School Board Authorizes Funding for Auditorium Study

Tony DeFrancesco, chairman of the Londonderry School Community Auditorium Committee, said he came to Londonderry to teach and coach at the high school and when he got there, found the school did not have an auditorium. He added that he was the husband of the chairperson of the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation committee, and in 1980 the accrediting agency determined the only defect at the school was the lack of an auditorium.

DeFrancesco told the School Board at its Thursday, Feb. 20 meeting, that subsequently he left public education to invest in the community. He now buys commercial land and builds commercial buildings.

He said this is not the right time to build an auditorium, but it is the right time for the next step.

“We as a committee are at an impasse, similar to the college graduate that can’t get a job because he has no experience, but has no experience because he can’t get a job,” he said. “We have several choices for a location but we don’t know if it’ll fit, we have an educational and specification subcommittee that has identified needs and don’t know if they can be afforded, and a maintenance subcommittee that can’t identify costs because they don’t know how big the building is.”

The next step, he told the board, is to hire an architect to identify cost items and locations so that the committee could return with specifics. “So that you can decide when the right time is,” he added.

DeFrancesco noted that in 2006 the committee presented a report on an auditorium to the school board.

“That report has guesstimates on size, location and costs. They had no idea if many of the items in that report were accurate or are affordable,” DeFrancesco said.

DeFrancesco requested $25,000 to have borings done and to work with an architect to come up with a location at a reasonable price with a properly sized building.

“The building the committee is considering is not like any buildings in the area,” he said. “It is one that will house two classes of students, so 800 to 900 rather than the entire school. A building that will fit in size and dimensions with the buildings on the campus and is one that will meet the standards of the music department.”

Board member John Robinson asked if the building would be substantially different than the one proposed seven years ago.

DeFrancesco responded that the earlier proposal was a “guesstimate, a cartoon drawing.” He said it was “the Pinkerton building that had cut and paste done and the architect worked pro bono, and you get what you pay for.”

Board member John Laferriere asked about the sites and DeFrancesco said the best site was attached to the cafeteria.

Board member Leitha Reilly said she viewed the request as a “scoping exercise” and she would need more information on the structure of the proposal, who would be in charge of the project, and itemized invoices.

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg said that as a district project, he and School District Business Administrator Peter Curro would be overseeing all aspects of the project.

Laferriere asked who the project manager would be, and Curro said the model that has been used in building projects for the last 15 years saw Curro, Greenberg and Facilities Director Chuck Zappala working with the architect, committee and project manager.

Reilly repeated that a lot of money was being requested and she needed answers. DeFrancesco said the details she needed were in the report and he would meet with her to explain them.

Board Chairman Nancy Hendricks said the tone of the board was that it would authorize the money but members needed a close accounting. DeFrancesco said every penny would be answered for.

Board member Steve Young made a motion to make $30,000 available, with $25,000 to be used first. If the remaining $5,000 were needed, DeFrancesco would have to return to the board.

The measure passed unanimously.

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