A busy night at the Manchester School Board last night, so we’ll get right to it. Former Mayor Bob Baines and West High Principal Christopher Motika joined
Superintendent Debra Livingston to update the board about the STEAM Ahead New Hampshire initiative. Among the big announcements was an unprecedented grant from The Bean Foundation, which not only donated twenty five thousand dollars to the effort, but also pledged another twenty five thousand dollars to match contributions collected from individuals and private companies. Baines announced he’d secured that funding, meaning The Bean Foundation was responsible for seventy five thousand dollars in donations to develop the program. Baines also praised Mayor Ted Gatsas for his role in launching the project, announcing Gatsas had raised approximately one hundred thousand dollars to fund the scholarships needed to convey college credits to kids in the program. A number of initiatives, grant applications, potential business backers and initiatives to ensure there are enough teachers with Masters degrees in their subject area to facilitate the program were announced.
The administration announced it had reached agreement with the teachers union over the school calendar. Remember, they had that five minute problem at the middle schools that needed to be worked out and coordinated with bus schedules and all that. Morning preschool will start at nine and end at eleven thirty, afternoon preschool will start at twelve thirty and end at three. Kiddos have to be in elementary school from eight twenty to two thirty five. Middle schoolers will start at seven thirty five and end at two. High school students will be in classes from seven forty five to two forty two. If we get the electronic copy of what was handed out last night, as we’ve requested, we’ll post it with this news read.
Drop out rates were also discussed. We’ve linked to the press release the district put out yesterday showing that drop rates had climbed at the city’s three high schools. While those stats are technically true, according to Assistant Superintendent David Ryan, they don’t tell the whole story which ends with half as many kids dropping out this year versus last. Apparently, the state numbers lag behind reality by a year. Biggest improvement came from West High, where administrators credit the outreach work led by Motika.
Other items of note: The board approved a contract extension for Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis. She’ll get a one percent raise, brining her salary to almost one hundred seven thousand dollars. On an eight to seven vote, the board defeated a motion by Ward 10 Committeeman John Avard to revisit privatizing the School Food and Nutrition Service. And, after they realized they’d passed over fourteen million dollars in bonded projects, including the enclosure of open concept classrooms at Webster and Beech Street schools and an almost nine million dollar addition to the School of Technology, the board had quite an animated discussion over the future of M S T and what it needed to do to ensure the success of the four year program there. Avard led the charge for the project’s funding, basically saying “I told you so” as the only person to vote against the program. Gatsas opposed saying there’s a gym across the street at Memorial they could use. A bid to reconsider the approval went down in flames with only Gatsas, Sarah Ambrogi of Ward One and Christopher Stewart of Ward 3 voting in favor. Oh yeah, they adopted a new budget that reflected the changes made to their appropriation by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, too. We’ve linked to our Live Blog Forum of the meeting so you can get the blow by blow details as they happened in real time from this newscast at Girard at Large dot com. There really were some very good discussions.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Kimberly Reagan, one of the moms in Hooksett asking to be reimbursed for what she asserts is a shortfall in tuition paid to Bow High, where she sent her son to school, has filed a request for a formal hearing on the matter she has been bringing to the Hooksett School Board’s attention for several weeks. Reagan claims that the school district should have paid Bow the same total per pupil base tuition it paid Manchester, not simply Manchester’s estimated tuition rate set before all the numbers are sent to the state to determine what the tuition costs actually are. Board Member John Lyscars‘ motion to grant the reimbursement was torched by the board at its last meeting with only Lyscars voting in favor. Board Member David Pearl recused himself as he sends his kids to an other than Manchester school and could financially benefit from the board’s decision. In her request, which we’ve published here at Girard at Large dot com, Reagan cites administrative rules from the State Department of Education requiring the board to provide due process to consider her complaint. They have not done that, but I’m guessing they now will. And, not that anybody asked, they’d be smart to avoid going to court on this one. They just might want to inquire of the administration, which made the incorrect tuition payments to the other than Manchester schools, just how many parents this could affect and just what their financial liability might be if they had to rebate everybody. Adding legal fees to it won’t be smart, I think.
The town of Weare has announced a settlement with the family of Alex Cora de Jesus, the Manchester man who was shot and killed by a Weare police officer during a drug bust that went bad. In exchange for three hundred grand, the family agrees not to sue the department over the death of their son. Apparently, this was something worked out by the town’s insurance company behind the scenes, which caught many in the town, including its elected officials, by surprise. We’ll see if we can’t dig up more on this for future shows.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at large hour ___ is next.