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School survey finds Bedford offers top value for families

BEDFORD — For families thinking of relocating, the Bedford School District's recent accolades as the No. 1 district in the Northeast region and one of the top schools in the country could make the decision a little easier.

Forbes Magazine recently published a list of the "Best Schools For Your Housing Buck," with Bedford listed as the best in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. The survey analyzed student test performance, state ranking, community involvement, education foundations and housing costs.

Superintendent Tim Mayes described the honor as, "... humbling. They had us listed as number one in the region, which is little bit larger than New England."

Mayes said Bedford's ranking by Forbes is the result of group effort.

"This is a recognition of what the community does and what parents do in addition to the students and staff," said Mayes. "I think when you look at a lot of different metrics, such as parental involvement, how kids do on state and federal tests and the cost-per-pupil, the results are very good."

He also said the Bedford Education Foundation, which was started about seven years ago, offers valuable programs and professional development grants for teachers to help enrich the schools. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $90,000 to fund advanced training, enrichment, and special programs.

The foundation awarded $14,000 grants in 2013 to teachers and specialists in the district. Its awards included the purchase of a structural stress analyzer for the Technology Education Department; support of Challenge Day for high school students; a teacher's participation at the Columbia University Writer's Workshop; and the purchase of BrainCogs software to help elementary and middle schoolers develop goal-setting, planning and organizational skills.

The foundation also supports a base camp to prepare students transitioning from middle school to high school, said Mayes.

He said Bedford often tops lists for educational value, but he doesn't intend to rest on the district's accomplishments.

"I try not to put a lot of attention to that. I try to find ways how we can get better," he said.

According to Daniel Fisher, Forbes staff writer, the "Best Schools For Your Housing Buck," found the best high-performing public school districts with affordable housing are in Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

To rate the school districts, Forbes used a database that compiles performance on standardized tests as required under the No Child Left Behind law, and calculates percentile rankings for every school within each state.

The Forbes survey looked at full-service school districts educating more than 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Using the real estate online service, Zillow, Forbes then analyzed towns and cities where the median home price was less than double the national median.

According to the article, "Given these caveats, we did find a remarkable collection of school districts that share some striking similarities. Most are in small towns within driving distance of major cities. ... They also tend to have highly involved and dedicated parents. Most have independent foundations to help cover school costs, the type of financial edge that social liberals may decry but which helps put computers in the classrooms and music programs on the schedule without driving property taxes into the stratosphere." ranks the Bedford School District seventh in New Hampshire, with the Academy for Science and Design Charter School in Merrimack as No. 1.

Zillow's home value index for Bedford is $347,300, which means half the homes have values less than $347,300 and half have values greater than that. As of Aug. 31, the average listing price for a home in Bedford was $387,000, and the average sale price was $405,600.

According to Zillow, Bedford homes currently on the market range from a $2.4 million, five-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 11,931-square-foot mansion on 2 acres; to a modest $125,000, two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,528-square-foot home on a 3-acre lot.

According to Bedford's financial report for 2012, the assessed values of residential homes amounted to $2.8 billion; commercial buildings were valued at $6 million; and utilities, $4 million, for a total town property valuation of about $3.5 billion. In 2012, there were 410 building permits with a construction value of $4.4 million.

Tax rates also comes into play when selecting a school district. In Bedford, the 2012-13 tax rate was $20.32 per $1,000 property valuation — $12.53 for local school tax, $2.30 for state education tax, $4.35 town tax, and $1.14 county tax.

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