Well, it was a dizzy busy night of meetings in the region last night, all of it interesting, some of it consequential.
We start in Hooksett where the school board took public testimony designed to “understand” why the town voted against the proposed tuition contract with Pinkerton Academy.
As predicted, pro-Pinkerton proponents dominated the room, outnumbering opponents of the contract by a two to one margin as some three dozen folks took to the microphone to share their views. About fifty people in all attended the meeting. Both sides sounded familiar themes, with Pinkerton proponents claiming a better education would be had at the Derry school. Condemnation of Manchester came from multiple fronts including false statements about how the district spent no money at West High during the one hundred five million dollar renovation initiative launched by former Mayor Bob Baines that spent millions renovating and expanding the school. One speaker noted the city’s status as a refugee center, not so subtly implying that the designation had negatively affected the schools. Opponents of the contract sited similarly familiar notes about cost, travel time and the minimum student requirements. Town Councilor Don Winterton probably hit the nail on the head when he people voted against the contract because of the behavior of the board that gave it to them. And surprisingly, but not surprisingly, former school board member Cheryl “BT” Akstin took to the microphone to defend the actions of the prior board saying it was all Manchester’s fault because they just wouldn’t work with them to resolve the problems. She said she voted the way she did not so much for her kids who will be fine where ever they go, but for all those who won’t be. At the meeting’s end, Board Chair Joanne McHugh assured those in attendance that the board would continue to seek public input as it evaluated its high school options which, who knows, just might someday result in an invitation to the Superintendent of the much maligned Manchester schools to appear before the board, share information on what’s happening in the city’s schools, answer questions from the board and the public and provide responsive information.
In Bedford, parents made their displeasure with the salacious survey of their seventh and eighth grade children known as the situation there goes from bad to worse. When public comment time came, School Board Chair Terry Wolf read the rules regarding public participation noting the board almost never has anybody attend their meetings. What was scheduled to be an hour long item on the agenda took two hours as parents had their say. Jonathan Zdziarski
accused administrators at the Ross A. Lurgio Middle School of demonstrating bad faith in sending a misleading letter to parents that so downplayed the contents of the survey that it wasn’t recognizable based on the letter sent home. Later in the session, Zdziarski would express his irritation with Lurgio administrators who publicly downplayed parental opposition following the last school board meeting by saying there were only three who spoke against the survey. Zdziarski condemned the comments saying no parental opposition should be disrespected by being dismissed as coming from only three people. One of the final speakers of the night said that there had been a breach of trust that needed to be repaired. He reminded the board that it was the parents job to look out for the wellbeing of their children, not the schools and that the survey showed the need for the district to reestablish boundaries in interacting with students and parents that respected that. By the way, did I mention that the parents had to wait to speak until after a presentation by the Coalition for Bedford Youth which got to make a presentation about how they use the survey data to help the town’s cherubs? That wasn’t specified on the agenda. What little discussion there
was on the board about the topic came from Board Vice-Chair Scott Earnshaw who suggested future surveys be done strictly on an opt in basis and Wolfe who said not to worry, there will be plenty of discussion on the matter in the future at some undisclosed time and that there was no rush because, well, there aren’t any surveys currently planned. Click here for our interview with Zdziarski. Click here for the text of his comments to the Bedford School Board.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
A coupe of quick notes to round out this morning’s news. Aldermen in Manchester gave what I believe is final approval to proposed parking fee hikes,
though the committee probably needs to make a final report to the board before the ordiances are officially adopted. Look for leases to jump from seventy five to eighty five bucks a month in the Victory Garage. Surface lot parking will increase from fifty to sixty bucks a month and monthly Millyard parking permits will rise from forty five to fifty five dollars. The seventy five cent an hour fee for on street parking will now apply to all metered parking and be required to be paid from eight to eight. Downtown residents will now have to pay a hundred dollars a year for a resident parking permit. Plans to privatize the management of the West Side Arena were reviewed and continued through the process by the Committee on Lands and Buildings.
Terri Norelli, Speaker of the New Hampshire House, announced she will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives. Norelli, Democrat from Portsmouth, is in her ninth term. G O P leaders across the state thanked her for her service despite their disagreements. Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn did throw a parting shot at the rival party stating Norelli’s retirement was further evidence that the Democrats were in for whopping loses in the coming election, saying fed up voters will replace the fiscally irresponsible tax and spend ways of Governor Margaret Wood Hassan and her allies in the legislature.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is on the way!