We start this morning with a story we ran yesterday about comments allegedly made by New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry. Girard at Large received unsolicited emails, whose authenticity we verified, claiming that Barry expressed a belief that local control of schools should be terminated.
While Commissioner Barry has yet to reply to our inquiries on the matter, Girard at Large has received information challenging the story. Two superintendents, who wished to remain anonymous, have told us that while Barry admitted she wasn’t a fan of local control when she took the helm at the state Department of Ed., she’s come to see its value and, as a result, is preparing an application to extend the state’s waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act that includes three options for school districts when it comes to testing students and evaluating teachers. Those options, we’re told, include using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, using a testing scheme similar, if not identical, to the one requested by the Londonderry School Board as an alternative to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and using ones developed by individual districts themselves. Because we here at Girard at Large are committed to “getting it right” versus “being right,” we are happy to share this challenge to our story, which we, of course are working to reconfirm in light of this information. We will keep you up to date as details come forward and will discuss some of what we’ve learned through this story because it provides a textbook example of how things should be done and why.
The Hooksett School Board met last night and I’m pleased to say our spies did an outstanding job blogging the meeting for us in real time and you can read it for yourself as we’ve linked to their efforts from this news read at Girard at Large dot com. Town resident Tom Cote came forward to ask the board not to renew efforts to secure a tuition contract with Pinkerton Academy given the town’s clear rejection of the last one. Hooksett Budget Committee Chairman MarcPea Miville expressed dismay with the board’s two hour attempt at its prior meeting trying to keep tuition ties with Pinkerton given the town’s vote, noting that the voters didn’t have any choice in swallowing the two point three million dollar budget increase served up by their predecessors. The public testimony notwithstanding, the board spent a considerable amount of time trying to determine how they could find out quote unquote “what the vote meant” (Oh My HEAD!) settling on a public forum this April twenty first where quote unquote “voters” will be asked to come forward and tell the board why they voted the way they did. They appointed board members John Lyscars and Todd Lizotte to establish a format for the session and come up with a survey the board apparently will use to query voters as to their decisions. Board Vice Chair Amy Boilard opposed the moves, believing they aren’t likely to produce much in the way of objective, actionable data. The board also consumed an interesting amount of time discussing what data should and shouldn’t be considered as they evaluate their options and Lizotte complained that class size data presented on Central High was a completely useless data dump, though Boilard found it very easy to read. We’ve asked for (now recieved) a copy of the data so we can see for ourselves. Oh, and David Pearl‘s excursion into interior decorating apparently went well. With some minor modifications requested by the board, the new room set up he concocted will continue at least for the next meeting.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
“Chickiins” took center stage at the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen last night as several went to the microphones at City Hall to plead for a less restrictive ordinance. One resident provided pictures of the backyard of her five thousand square foot lot with a multi family home to show what her yard looked like with chickiins until her landlord forced her to remove the domestic birds before he was fined by the city for allowing them on the property. She said people on smaller lots in lower income neighborhoods shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity to have chickens. Another resident from across town said he has plenty of land for the birds, but not as much as the city’s proposed ordinance will require. He frequently has deer and wild turkeys on his
property, so why not chickiins? He wants them as pets for his kids so he can teach them where food comes from. The show stopper came from West Side resident Tammy Simmons who looked up each of the alderman’s homes to discover that only three would be allowed to have chickens under the half acre rule. She noted the twenty foot setback requirement of the ordinance though, and asked if the purpose is to keep their coops twenty feet away from their neighbor’s property, why have the half acre rule? If they ditched that rule and just went with the twenty feet, thirteen of the fourteen aldermen could have chickiins. She said the board should let people have chickiins or not and that the proposed rules disqualified so many people from having them it would just be better if they said not. The board did refer the matter to a public hearing, which is required for changes to the zoning ordinance.
In other business, the Bills on Second Reading Committee received and filed the Hackett Hill developer’s request to change the zoning to accommodate
large scale housing developments for senior citizens, which Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne referred to as “Sleep City.” The Human Resources Committee heard a request from the police department to transfer the prosecution of juvenile crimes back to the City Solicitor’s Office noting that the cases are growing increasingly complex and require the attention of full time attorneys, not police prosecutors who aren’t
really equipped to handle the cases. The aldermen got more great news on health care costs which can be summed up in the words of Alderman at large Dan O’Neil who said, “So, let me see if I’m understanding this correctly. We have employees paying higher contributions and higher co-pays. Employee head count is lower, and we have a younger workforce because of the amount of retirements. Yet costs are skyrocketing. Something is going on out there, and I think it’s beyond our control.” Hey Danny, it is and it’s called Obamacare! The city faces a serious deficit in this year’s health insurance line item, in addition to the one forecast for next year.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is straight ahead.