The Manchester Board of School Committee met last night and board continued its never ending, less than useful discussion on the 2 0 1 7 budget. Superintendent Debra Livingston requested permission to lay off eight high school teachers she said would not harm student offerings. After a lengthy discussion, the board unanimously voted down the request. Ward Ten Committee Member John Avard was absent from the meeting and did not vote. Last night’s meeting was the final opportunity for the board to authorize the layoff of teachers.
Prior to the vote, a motion to maintain full day kindergarten passed, with only Ward Five’s Lisa Freeman, Ward Seven’s Ross Terio and at-Large member Rich Girard opposed.
Ward Two’s Debra Langton again attempted to eliminate health insurance benefits for board members. It again failed with Langton, Freeman, Terrio, Girard, Ward Nine’s Arthur Beaudry and Mayor Ted Gatsas in support.
Ward Eight’s Erika Connors called voting on cuts quote unquote “useless,” saying the board should wait until it gets a budget from the aldermen before discussing what to cut. Girard argued that the degree to which teachers would need to be laid off would depend on what the board was willing to cut.
District officials earned the mayor’s ire by waiting until Monday to open proposals made by outside companies to locate a special education facility in the city that would enable the district to save money on tuition and transportation for students placed in special schools. Bids were due by three on Friday, but district officials took the weekend off before opening and evaluating the bids. As a result, they were able to provide little useful information on projected savings. That irked Gatsas who said, with teacher jobs on the line, he would have thought they’d worked over the weekend knowing the decisions the board would be faced with that night. He said he called district officials on Monday morning to let them know what he’d be asking for at the meeting, yet they were still unprepared. He said he had a letter from one of the companies that submitted a proposal claiming they could save the district two million dollars and he was most unhappy that the district’s inability to confirm their claims with their bid.
In short, the board again took no action to address the two and one half million dollar shortfall between the tax cap budget and the one requested by Livingston; a shortfall board members learned is probably closer to four million dollars because of cost overruns in special education tuition and transportation.
In other business, the board approved allowing the West High School N J R O T C program to reconstitute the target shooting range it once had in part of the school’s basement known as The Hold. Cadets will use air rifles for their marksmanship activities. Connors and at-Large member Nancy Tessier opposed the program with Connors saying it violated the district’s “Zero Tolerance” for weapons policy and may cause students from war torn countries to suffer post traumatic stress.
The board also thwarted a move to allow Central High School Senior Sultan Akhter to attend the prom with his girlfriend Kaitlyn Orzechowski, a twenty two year old Central grad who is about to graduate from St. Anselm College. Girard, Terrio and Gatsas voted to allow Orzechowski to attend the prom, but the others, fearing a “slippery slope” as Ward Eleven’s Kate Desrochers put it, sided with administrators in barring Orzechowski.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The highest power costs in the country are about to go up by another ten percent, Oh My HEAD! In a statement released yesterday, Eversource announced it filed a price forecast with state regulators, anticipating that the company’s Energy Service Charge will increase in July. The company is forecasting an Energy Service Charge of ten point ninety four cents per kilowatt hour. It’s currently nine point ninety nine cents. The company says the rate forecast will be updated with the most current numbers in a June filing with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.
The Parker Varney Elementary School in Manchester received the School Innovation and Change Award from the National Principals Leadership Institute at an award ceremony yesterday. The school was just one of five to receive the award across the country. In addition to receiving a ten thousand dollar grant, Principal Amy Allen gets to attend the group’s leadership conference in New York City this summer, where the school will receive additional publicity for its efforts. Our congrats to all at Parker Varney on a job well done!
Remember Nancy Steenson? She was the chair of the Timberlane Regional School Board until voters tossed her out of office in March. Steenson, who routinely refused to allow items on the board agenda, conspired with Superintendent Earl Metzler to thwart the state’s Right to Know Law, signed a five year, two hundred fifty thousand dollar extension of a consulting contract for Metzler’s wife without board approval or public notice, affected a hostile takeover of the Sandown Withdrawal Feasibility Committee by appointing a chairman she said she didn’t have the authority to appoint and OOOHHH sooo much more, announced she will be a candidate for the District Twenty Three Senate seat being vacated by Senator Russell Prescott, who is running for the Executive Council in District Three. Steenson, a Republican from Danville, joins Sandown State Rep. Bill Gannon and Exeter resident Bob Goodman in the primary. Oh My HEAD!
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next