MANCHESTER - In an effort to appease Candia School Board members concerned about overcrowding at Manchester High School Central, the city school district will ask the city teachers union to allow 10 teachers to teach an extra class - a move Mayor Ted Gatsas said would result in class sizes of less than 30 students.
The city Board of School Committee decided Thursday during a special joint session with the Candia School Board to ask the union for the concession. But Ben Dick, president of the Manchester Education Association, was not optimistic about the idea Thursday night.
Dick said that he couldn't speak specifically to the most recent proposal, but "we have opposed it in the past."
"Typically speaking, I don't think it's in the best interest of anybody," he said.
Gatsas said during the meeting there likely would be teachers who would want to help the district and would be willing to do the extra work.
But Dick said the additional class - the proposal asks them to teach six classes instead of five and be paid for the extra work - could lead to burnout, as past proposals by the district have asked teachers to give up a preparatory period to teach instead.
"It's just too much to undertake," he said.
The resolution came after a long, contentious meeting where Candia School Board members expressed frustration and asked the city school board to "fix" the problem of too-large class sizes. Candia and Hooksett are considering withdrawing students from Manchester, citing a breach of contract because class sizes have exceeded the state standard of 30 students per teacher.
"It's late. It's 9:30 (p.m.) and we don't have a resolution," said Candia School Board member Nicole LaFlamme. "We have no solution, and we're terrified to send our kids back to Manchester."
Gatsas said he believed the issues could be resolved.
"I believe the glass is half full," he said.
But, he said, raising taxes to pay wages and benefits would not solve the problem.
"The increase you would ask taxpayers for this year, you would have to go back to them for the same thing next year," he said.
Several Candia residents and recent Central High School graduates spoke during the meeting, with residents asking the city to reduce class sizes but the students offering a contrasting view - to the visible delight of Gatsas, who twice said he didn't "plant" the recent graduates - that Central High School delivers an excellent education.
"Central is an amazing school," said Alicia Frazier. "It's more than just numbers. I know class size is a huge thing, but if you really want to look at education, look beyond the class sizes."
- - - - - - - -Tim Buckland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.