New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut spent about thirteen hours in the Queen City yesterday. His deep dive into the Manchester School District started with an interview here on Girard at Large and went on to Central High, Beech Street Elementary, Parker Varney and Parkside. Edelblut toured the schools and met with staff for round-table discussions. He also met with administrators from schools across the district and the district office for what proved to be an intriguing question and answer session, following an explanation of two of his main emphasis points as commissioner: Parental involvement and figuring out how to change the system to provide personalized instruction that meets the needs of every student; a message he shared at all stops. Following that meeting he met with parents before meeting informally with the Board of School Committee for about an hour and a half.
Edleblut shared how genuinely impressed he was with what he saw in the district’s schools and acknowledged district concerns over several issues, including the requirements that it both provide and fund special education services to charter schools. He was accompanied by Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas and Board Vice-Chair Arthur Beaudry throughout the day.
The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen both gaveth and tooketh away an appropriation for the school district last night. The board initially approved a motion made by Alderman at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur to appropriate the one hundred sixty five million dollars proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas with the caveat that any and all new kindergarten funding would be sent to the school district. That vote passed on a seven to six vote with Gatsas breaking the tie. In favor of the motion was Levasseur, Ward Seven’s Bill Shea, Ward Eight’s Tom Katsiantonis, Ward Nine’s Barbara Shaw, Ward Eleven’s Normand Gamache and Ward Twelve’s Keith Hirschmann. Opposed were Ward One’s Kevin Cavanaugh, Ward Three’s Patrick Long, Ward Four’s Christopher Herbert, Ward Five’s Tony Sapienza, Ward Ten’s Bill Barry at-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil. Ward Two’s Ron Ludwig was absent and the Ward Six seat is vacant.
After the vote, Long muddled the matter by asking if the board could appropriate an unspecified amount of money, which is not what Levasseur’s motion did. The answer, of course, was no. The motion invoked the supplemental appropriation process defined in the city charter. Unfortunately, the aldermen didn’t seem to either care about or grasp that the supplemental budget procedure was driven entirely by surplus revenues and had nothing to do with potential spending shortfalls.
Confused, Shaw asked for reconsideration and the vote, after a lengthy debate that featured Long, Herbert and Levasseur shouting across the room at each other, was overturned. Levasseur’s motion to simply give the schools the mayor’s proposed budget fell short on a vote of eight to four with Shaw and Katsiantonis joining those who opposed the first motion. The school board’s vote to cut city services by five percent hung like a hang nail in the debate.
Following those votes, Levasseur moved to put a question on the ballot to amend the charter to make the district a department again. This would eliminate all of the so called “charge back issues,” among other logistical matters that plague the relationship. It passed eight to four, with Levasseur, Shea, Katsiantonis a former school board member, Shaw, Gamache, Hirschmann, Long and O’Neil in favor. However, O’Neil gave notice of reconsideration which will be taken up at the next meeting, so, who knows whether or not the voters will get a say.
The board also set a special election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Ward Six Alderman Nick Pappas. It will be held in conjunction with the Municipal Primary Election in September. The first place finisher will be seated immediately to serve the rest of Pappas term and will appear on the ballot in November for the next term. The general election will be contested if more than one person files for the seat in June.
Speaking of elections, in yesterday’s special election to replace the late State Rep. Andy Martel in Manchester wards 8 and 9 and the town of Litchfield, Mark McLean defeated George Lambert in the Republican primary with a vote of one forty five to thirty seven and James Morin defeated Ryan Curran one ten to sixty one in the Democratic primary. McLean and Morin will square off on May 23rd.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
New Hampshire Right to Life and Cornerstone Action have opened fire on the budget poised for a vote in the New Hampshire House of Representatives today. At issue is a near doubling of the funding for abortion clinics. According to statements issued by both groups, the current budget spends one point one six eight million dollars. The budget proposed by Governor Christopher Sununu increased that funding to almost one point seven six million dollars. The budget that came out of the House Finance Committee hiked that amount to more than two million bucks. In revealing the numbers, N H Right to Life asked why lawmakers were looking to increase abortion clinic funding from the General Fund by two hundred grand
Of the proposed increase, Cornerstone said quote:
This is unbelievable, in a time when so many Granite Staters are affected by more pressing health and human services needs.
Why should New Hampshire residents in need of services such as substance-use treatment and mental health support have to stand in line behind abortion providers? Surely, New Hampshire HHS can put funds to better use.
Your legislators need to know that’s not okay.
Both have asked members of the public to share their opposition to this spending increase. We’ve got the link that will let you do that as well as a link to Cornerstone’s complete analysis of the proposed spending with this news read at Girard at Large dot com.
The town of Merrimack has released its 2 0 1 6 Annual Report. Included in the report are town department and committee summaries, financial statements and budget information, vital statistics from the Town Clerk’s Office, as well as the 2 0 1 7 Official Sample Ballot, Voter’s Guide and the Town Warrant. Copies are available on the town’s website, which we’ve linked to from this news read at Girard at Large dot com. Hard copies are available at no charge to Merrimack residents at the Central and South fire stations, Police Department, Public Library and Town Hall. In addition, the report will be available on Election Day, Tuesday, April 11th. Reminder! There are now three polling places in town. and we’ve got the link if you’re not sure whether you vote at Mastricola Elementary, St. John Neuman Church or the middle school.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!