The Manchester Board of School Committee met twice last night. In the first meeting, it took public feedback on the proposed “tax cap” budget brought forward by Superintendent Debra Livingston. One of the public speakers was Mike Wallace, Program Coordinator for Manchester’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. Wallace, who spoke through a sign language interpreter because he’s deaf, told the board that if the tax cap budget passed, his position would be eliminated and the program he oversees jeopardized. Manchester has the only major deaf and hard of hearing program in the state.
Citizens for Manchester Schools President Jim O’Connell called the public hearing quote unquote “farcical” as he pointed out that it’s hard to give comment on a budget when nobody’s saying what will and won’t be cut to arrive at the proposed amount. He said it was difficult to understand a process where people are asked to provide input on information that doesn’t exist. He does have a point on that on.
Ward Eight resident Patrice Benard reminded the board that they took an oath to uphold the city charter and that means living within the tax cap. She urged the board not to ask the aldermen to override the cap and if that meant things like art and music had to go to ensure that children were properly instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, then so be it. She also asked the board to see that those topics were properly taught and said it should be more concerned with the nearly three hundred fifty Manchester students to home schooling and all those city students who’ve chosen charter schools then with Candia’s soon to be former students. She said those choosing home and charter schooling were evidence that the city’s schools needed to do a better job.
Benard’s comments prompted McLaughlin Middle School Principal Bill Kratnz to take to the microphone. Krantz defended the work of teachers in the classroom, saying they did a great job without adequate resources. He, interestingly, started his speech telling board members that they oath they took, first and foremost, was to the children and that they should fight like crazy for the budget Livingston wanted, which is two and a half million dollars more than what’s allowed by the tax cap.
In its regular meeting, the school board erupted over the district’s head lice policy. Board Vice Chair Arthur Beaudry proposed a policy that combined the district’s old and new policies. After much passionate discussion, Beaudry’s motion to adopt the hybrid policy failed on a tie vote, with Beaudry, at-Large member Rich Girard, Ward Seven’s Ross Terrio, Ward Ten’s John Avard, Ward Two’s Debra Langton, Ward Three’s Mary Georges and Ward Five’s Lisa Freeman in favor. Ward Sixes Dan Bergeron was absent and did not vote.
After the motion failed, Mayor Ted Gatsas moved to amend the current policy requiring schools to notify elementary school parents when a student in their child’s classroom is found to have lice. All but at-Large member Nancy Tessier voted in favor.
Following that vote, Terrio moved to amend the current policy to not allow children with live lice to be in school. The change would allow children with nits, which are the eggs of the lice, to remain in school. That motion passed with Gatsas, Ward Eleven’s Katie Desrochers, Ward Twelve’s Connie Van Houten, Ward One’s Sarah Ambrogi, Tessier and Ward Eight’s Erika Connors opposed.
Public Health Director Tim Soucy expressed concern after this vote saying that it went against “evidence based best practices” and he would did not feel comfortable telling the nurses to ignore them. Soucy continued to say that he may need to look closer at the contract between the Manchester School District and the Health Department if the board insists on policies that don’t conform to the “evidence based best practices.”
Manchester’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet tonight to hold a public hearing on the city and school budgets proposed by the mayor. The meeting will begin at five thirty in the Aldermanic Chambers in City Hall. If you can’t be there, feel free to blog along live with us at Girard at Large dot com.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
At last night’s school board meeting, Mayor Ted Gatsas recognized students from St. Catherine of Sienna School for making 1 4 4 gift bags for homeless students in Manchester. The bags contained blankets, mittens, hats, flashlights, snacks and a Teddy Bear. The students completed this as a part of their Caring for Kids imitative. This is the second year in a row the kids from St. Catherine’s have collected and delivered care packages for homeless city students.
McDonough Elementary Principal Ken DiBenedetto, who was on hand to help recognize his school’s city championship boys’ basketball team, also thanked St. Catherine’s students, saying their generosity had helped a number of students at his school.
Memorial High School’s FIRST Robotics team was recognized for winning the FIRST Robotics Competition District Event in Asheville, North Carolina. The board later approved the team’s field trip request so it can compete in the New England District Championship.
All of the students’ names from all three recognition ceremonies can be found in the meeting agenda, which we’ve linked to from this news read at Girard at Large dot com.
The Londonderry Police Department announced it will install a permanent drug take back box in the lobby of its police station. The box will be available twenty four seven beginning on April eighteenth at 10 a m. The box will be able to be used anonymously. Prescription medications, ointments, patches, pet meds and vitamins will be accepted. Needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, over the counter liquids, lotions or ointments, batteries and trash won’t be.
It’s Election Day in Merrimack where voters will weigh in on town and school district budgets, a variety of warrant articles, town and school district races and ooohhh sooo much more! Hopefully, there won’t be traffic helicopters from Boston news stations circling the town to take pictures of polling place traffic problems.
That’s news from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next.