Amherst School Board

Public Session for Amherst School Buildings, Nov. 8

To the editor:

JFAC Update: 

      Learn more about the future plans for the Amherst School District buildings at the next public information session on November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Amherst Middle School, tours of the school will follow. Public forums have been scheduled monthly and are on the SAU calendar found at SAU39.org. We invite you to come learn about the proposed project for the elementary building as well as the renovation project to update AMS. You’ll be able to check out the school, see the preliminary plans as they are developed, and ask questions of board members and the project architects and designers. Information regarding the project is continuously updated and can be found athttps://jfac.sau39.org.

Budget Season: 

      October ushers in budget season for Amherst School Board and work has already begun. The process kicked off at the October 4 board meeting when the superintendent and business administrator presented the board with a proposed budget.  Over the last few weeks there have been ten budget subcommittee meetings to examine specific parts of the budget. At those meetings, two board members and several members of the appointed ways and means committee have asked questions about specific budget items and discussed the philosophy behind budget decisions. Board and ways and means members have also submitted over one hundred and twenty five questions online, each of which has been answered by a member of the administration. The school board will soon have several budget workshops at which they will discuss the subcommittee meetings, hear from their ways and means counterparts, and approve any changes to the budget.  A final version of the budget will then be presented to the public in January.

Volunteers Needed!: 

      Our schools are in need of volunteers! Please consider joining Amherst PTA and get involved at our buildings. The PTA, in conjunction with administration, has helped streamline the necessary background check needed to volunteer. Simply pick up a volunteer packet at the Brick School (1 School Street), fill out the appropriate forms, bring them to the police station, complete fingerprinting, and return all forms to the Brick School with a fee of $21.25.  The whole process takes no more than an hour.

Upcoming Meetings/Events:

November, 2: 6 p.m.: Amherst School Board Budget Workshop: Souhegan Learning Commons

November, 8: 6:30 p.m.: JFAC Public Forum: Amherst Middle School

November, 10: 6 p.m.: Amherst School Board: Brick School

November, 18: 6 p.m.: SAU Public hearing: Souhegan Learning Commons

December, 6: 6 p.m.: Amherst School Board: Souhegan Learning Commons



Tom Gauthier, Chair

Elizabeth Kuzsma, Vice Chair
Terri Behm
Josh Conklin
Victoria Parisi

Dear Souhegan High School Board Members:

      I am writing this as a concerned taxpayer and mother of 2 former Souhegan band students- my son Joey in 2010 and my daughter Jen in 2007. Both of my children participated in band for all of their 4 years at Souhegan in the jazz band, concert band and marching bands. My daughter Jen is now- largely due to the impact of her years with Carl Benevides- a full time music teacher in Massachusetts and has attained her Master's degree in education. My son Joey is a full time sales manager in Florida, but still actively participates in music.

      My husband is a former music teacher, and we both perform with local community groups.  We watched the growth of the band program over our 7 years at Souhegan with pride. Carl was often forced to fill out the instrumentation from local adult community band players, as he lacked sufficient incoming students from the middle school and interest was poor.  Given the restrictions of Division 1 and 2 scheduling, he stayed late on Thursday evenings in order to conduct a full band rehearsal- as there was no time in the school day for children to perform as a full ensemble.  My husband and I supported the band whenever we could- often going along on trips Carl planned as chaperones.  I do not believe the school paid him any extra money to plan concert opportunities for his students in Disney World, New York City, Annapolis- and even Europe. The repertoire grew consistently from low level band pieces to well known concert pieces that were well done at every performance. 

      I have also watched this school system at every turn look to cut corners in the arts. It is indeed frustrating to pay the level of taxes we do here in this town and see the ineptitude and short sightedness of administrators. My children started school in this district with full time music educators- yet these have been consistently cut to part time and stipend positions- leading me to believe that the arts are not of value in our schools.  I cherish music in my personal life- as it has given me the joy of being able to perform in bands, choruses, and even musical theater. This was due to the dedication of school music teachers who taught me to strive to be better and believe in myself. Music is a gift we can give our children that lasts for their whole life, with teachers who are dedicated to give it. Certainly after a year of lock down and the issues our children have faced, can't we give them the stability and competence a teacher like Carl Benevides can provide?  Given that we are already 2 months into the school year, it is highly unlikely that the district will find a suitable replacement who can offer strong band skills as well as electronic music. That means our students will suffer yet another loss.  How many of them will give up on music? Do you care?

      I strongly urge the board to have Carl Benevides re-instated as soon as possible.



Susan Abis

Amherst, NH