The Manchester Board of School Committee met in special session last night to discuss redistricting. The only proposal on the agenda was the one brought forward by at-Large Committeeman Rich Girard, which was a two thousand seven proposal recommended by former Superintendent Tom Brennan in 2013. This plan was included in the agenda and made available to the public on Girard at Large dot com and through social media.
To the surprise of the board and the public, Superintendent Debra Livingston ended up presenting a redistricting proposal last night, despite a letter on the agenda from Assistant Superintendent Christine Martin which said quote:
“The district does not have a written redistricting proposal to present to the Board of School Committee. Superintendent Livingston will be asking for an extension to this deadline as she continues to work on a viable plan for our students. We are in need of more time to refine a plan that presents a redistricting option not previously brought forward.”
At its meeting on December fourteenth of last year, the board directed Livingston to come forward with three plans: One showing a citywide redistricting based on the creation of a centralized pre-school facility that would remove all pre-school classes from the elementary schools, one showing where the school boundary lines would be if the city’s schools were realigned to have grades pre-K through four, five through seven and eight through twelve, and a third that would include pre-K through four, five through eight, and nine through twelve.
Livingston did none of the above. Instead, she proposed moving the pre-school classes from Jewett Street School to Memorial High, the pre-school classes from Parker Varney to West High, the autism and emotionally disturbed programs from West to Central High, the three English Language Learner classes from Webster School to Parker Varney so they could then bus up to seventy five kids from Northwest to Webster and then redistrict to relieve pressure on Northwest by somehow taking advantage of the three available classrooms at Parker Varney and the five classrooms at Jewett.
After receiving the two sided sheet of paper outlining the plan, Board Vice Chair Arthur Beaudry said,
“I wish we had this in our packets. I was under the impression that there was no proposal from you tonight…I will not support moving the pre-schools to the high schools.” Livingston did not have any cost numbers to make the physical plant changes required by the plan nor had she given much thought to how to realign the district. That would be a “later concern,” she said.
She did invite West Principal Christopher Motika to the microphone to speak in favor of her redistricting plan, which she said she’d worked up that morning, and against the proposal brought forward by Girard, saying that the school that once housed twenty three hundred kids could not absorb the approximately four hundred seventh and eighth grade students from Parkside because there was insufficient room in the school that now has fewer than nine hundred students.
Mayor Ted Gatsas did not come forward with the redistricting plan he promised back in December. He said the city personnel he put in charge of drawing the boundary lines couldn’t do the work he asked them to do because the superintendent didn’t return their calls or meet with them. Gatsas revived his proposal to investigate using the former state unemployment office on Hanover Street for a pre-school, saying it was back on the market. He suggested a deal could be made with the state and that renovation costs would be far less than building a five and a half million dollar addition onto Jewett Street School as proposed by Livingston in December.
The Board voted to have the administration look into the use and renovation of the building on Hanover Street. Having made the case that a new building wasn’t necessary, Girard opposed the motion. The board also voted to direct Board Clerk Maura Leahy to put together a document that could somehow be live edited and allow the board members to comment, ask questions, and discuss each of the three proposed options, so long as it the document was conspicuously available to the public in real-time to avoid having what would otherwise be considered an illegal electronic meeting under the state’s Right to Know Law. Ward Twelve Committee Member Connie Van Houten opposed the motion, which was made by Ward Eight Committee Member Erika Connors.
Thanks to our very own Melanie Friese, you can get all the meeting’s details in the Live Blog Forum under Oh My BLOG! at Girard at Large dot com. We’ve linked to it.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and CodeRED will be calling the general public and leaving voice mails throughout this week from February 29th to March 5th. The purpose of these phone calls is to raise awareness for New Hampshire Alerts, which is designed to deliver messages to people based on their current locations. This test of the N H Alert System, in collaboration with CodeRED, will attempt to deliver messages to more than half a million landlines to inform people of the N H Alerts Mobile App and Ready N H dot gov.
It’s Super Tuesday in the race for the White House. With about half the delegates needed to win either party nomination up for grabs today, we’ll know a whole lot more about who the likely nominees are. Democrat Hillary Clinton is looking to consolidate her lead over Senator Bernie Sanders with wins in the South while Sanders is hoping strongholds in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and West will throw him a life line. On the Republican side Texas Senator Ted Cruz is defending his home turf against a surging Donald Trump, who otherwise has commanding leads in the rest of the eleven states he’s favored to win today. The remaining Republicans will debate again on Thursday night.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!