BREAKING May 29, 2012 4:15 PM

Manchester Education Association President Ben Dick denied there was any pending deal on a contract extension in discussion with Girard at Large this afternoon.  Said Dick:  “I’ve had one phone discussion with Mayor Gatsas and one with Superintendent Brennan since the contract was voted down.  That’s been the extent of it.”

When asked whether or not any ideas were offered by any party during those conversations, Dick simply said “no.”  He then went on to say “we basically let each other know if anyone had an idea about a way forward they should pick up the phone and share it.”  Other than that, there was little of substance in the calls.

Dick’s statements seemed at odds with a recently published story in a local newspaper which claimed that “teacher contract talks continue” and reported that Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas had cancelled a special meeting of the Board of School Committee anticipating that a tentative agreement with the union may be forthcoming, in which case he would call a meeting of the school board on Wednesday or Thursday night.

“I have no idea where they got that,” said Dick.  “There’s nothing that I know of on the table.”

When asked whether or not he thought the planned lobbying effort by teachers to persuade the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to increase school funding would work, Dick replied, “I have not called for our members to attend or speak at tonight’s meeting and do not expect that teachers will show up en mass to speak to the board.  I’ve only said that I plan to be there myself.”  This also seems to contradict recently published reports in other publications.

Girard at Large left a message at Mayor Gatsas’ office this morning in regard to this situation.  Gatsas will be our guest tomorrow from 8 to 8:30 AM.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Thomas Brennan said he received word on Sunday around 2 PM that the mayor had cancelled tonight’s special meeting of the school board.  He was “unaware” of any pending deal, but said that the teachers have kept the lines of communication open since the MEA membership rejected the proposed extension.  He declined to go into further detail.

Alderman at Large Joe Levasseur said he wouldn’t be surprised if there was a deal looming.  “Gatsas told me he knows the district can’t function with those 161 positions laid off and he’s got no plan if that happens.  I don’t think Brennan knows what to do either.  Everybody’s got their fingers crossed that something will happen to strike a deal because the votes to override the tax cap don’t exist.  It’s not gonna happen and the vote against the contract extension just made it worse,” he said, referring to the number of aldermen who will not vote to override the cap because of the union’s failure to accept the negotiated contract extension.

Levasseur, who opposes overriding the cap, said the city should take action to adopt a school budget tonight.  “Whether or not it’s the 150 number or the 152 (millions of dollars) we should get it passed so the school board and the union know what they have to deal with tonight and can do what they’ve got to do.  Dragging this out another couple of weeks isn’t going to accomplish anything.  These people need to know what their number is so they can plan.”

Tonight’s special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is to take action on the pending budget resolutions, including the school’s.  There is no public comment session as it is a special meeting of the board.  Therefore, activists who have aggressively solicited parents and others to come forward and speak at tonight’s meeting will not be able to.  Dick said he only learned today that there was no public comment session available tonight.

Stay tuned to Girard at Large for details as they unfold.  We’ll keep you accurately up to date!