Despite a rousing rendition of We Are The World sung by kids from the Beech Street School chorus to kick of its meeting, things got a bit touchy at last night’s meeting of the Manchester Board of School Committee. A bid to delay approval of a “linkage agreement” between the Manchester School District and the New Hampshire Job Corps Center by Board Vice Chair Arthur Beaudry failed after a lengthy discussion. The agreement enables the distict to collect state adequacy aid for city students that are enrolled in the Job Corps. Upon graduation, they would receive a Manchester high school diploma.
Ward Four Committee Member Leslie Want expressed concerns that Job Corps graduates might not be worthy of a city diploma and wanted assurances that they’d meet the criterion. Beaudry took her concerns and tried to dish the agreement off to a committee to ensure it was “fully vetted.” That seemed to rankle Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas who, in addition to saying Job Corps graduates would meet the district’s diploma standards, asserted that he’d thoroughly vetted the agreement. He also said, in response to questions posed by at-Large Board Member Rich Girard, that it was necessary to correct deficiencies in the agreement currently in place. He said the Job Corps was asking for the updates basically because the district had been too difficult to work with.
After that, the board haggled over cookies and cupcakes and whether or not they should be allowed to be sold in schools by parent teacher organizations looking to raise money via bake sales. Ward Three Board Member Mary Georges kept abstaining on votes, causing a motions made by Girard to both receive and file and table the policy until the federal and state departments of education had finished changes that are in the works failed on tie votes. George’s abstention also caused Beaudry’s motion to approve the policy that required parents to sign permission slips for their kids to buy stuff at bake sales and required bake sales to be held at least thirty minutes after school also failed on a tie vote. Finally, Beaudry moved to leave the policy as is, which is what Girard’s receive and file and tabling motions would have done. That passed with Ward Ten’s John Avard and Mayor Ted Gatsas opposed. Girard and Ward Seven’s Ross Terrio abstained and Ward Two’s Debra Langton was indisposed at the time of the vote, probably in the anteroom eating a cookie.
There were also a number of budget votes cast by the board, not the least of which was a vote to layoff teachers. That came after a tense discussion over whether or not the board should ask the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for a budget that included two million dollars in new, hoped for, but not approved kindergarten money from the state. Beaudry said Full Day K funding was looking good and moved to increase the ask of the aldermen by two million bucks. Girard, Terrio and Ward Twelve’s Constance Van Houten opposed the motion. Gatsas and Ward Five’s Lisa Freeman abstained.
Beaudry then made the motion to issue layoff notices that would eliminate fourteen people whose jobs amount to twelve “full-time equivalent” teaching positions, choking up emotionally as he did so, saying it was necessary to bring staff numbers in line with declining student enrollment, particularly at the high schools. He said the cost of the teacher’s contract had nothing to do with his proposal. Ward Eleven’s Kate Desrochers, at-Large Member Nancy Tessier and Gatsas opposed the motion. Gatsas said it looked “like a setup” coming on the heels of the move to ask for more money.
Then, there were then two votes regarding the taxpayer provided health and dental benefits board members may choose to take. Langton moved to eliminate them effective with the seating of the new board in January, 2 0 1 8 if the new kindergarten funding didn’t come from the state. It failed on a tie vote with Girard, Terrio, Beaudry, Freeman and Gatsas joining Langton in favor. Avard, Desrochers, Van Houten, Georges, Ward Sixes Dan Bergeron and Tessier opposed. Ward Eight’s Erika Connors, Want and Ward One’s Sarah Ambrogi abstained.
After that motion failed, Gatsas moved to increase the amount of premium board members paid from twenty percent to fifty percent. That failed on a five, five tie with five abstentions. Terrio switched his vote from yes to abstain. Bergeron switched his vote from no to abstain. And there you have it, cuts for everyone but themselves.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Late last week, the New Hampshire State Police was notified of a suspicious individual attempting to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles in Nashua. As it turns out, twenty one year old SHTAIN GBALANGA of Barrington, was using fraudulent documents to get a license. During their investigation, state troopers determined that Gbalanga was a citizen of France and in the U. S. illegally. He was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Hillsborough County House of Corrections, where he was being held on a five thousand dollar cash bail. He was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday in Nashua District Court on charges of Tampering with Public Records and Unsworn Falsification. U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement assisted with the investigation. What I want to know is when is ICE coming to pick this guy up and send him back to where he came from?
The Bedford Police Department is inviting town residents for yet another edition of Coffee With A Cop. The informal meet and greet where the cops pay for the coffee and chat with residents about what’s happening around their neighborhood and around town is this morning from nine to ten thirty at The Inside Scoop at 2 6 0 Wallace Road.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!