Quote: It was brought to my attention today that there is a proposal to change the bell times for the upcoming school year. While morning times are fine from a school busing perspective, I have significant concerns about the afternoon bus schedule.” That’s the opening sentence in an unexpected memo from Manchester Transit Authority Executive Director Mike Whitten to Mayor Ted Gatsas. Whitten went on to explain that the current thirty five minutes between dismissal times of the middle and elementary schools is necessary for them reuse buses. Under the proposed teacher contract, which made significant changes to dismissal times to establish the so called “hours schedule,” the current thirty five minute period of time between dismissal at the middle and elementary schools is cut to twenty. Whitten wrote it was simply not possible to reuse the buses for their second run on the vast majority of routes.
Using the same buses at the middle and elementary schools, he wrote, cuts their costs in half. He said the only way to accommodate the new schedule would be to break the routes apart and run separate buses, which he said would take forty three new buses at an operational cost of four hundred eight thousand five hundred dollars. He wrote that the Authority would not be able to locate, hire and train forty three new drivers before school starts in September as the licensing process through the state takes two to three months alone. Even if he could hire new drivers in time, he doesn’t have forty three buses for them to drive! He projected obtaining the necessary buses would cost more than three point eight million dollars and wrote if they placed the order today, they won’t get them until March. They may be able to free up five to eight buses used for after school sports, he wrote, but that presents a whole new set of challenges.
Whitten wrote that he’d advised school district officials of the problems in a meeting on June thirtieth. Gatsas called into the Girard at Large Radio Show this morning to share that the language had been changed and ratified by the Manchester Board of School Committee in a phone poll and the Manchester Education Association. An amended version of the contract will be before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday, July 7th for a ratification vote.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
In a bizarre turn of events that probably shows that a little media scrutiny on the questionable doings of government officials can have a big impact, the following press release was issued by Superintendent Earl Metzler of the Timberlane Regional School District. Quote:
Due to the fact that we were unable to secure a vendor contract by June 30, 2015 to create additional play/green space at Sandown North Elementary School as part of the approved school consolidation plan, it is my recommendation to not move forward with the play/green space project at this time.
Although best efforts were made by all parties involved, we are unable to meet our legal obligation to make this project possible using funds from the 2014-15 budget and surplus as directed by the school board on June 18, 2015.
We are committed to exploring other options for providing appropriate play/green space for the children of Sandown. As always, we thank the Timberlane community for its continued support.
Metzler was seeking to use unbudgeted surplus funds in the oh fifteen fiscal year to facilitate this work because of the consolidation plan he’d put forward for Sandown’s Central and North elementary schools. That proposal roiled many in Sandown and the town of Danville, who believed Sandown Central should be closed because the funds to operate it were taken out of the budget, the school board voted to close it and voters shot down two warrant articles intending to fund its operation. Oh, voters also shot down a warrant article that would also have revamped the playground facilities at Sandown North, raising more protests from those who wanted to know how they could spend any funds on something the voters shot down. We discussed the situation earlier in the week with Timberlane School Board Member Donna Green and have linked to that archive from this newscast.
Anyway, two things you should know about this press release. One: There is an ad on page eleven in this week’s Carriage Towne News requesting sealed bids for the project with a site walk scheduled for July sixth, which makes one wonder whether or not the attention on what they’re doing has caused them to retreat or whether or not they’re just incompetent; and two, Green has published a blog post appealing to the school board to hold a special meeting and reconsider the plan to transform Sandown Central into a district wide pre-K and special ed facility and consolidate its current grades with Sandown North. In her appeal, Green wrote quote:
The public expected sprinklers, a new playground and an additional access. One has proven impossible, the other beyond our financial means and the third has been delayed by at least a year. An additional fourth grade class needs to be added to Sandown North which was not envisioned in the classroom layout. Then there is the legal issue that worries both Danville and Sandown about how district money can be used to operate a school that was defunded by voters.
The “plan” is clearly all over the floor. How many more obvious indications of failure are you prepared to impose on the people of Sandown without so much as a meeting to acknowledge the problems? We need to immediately reconsider the timeline of the consolidation and to reset public expectations of what can actually be accomplished according to the law.
We’ll let you know what happens.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!