On August 13, 2018, the Manchester Board of School Committee improperly went into non-public session to discuss whether or not a program operating without approval should continue in the schools. After being confronted by a request from at-Large Board of School Committee Member Richard Girard to unseal the minutes of the non-public session, Mayor Joyce Craig consulted with the school district’s legal counsel. She was told, after a review of the minutes, that the discussion should have been in public. Thus, the minutes below were released following the successful vote to unseal the minutes at the school board’s meeting on August 27, 2018.
Ward 2 Committee Member David Scannell, who often preaches about transparency, was the lone vote against making the minutes public, despite the attorney’s statement that the meeting was improperly conducted out of public view.
Note: They have yet to be approved by the Board of School Committee. As such, they are considered a draft.
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At the August 27, 2018 meeting of the Board of School Committee, it was voted to unseal the portion of the August 13, 2018 Board of School Committee minutes pertaining to the H.O.P.E. Program. (See motion in the August 27, 2018 meeting minutes when available.) These minutes are in summary form.
1. HOPE – Helping Our Pupils Excel
Principal Dichard stated this program has been working and he believes that it should continue. He wanted to reiterate that all of the approvals were done in public sessions. He understands that the vote may not have been taken the way it should have, but that it was done in public. He stated that he believes the program deserves another shot, with the caveat that it only be for one year. The Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the funding of the HOPE Program.
Principal Dichard stated that he would tighten the reigns on the program and keep a good watch over it. They expect to increase the number of participants this year.
Vice Chair Beaudry stated that he is frustrated with the entire process. The Board had concerns based on previous issues. Matt Courchesne is the cousin of an Alderman. Three years ago, the Board unanimously told Mr. Courchesne they were not allowing him to continue based on the previous issues. He then circumvented our board and went to the Board of Mayor and Alderman and they gave him $30,000 to run the program. He should be removed from the schools and this should go out to RFP, which follows our rules and see what comes back. There is no curriculum in the program, there is no substantial data. If the Board eliminates the HOPE program and the Board of Mayor and Alderman do not reallocate the funds, then it is about the person running the program and not actually about the kids.
A copy of the 501-C (3) was shown to the Board. Committee Member Girard stated that the date on this is 2013 and asked if they are good forever.
Committee Member Freeman stated that if something were to happen, it is going to fall back on the Board and on the school.
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Mayor Craig asked if Principal Dichard believes that this program will be valuable for the students upon their return. Principal Dichard stated yes that he thinks it is valuable and that he will take responsibility for anything that happens with the program.
Committee Member Georges stated that a presentation should be brought before the entire board.
Committee Member Avard stated the program is dead in the water. He stated that Mayor Gatsas told the Board of Mayor and Alderman that this needed to come to the Board of School Committee for approval. The Board has stated that it should have come to us. It needs to come to us.
Principal Dichard stated that he is the one that should be held accountable.
Dr. Vargas stated he has sent a memo to all Principals indicated that no one is able to sign a contract but the Superintendent. Principal Dichard stated that this was an MOU and not a contract.
Mayor Craig asked when the MOU ended and Principal Dichard stated last year. Committee Member Avard stated this should be taken up by Curriculum and Instruction.
Committee Member Want stated that she has seen Mr. Courchesne with the students. These kids need someone to help them. She cautioned the Board to keep the students in mind and to think about how this will affect this group of students. She implored the Board to send this item to Curriculum and Instruction and have them do a presentation.
Committee Member Lehoux stated that if the Board suspends this program, and the Board of Mayor and Alderman reallocate the money, then it can go out to RFP and the program can remain.
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Committee Member Girard stated that they disregarded the rules and we wonder why no one follows the rules, when the Board is not holding people accountable. Groups need to follow the rules and run things legitimately in the schools. As they did not get this Board’s approval they should not be operating in our schools.
Committee Member Bergeron stated that the first time Mr. Courchesne was before this Board things did not go well. He stated that he directed Mr. Courchesne to file his business paperwork and get his website up and running, which he has done. Now he should be allowed to go through the process.
Committee Member Scannell stated that if we remove this program, how are the students in the program going to react, as they depend on him, and he asked how many students there are.
Principal Dichard stated 15 students.
Committee Member Scannell asked what the impact on the students will be when they arrive, and this program is not there.
Principal Dichard stated he should have made sure that the proper process was followed, and he thought he had by receiving approval from the Board of Mayor and Alderman. He stated they will pick up the slack if the Board determines that they want to shut this program down. He stated this comes down to the money. He added that the Administration appreciated the times that they did not have to deal with the students.
Committee Member Scannell stated that they cannot appreciate the procedure if the program is not there.
Principal Dichard stated that Mr. Courchesne has a personal relationship with almost every child in the program. He stated that he will tell the students the truth, that the procedure was not followed correctly and that the board has not allowed the program to continue. It could become
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a Civics lesson for the students. He stated if the students decide to come to the Board he will make sure they do so respectfully.
Committee Member Want asked Dr. Vargas what his opinion is?
Dr. Vargas stated everyone should follow the process. A program cannot start without receiving approval from the Board. He stated his opinion would be to have them go to Curriculum and Instruction.
Vice Chair Beaudry stated that upon return to the regular session he will be moving to severe ties with the Hope Program and that the Curriculum and Instruction Committee look into an alternative program and that the Board sends a letter to the Board of Mayor and Alderman to reallocate the $30,000 for an alternative program.
27. A motion is in order to call the meeting back to order.
On motion of Committee Member Avard, duly seconded by Committee Member Lehoux, it was
voted to return to the regular session of the meeting. All were in favor and the motion passed.
On motion of Committee Member Avard, duly seconded by Committee Member Scannell, it was voted to seal the minutes of the non-public session. All were in favor and the motion passed.
On motion of Committee Member Want, duly seconded by Committee Member Ambrogi, it was moved to accept item 2 of the Personnel Report. All were in favor and the motion passed.
On motion of Committee Member Beaudry, duly seconded by Committee Member Terrio, it was moved to severe ties with the HOPE Program and moved that the Curriculum and Instruction committee look into an alternative program and also that the Board of School Committee send a letter to the Board of Mayor and Alderman asking them to reallocate the $30,000 to the Alternative Program.
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Roll Call: Committee Members Freeman, Thomas, Girard, Terrio, Lehoux, Beaudry, Avard voted yea on the motion. Committee Members Ambrogi, Scannell, Georges, Want, Bergeron and Mayor Craig voted nay on the motion. Committee Members Desrochers and Tessier were absent. The motion passed.
25. If there is no further business, a motion is in order to adjourn.
There being no further business, on motion of Committee Member Ambrogi, duly seconded byCommittee Member Beaudry, it was voted to adjourn at 12:49 a.m.
A True Record. Attest. Respectfully Submitted,
Clerk of Committee