Between the opening of the election filing period and the meeting of the Board of School Committee in Manchester yesterday, there wasn’t a dull moment to be had and we have a busy news read.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas filed papers to run for a fourth term. In doing so, he issued a statement saying he was quote “proud of all that we have accomplished to build a better Manchester” and that quote “(W)e have worked hard to improve education here in Manchester; we have improved public safety for our citizens; we have maintained a vibrant local economy and we continue to invest in city infrastructure.” End quote. Gatsas said he was running again to build on a record of success and to continue to find solutions for the challenges that lie ahead.
Also filing were three announced challengers who had something of a differing view of the mayor’s performance over the past six years and the state of the city.
Former Ward Twelve Alderman and mayoral runner up Patrick Arnold issued a statement last night saying he was running quote “because the people of our city deserve better than the status quo and business as usual at City Hall.” End quote. Interestingly, he said quote “Over the last several years especially, our city has suffered from the timidity and ineffectiveness of the current administration” and intimated Gatsas was responsible for out of control drug activity and violent crime. Arnold also seemed to take a swipe at the other challengers saying that quote “While others will offer merely the illusion of change, I will be advocating for authentic change to meet our city’s challenges head on.”
In filing her mayoral candidacy, Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig said she was running for mayor because quote “Unfortunately, over the past six years our city’s growth has stalled under Mayor Gatsas’s poor leadership. Our schools are in worse shape, the drug epidemic is escalating, our roads are deteriorating and our infrastructure is outdated, yet the Mayor has put forth no concrete plans on how to tackle these problems.”
Jawed Alibaba Shaikh also filed for mayor yesterday. He said the city needed to be transformed by new visionary leadership to reach its potential.
Several candidates filed for lower office and there will be a primary for aldermen in wards One, Ten and Twelve. Zoning Board Chair Bill Bevelaqua, Richard Higgins and Andra Rosa filed for alderman in Ward One. Alderman Bill Barry, Highway Commissioner Ray Hebert and newcomers Alexandria Knox and Michael Jedidiah Tocci filed in Ward Ten. In Ward Twelve, Alderman Keith Hirschmann, former City Clerk and Welfare Commissioner Leo Bernier and Joel Elber filed for alderman. We’ve written a story with the complete list of yesterday’s filings on Oh My BLOG! at Girard at Large dot com and linked to it from this newscast.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Last night’s meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee was disconcerting on a number of levels. The meeting hit a very sour note when Ward Nine Committeeman Art Beaudry publicly accused Ward Eight Committeewoman Erika Connors of divulging confidential personnel information to the parent of a non-renewed teacher. Beaudry said the woman in question called him after talking to Connors and alleged she’d said her daughter was often tardy to class, had poor classroom management skills and that she wouldn’t want her children in her class.
Livid, Connors said she had spoken with the woman but told her that she had no information on why the teacher was non renewed because it was a personnel matter that hadn’t been shared with the board. She said she merely gave the woman who called examples of why a teacher might be non-renewed but in no way implied they applied to her daughter. It was clear that Beaudry tried to ambush Connors on the matter at the meeting and, frankly, it came across as the low blow it really was. It was one of the lowest thing’s I’ve seen in public life.
Later in the meeting, Ward Two Committeewoman Debra Langton moved to start a superintendent search. She said it was in the best interest of the district to see who a search might find. The contract for Superintendent Debra Livingston is an annual one and Langton apparently wanted to see if there were better alternatives before Livingston’s contract comes up for renewal. Only Langton and Beaudry supported the motion, with appointed at-Large member Nancy Tessier interestingly abstaining on the vote.
Following that vote, Mayor Ted Gatsas asked for a vote of confidence in Livingston, which passed with Beaudry opposed and Langton abstaining. All of that came after Langton read off a laundry list of legitimate items that she and other board members had been awaiting information on going all the way back to March of this year. Apparently, Livingston’s answer as to why the board’s questions and requests for information hadn’t been answered wasn’t satisfactory. She blamed end of year workload, busy people and vacations for their failure to produce the information. Frankly folks, that was a biiiit of a stretch. Anyway, Livingston said several of the items would be reported on at the next meeting.
In other news, the board voted to hike school lunch prices by a dime to avoid having to cover the revenue the increase would generate to the program out of general funds. Seems the feds want the district to charge cash paying customers more money to close the gap between what non-free and reduced hot lunch kids pay and what the feds pay for free and reduced hot lunch. They also voted to enable the administration and Gatsas to negotiate with the vendors who submitted bids to open a kitchen at the Parker Varney School. And, after a tedious discussion, they voted to table pay raises for the district’s non-affiliated employees, who years ago, altered their health benefits and tied their pay raises to the Consumer Price Index.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!