Manchester’s new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas is off to a running start. Vargas gave his first report to the Board of School Committee its meeting last night. In the report, Vargas disclosed preliminary information on declining enrollment which showed the district’s numbers have fallen from over fourteen thousand seven hundred in the two thousand thirteen-fourteen school year to just over thirteen thousand nine hundred in the current school year. In response to questions from at-Large board member Rich Girard, Vargas said once the detailed analysis is complete, he will provide a grade level accounting of the decline, which will include a report as to how many city students were choosing alternatives to the district, such as private, parochial, charter or home schooling. Vargas said declining enrollment is an issue nationwide, not just in Manchester.
He also reported that only three of the district’s two hundred sixty eight elementary school classrooms exceeded size limits set by board policy and state standards. All three were over by one student. At the secondary school level, out of nine thousand “class sections,” there were two middle school and three high school classes that exceeded enrollment limits by either one or three students..
Vargas, who has been analyzing budget data, said his visits to the schools thus far give him hope for the future, saying he believed Manchester had the fundamental pieces in place to become one of the best districts in the country. He said children across the spectrum were happy and engaged and the staff seemed dedicated to serving their needs.
Also last night, Mayor Ted Gatsas proposed naming the Manchester School of Technology after former superintendent the late Tom Brennan, in recognition of the work he did to get the four year high school program up and running..
Residents from Manchester’s South End thought they were going to a public hearing before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s Committee on Public Safety and Traffic provide their input on a traffic proposal made by Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw to address traffic woes on President Road last night. Dozens of area residents showed up, but weren’t allowed to speak as the agenda failed to provide a public input session and Acting Chair Patrick Long refused to open the meeting to public comment.
Instead, the aldermen discussed the alternatives among themselves, recommending the board adopt Shaw’s plan to make President Road a one way street headed West, despite opposition from McDevitt Trucks and Hannaford Supermarket, both of which said their businesses would be significantly negatively impacted by the move. Several other businesses have objected to changing President Road as well. The motion passed three to one with Long, Ward Ten’s Bill Barry and Ward Eleven’s Normand Gamache in favor and at-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil opposed. That vote came after a bid by O’Neil to gate President Road failed on a two to two tie vote, with Gamache joining O’Neil in support. Committee Chair Tom Katsiantonis of Ward Eight, who scheduled the meeting, was not present. While Shaw’s plan is expected to reduce traffic on President Road, it is also expected to increase traffic on other roads in the area, residents of which served notice at the last meeting of the board they won’t accept quietly.
Work has begun to connect the twenty six South Manchester wells contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid, also know as P F O A, by the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in Merrimack. In making the announcement yesterday, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said he, Water Works Director Phil Croasdale and officials from the state Department of Environmental Services had been in talks with Saint Gobain about extending city water to the contaminated properties since late April, when the contamination was discovered. Hundreds of wells in Litchfield, Merrimack, Bedford and Amherst have been contaminated by the pollutant, including two wells owned by the Merrimack Village Water District.
Said Gatsas quote:
This resolution will come at no cost to the affected property owners or the City of Manchester. All costs associated with bringing the service to the Manchester properties will be reimbursed to the Manchester Water Works by Saint-Gobain Plastics of Merrimack.
In commending all parties for their cooperation and residents for their patience, Gatsas, a former Water Works Commissioner, said residents will be notified by the Water Works of specific construction scheduling. He said, weather permitting, all work and connections to the city water service will be completed by mid-December.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
October 30th is Priesthood Sunday, a celebration of the priesthood organized by parish lay leaders and coordinated by the U S A Council of Serra International. Parishes throughout the state and nation will show support for their priests with prayer and special celebrations on the weekend of October 29th and 30th. To celebrate the occasion, the Most Reverend Peter Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, is asking Catholics throughout the diocese to join him in prayer and thanksgiving for all the diocese priests and their generous and courageous service. Libasci urged the faithful to make their appreciation known to their parish priests. Quote:
An invitation to lunch, a card, a smile—even the simplest of gestures to assure him of your gratitude for his service to the people of God in New Hampshire will mean so much.
The bishop has asked the lay faithful of each parish, school or other ministry to develop their own special way of marking the day and honoring both their own priests and the priesthood. Over the past few years parishes have shown their appreciation by hosting receptions after Masses, placing advertisements in their local newspapers honoring their priest, or presenting their priest with personalized notes reminding him of what he does to bring people closer to Christ. More information on Priesthood Sunday is available at priest Sunday dot org.
The Goffstown Police Department has announced it will participate in the coming Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration on Saturday, October 22nd. Residents will be able to bring in unused, unwanted prescription drugs to the police station on Mast Road from ten to two. Officials say that expired, unused, or unwanted controlled substances in our homes are a potential source of supply for the increasing abuse of pharmaceutical drugs and an unacceptable risk to public health and safety. No needles or liquids can be accepted. The service is free and anonymous. No questions will be asked. For more information in regards to this initiative, please contact Detective Jason Ouellette at 4 9 7 4 8 5 8.
That’s news from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!