The Manchester Board of School Committee met last night and it was, well, interesting. Front and center was the settlement with the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Members of the public testified in opposition to the deal, with parent Mike Porter, an attorney, calling attention to significant errors in the data presented by the feds. He said if anybody had just done the math and added up the numbers presented in the report, they’d find significant errors in the numbers of students the study was based on. He urged the board to reject the settlement, questioning how it could have been entered into without the board’s approval. He also gave a bit of a legal tutorial on discrimination, suggesting the district may have brokered a deal that created legal liabilities where none really existed.
In response to questions from members of the board, Superintendent Debra Livingston down played the agreement saying it obligated the city to nothing other than review the data and gather additional information. Once done, they will analyze the data to see what it reveals. Then, they will develop a plan to take whatever action the data suggests is warranted. At that time, they will come to the board with recommendations that will need their approval. As of now, she argued, there’s nothing to approve.
The discussion with the board was animated with Ward 9 School Committeeman Arthur Beaudry questioning the administration’s representations of the settlement, often referring to the letter from the Office of Civil Rights which seemed to contradict what Livingston said.
Ward 10 Committeeman John Avard flatly rejected the idea that the district was racist and drew attention to the public perception problem the district created by announcing a settlement with the feds over discrimination issues. Avard said it made the district look like it was guilty of something when it’s done nothing wrong. Whatever it does in response to the audit, it should raise standards for all students, not lower the bar said Avard.
Avard’s comments caused Ward 1 Committeewoman Sarah Ambrogi to urge calm. She basically said we’re an all white board and we’re looking defensive. She urged the board to let the process go forward so they could gather the data and see what it says about what issues may or may not exist and act on it when they have answers.
Ward 2 Committeewoman Debra Langton came after the administration’s recent discussions with the Curriculum and Instruction Committee about de-leveling the schools. Saying she now knows why it seemed to come out of the clear blue, the settlement calls for the district to consider eliminating leveling, she moved to bar administrators from de-leveling, even for a pilot program which they are looking to start.
Mayor Ted Gatsas, a longtime proponent of de-leveling, ruled the motion out of order, saying leveling had nothing to do with the discussion, that opinions varied widely on the topic both locally and nationally and the administration shouldn’t be barred from considering any options before it develops a plan it believes is best. Gatsas was adamant, however, that the district quickly develop the data that corrects what the O C R reported so the facts and numbers were straight. So, lots of sound and fury, more information that made this thing at least look different than what was presented, but no changes. Lots more happened at last night’s meeting and we’ve linked to it all from our live blog forum at Girard at Large dot com. We’ve also linked to our coverage of the Bedford School Board. We’ll have more on both meetings tomorrow.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Another G O P state senator who voted for the gas tax has decided not to seek reelection. District Nineteen State Senator Jim Rausch of Derry, who led the charge in the senate to hike the gas tax by twenty three percent, is calling it a career. He was first elected to the senate in two thousand ten after serving five terms in the House of Representatives. Derry State Rep. Frank Sapareto, a former senator himself, announced several weeks ago he would be a candidate for the seat. Expect there will be more candidates announcing.
The Manchester Police Department has announced it will meet with downtown businesses, property owners, residents and other stakeholders this Thursday morning to take feedback on improving public safety in the area. Police Chief David J. Mara, Assistant Chief Nick Willard and other members of the command staff will meet with interested parties at the headquarters of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce from eight to nine thirty. Chief Mara wants to meet with the downtown community to discuss department strategies and exchange information to further facilitate a pro-active approach to the issues affecting downtown Manchester, such as aggressive panhandling, vandalism, graffiti, public intoxication and lewd conduct which are often exacerbated as the warmer weather approaches.
Goffstown has a new police chief and his name is Robert Browne. Folks in town will likely know him as Captain Robert Browne since he was promoted after a search to replace the thankfully retired Chief Patrick Sullivan narrowed the fieldto him and two others. Maybe with him as chief, we’ll be able to persuade the department to send their press releases via email rather than by fax.
A reminder to folks in Bedford, Coffee with a Cop and Senior Talk is this morning at the safety complex from seven to nine and tonight the department hosts its monthly Meet the Chief event where residents will get to speak directly with Chief John Bryfonski from 6 to 8 also at the safety complex. B P D has also announced its annual Bike Rodeo will be on May 18th. We’ve linked to the details of all three events from this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is straight away!