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Paul Feely's City Hall: Schools chief blames labor contract for loss of principal candidate

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 04. 2018 6:49PM




Last week’s announcement by the school district that Bryan Belanger had been named the new principal of Parker-Varney Elementary School wasn’t a surprise; school board officials approved his nomination to the position on July 18.

The shocker was when news of a second principal hiring never materialized.

On July 18, school board members gave their blessing to a second nomination — Eric Elmore for principal of Hallsville Elementary School.

Late last week Dr. Bolgen Vargas, the school superintendent, in his weekly memo to Board of School Committee members, reported that Elmore had opted to take a position in another district — principal of Brookside Elementary in Milford, Mass. — that offered a higher salary.

Vargas said the current contract between the district and the Association of Manchester Principals had a negative impact on negotiations with Elmore. The contract contains a salary schedule that includes different salaries for “veteran” employees — anyone hired prior to July 1, 2017 — and new hires. The new hires make on average $10,000 less annually than veterans.

Elmore — whose résumé shows over 18 years of experience in education, along with a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and a master’s in education from Indiana University-Purdue — opted for more money.

“Unfortunately, we lost a great candidate to another district because our contract does not allow us to acknowledge the experience from an outside district,” Vargas said. “I would urge the board to consider the adjustments we might want to make so we don’t place our district in a less-than-competitive position to attract strong administrative candidates to the district.”

Vargas said the district has reopened the search for a new Hallsville principal, and additional interviews are expected to take place soon.

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Who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to teaching driver’s education in city schools? No one yet.

Last month, the school district posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) for vendors to operate a driver’s education program. Proposals were due back July 26, and the RFP was posted on the district website, in the New Hampshire Union Leader, and sent directly to 12 vendors.

Not a single vendor responded.

Vargas said he expects school board members to discuss the situation and the district’s next steps at the Aug. 13 meeting.

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City aldermen are pleased with the results of last year’s downtown crosswalks project, while continuing to encourage public works officials to seek ways to improve pedestrian safety downtown.

City engineer Todd Connors recently went before the Aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement to review a pilot program involving downtown crosswalks undertaken last year.

As readers may or may not remember, at the conclusion of the Elm Street paving project, the city installed two so-called “high friction” surface crosswalks — one near Stark Street, the other near Mechanic Street.

“They are both yellow,” Connors said. “We installed those not knowing how well they would handle the traffic and how they would look after a year, particularly with winter maintenance. We weren’t sure if the plows would scrape them up, and they cost more than just paint.”

Connors said the crosswalks “lost their luster” last winter.

“We went out there a couple of mornings at 5 a.m. and we power washed them,” Connors said. “The hope was that that would brighten them up and get some of that winter dirt and dust off of the crosswalk. I think it brightened them up just a hair, so one of the issues we have is it is not quite as bright as it was.”

Despite the slight fade in color, Connors said his department hopes to place a few more crosswalks like these downtown.

“They are very bright crosswalks, and they really promote pedestrian travel in the sense that drivers and motorists can really see where the crosswalks are,” Connors said. “We have enough money, approximately $35,000, left in our Elm Street paving project to finish up with some more crosswalks. We would like to do about 10 more and that budget should just about do it.”

According to Connors, that money should cover the painting.

“Starting on the south end it would be Central Street, Pleasant Street, Merrimack, Concord, Manchester, Spring and all the way up to Bridge Street,” Connors said.

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Alderman Will Stewart is hosting a meeting at the Department of Public Works, 475 Valley St., this Wednesday at 6 p.m. to allow residents of the north Maple Street neighborhood to hear from engineers regarding plans to address flooding in the city’s North End.

Four homes in the North End experienced severe basement flooding following three days of heavy rain in October 2017.

According to Stewart, public works recently hired CDM Smith, an engineering consulting firm, to assist in the investigation and development of an action plan to address flooding along north Maple Street and surrounding blocks. Initial steps have already been taken to survey surrounding areas for infrastructure upgrades and replace catch basins with high-flow grates.

CDM is also conducting waterflow models using data collected during recent storms.

Additional plans, both short- and long-term, will be shared Wednesday night.

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The school district will again host enrollment days for new students during August.

Families can attend on any of the days and times listed. They can register their children for school if they are new to the district, including kindergarten students or incoming first-graders who didn’t attend kindergarten in city schools, and students of any grade who recently moved to Manchester.

Incoming kindergarten students who attended preschool at city schools and children transferring from one Manchester public school to another do not need to register.

Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Beech Street Elementary School, 333 Beech St.

Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Gossler Park Elementary School, 145 Parkside Ave.

Thursday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,Bakersville Elementary School, 20 Elm St.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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