Guess whose coming to dinner? Well, maybe not dinner, but to a special meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee on Monday, May Fourth? The one, the only, the New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry! Seems after a chat with Board of Education Chair Tom Raffio, Barry now believes that meeting in public session with the school board in the state’s largest city might “accomplish the kind of meaningful dialogue necessary to support students and families in these complex times;” either that or she’s now learned that writing such meetings “rarely accomplish meaningful dialogue” in a letter to the mayor last week was a really, really dumb and indefensible thing to do.
Whatever the cause, she will be the only item on the special meeting agenda said Mayor Ted Gatsas in an interview with Girard at Large yesterday. Gatsas had no explanation for Barry’s sudden about face on meeting in public, except to say he received a call late last week from Raffio saying she would appear, along with him, before the board. In published news reports, Raffio said he would attend because Barry was concerned that if she were by herself, the meeting would degenerate into a he said she said with Gatsas over past conversations and what he thought he heard in private discussions with Barry. That sort of begs the question as to why Barry originally offered to meet privately with school board members individually or in small groups, doesn’t it? Anyway, we’ll be there, you can bet on that.
House Bill 3 2 3 is up for a vote in the State Senate today. We heard from Doris Hohensee and Michelle Levell yesterday about what that bill’s passage would mean for the ability of parents in New Hampshire to refuse their kids’ participation in standardized assessments. It practically eliminates it.
We also heard about what it would do to the aforementioned Commissioner of Education’s authority to negotiate with the federal Department of Education and bind the state through those negotiations and the waivers the she applies for. It gives her carte blanche, which is really a problem unless you think unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats and appointed boards should be able to determine education policy in this state, regardless of what the the elected state and local bodies might want.
Folks, let the nine senators in our listening area know you want this bill killed or amended as Dunbarton/Bow State Rep Jr. Hoell and District Twelve State Senator Kevin Avard have proposed. And remember, Hohensee and Levell, among others, warned us about Senate Bill 4 8 and they were right. Do we want to look back and say, oops, should have listened again? Those senators in our listening area are Jerry Little, Andy Sanborn, Casino Lou D’Allesandro, Donna Soucy, Sharon Carson, Regina Birdsell, Education Chair John Reagan who I believe has been misled about this bill by the D O E just like former Education Chair Nancy Stiles was misled about 4 8, David Boutin and Russell Prescott.
News From our own backyard continues after this.
Looks like Uber has some real public safety issues to address in the Queen City B and beyond. While he wouldn’t say much in an interview with Girard at Large yesterday, Manchester Police Chief David J. Mara said he did have concerns over how well the backgrounds of drivers for the Transportation Networking a/k/a Ride Share company were screened. Mara said he’d met once with Uber and other city officials, but refused to disclose his concerns saying only that he’s hopeful there will be a resolution soon.
Meanwhile, our loyal listeners forwarded articles from the Boston Herald about steps Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is taking to create a statewide regulator scheme for the technology companies that offer rides for a fee to their app users. Among the provisions introduced by Baker include a requirement that Uber provide desired drivers to the state for it to conduct its own background check. That has been a sticking point in Manchester with City Clerk Matt Normand insisting that, in addition to drivers registering and being checked by Uber, they also go through the city as the cab drivers do. Mara declined to comment on whether or not this one stop approach would be appropriate for Manchester, saying discussions were ongoing and he didn’t want to negotiate in public. In the Boston area alone, there are over ten thousand Uber drivers. (Article 1, Article 2, Editorial)
Girard at Large has also heard from former Manchester cab drivers who have turned to Uber for their livlihoods. We have some work to do to verify what they’ve said, but it would appear there are reasons to contest the claims of the taxi cab companies about what’s affecting their livlihoods, whose refusing service to whom and a whole lot more. We’ll get to it all.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!