her decision to submit the petition to the town. But, in part, it was submitted to the town as a "vote of no confidence" in the School Board for failing to act on the issue, she said.

School Board Chairman Al Letizio Jr. said the board has not failed to act on the issue. In fact, it was discussed at length at Tuesday night's School Board meeting. He said Lane was not there.

Submitting the petition to the town is a "waste of everyone's time," Letizio said.

The School Board previously voted to open the new high school with all four grades, but board members are taking a second look at the issue, he said.

Windham High School could open with all four grades, with just freshmen and sophomores, or with every grade except seniors, Letizio said.

Lane said she believes most students, including her own son, who is now a freshman, want to finish their high-school education at Salem High. She said students who already have been at Salem High for two years will know the teachers there, be involved in sports and other organizations, and would benefit from completing their high-school years there.

She said figures prepared by the superintendent show it would actually save the school district money by opening Windham High with only two grades and letting juniors and seniors finish at Salem High.