The Manchester Board of School Committee met last night and, well, there were some fireworks. After receiving a report on classroom sizes at the city’s four middle schools, Ward Eight Committeeman Erika Connors moved to have the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, which she chairs, evaluate whether or not the city should implement a pure middle school concept, return to a junior high school concept, or continue with its current hybrid of the two. In a middle school, there is no leveling. In a junior high school, there is leveling. In Manchester there is some leveling which she says is creating crowding that wouldn’t exist if the city chose one way or the other.
That suggestion stirred Mayor Ted Gatsas to revisit redistricting. He all but said the discussion would be a waste of time because the board seems adverse to making any truly tough decision. Given the history of discussions in recent years over grade configurations and other potential programmatic changes, Gatsas was doubtful that anything would come of the process and argued it was well beyond the time that the schools’ boundaries lines be changed. Once the crowding problem is solved, which it could be immediately with redistricting he said, then the board can discuss educational concepts all it wants. Keep in mind, I’m paraphrasing here. For the blow by blow as it happened, visit our Live Blog Forum, which is linked to this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
When asked by Gatsas whether or not redistricting would solve the problem, Superintendent Debra Livingston agreed to a point, saying it was one of many things needed to address the problem. Livingston has delayed presenting redistricting plans on several occasions now, a point not lost on Ward Three Committeeman Christopher Stewart, who asked what the status of redistricting actually was. Livingston declined to answer saying she thought it was something that should be discussed in non-public session. Committeeman at-Large David Wihby stated he thought the board told Livingston to develop and implement a redistricting plan, which it did.
Before it was over, Connors said that redistricting was a different issue than the one she really wanted to address, which was whether or not Manchester’s hybrid middle grade system, which she said was the cause of crowding, was best educationally for the kids. Committeeman at-Large Kathy Staub asked whether or not the hybrid system, which went into affect about four years ago, had been evaluated to see if it was working. The answer? Of course not. The matter was referred to committee on a nine to five vote.
There was also a dust up on the health insurance plan in the proposed teachers union contract. Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry asked to see what changes would need to be made to the health plan to completely avoid the Obamacare Cadillac Tax. In the ensuing discussion, Gatsas disclosed that if the current plan is left as is, the Obamacare Cadillac Tax on the teachers is projected to cost four point four million dollars. If the teachers union accepts the changes proposed in the pending contract, the projected Obamacare Cadillac Tax is one point two million dollars. That prompted Stewart question why the board would negotiate a contract that doesn’t address the Obamacare Cadillac Tax, which is recurring and increasing in subsequent years. Gatsas said they addressed it by lowering the city’s liability by seventy five percent.
There was more, but we’ve got to hit the break. Don’t worry. We’ll get to it during the show. A reminder that Mayor Gatsas will join us in the eight o’clock hour.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The man who once referred to The Pledge against a sales or income tax in New Hampshire as quote unquote “puffery” has come out with a pledge of his own. At a press conference yesterday, G O P gubernatorial nominee Walt Havenstein unveiled The Pledge Two Point Oh, saying it wasn’t enough to be against the introduction of a broad based sales or personal income tax. He said candidates also had to be against any policy that commits New Hampshire taxpayers to unfunded obligations, otherwise, they’re spending money the state doesn’t have. Havenstein singled out Governor Margaret Wood Hassan’s support for the expansion of Medicaid, what he called her imaginary casino, and pointed to the fifty billion dollars in debt the state created to pay operating expenses she advocated for and got while a state senator as evidence that while she talks the pledge game, her expanded spending and reduced revenues can only lead to a broad based sales or income tax. I guess we now know what Havenstein meant by puffery.
The campaign of Republican senate nominee Scott Brown has announced it has accepted seven debates with Democratic incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Health Care Queen. That’s nearly double the number he agreed to with his primary opponents. Brown and Shaheen will go head to head on September 29th and the 6th, 13th, 14th, 21st, 23rd and 30th of October.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!
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