Ted Siefer's City Hall: Brennan gets 'candid' about mayor's role on school board
By TED SIEFER New Hampshire Union Leader
It was almost a case of "Dr. Brennan and Mr. Hyde." At Wednesday's Charter Commission meeting, Superintendent Tom Brennan, typically buttoned down and diplomatic at public forums, expounded on the many challenges facing the school system, in often blunt terms.
The fact that he's stepping down at the end of the school year no doubt contributed to his ability, in a phrase he repeated throughout the evening, "to be candid."
Brennan flatly told the panel that he believed the mayor should not serve as chairman of the school board; that rather than returning the schools to city control, the board's powers should be expanded to include taxing authority; and he lamented that financial woes had often overshadowed the fulfilling aspects of educating young people.
"You've taken the fun out of dysfunctionality," he said in one of his more memorable lines.
Brennan was careful to note that he wasn't naming any names when he spoke of diminishing the role of the mayor on the school board. "It's not a reflection on the current mayor," he said.
But he also stated, in response to a question about the possibility of giving the mayor a non-voting role on the school board, that the mayor should rather "be removed" from the body.
This probably wasn't very easy to hear for Mayor Ted Gatsas, with whom Brennan has always seemed to have better relationship than with other members of the board. The two executives have worked in tandem on a number of initiatives, such as the "virtual learning" program Gatsas hopes will be in place in a matter of weeks.
So was Gatsas surprised by what Brennan had to say?
"I'm never shocked by anything anybody says," Gatsas said. "Those were his opinions, and that's fine. We'll let the Charter Commission do its work."
Gatsas did find it "interesting," however, that when Brennan was asked for models of effective school systems, Brennan mentioned Nashua - where the Board of Education is part of city government.
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There's been a lot of talk lately about local police weighing in on a certain Person of the Year poll. But what if there were a "Persona-non-grata of the Year" award?
City police unions might bestow that one on Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur.
Last week, the Manchester Patrolman's Association sent a letter to the mayor and other city officials with the subject "Official complaint against Alderman Levasseur."
The union was returning the favor from Levasseur, who, as was reported in this space last week, had accused an "officer" with the Manchester Police Department of behaving in a threatening way toward him at a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting in December. He wanted to Police Chief David Mara to give him the name of the officer so he could file a complaint.
Turns out, the person at the meeting was not an officer, but an MPD dispatcher who, according to department officials, had tendered his resignation prior to the incident at City Hall.
The letter from the patrolmen's union accuses Levasseur of "smearing the reputation" of the police for comments he made in an email to Mara suggesting that the "officer's pals" might try to retaliate against him.
"Not only does every man and woman of the Manchester Police Department deserve an apology, Alderman Levasseur should recuse himself from voting on any business concerning the Police Department," stated the letter, which was signed by Steven Maloney, the president of the patrolman's union.
Levasseur insists that "this is nothing but politics on the part of the union." They didn't like his vote against their contract, he said.
And they probably didn't like the fact that he had volunteered to represent the young man charged with stealing in an MPD sting. Nor did they likely approve of the blunt words he had for Chief Mara over the naming of the new police station, which seemed to be the issue that led to the tense interaction with the man at City Hall.
Levasseur insists Mara or someone else at the department could have cleared up the man's actual role with the department by responding to the email he sent days after the December meeting.
He says the department still hasn't identified the person to him, and that he only learned he was a dispatcher through the media.
Levasseur says he's even more determined to have his complaint handled by the state Attorney General's Office. Otherwise, "I'm not going to find out who this person was," he said. "And I'm going to demand an apology from the union."
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How much would you pay to see a varsity high school girls' basketball game, a boys' hockey match or a baseball game?
The district's athletics director figures at least $3 per adult and $2 per student, the current ticket price for varsity football and boys' basketball games.
Yes, the search for new revenue for the cash-strapped school district may result in ticket-takers at more school sports competitions.
"The budget everywhere is tight. If we're looking to do the same thing with our programs, we have to ask where we can get extra revenue," Athletics Director Dave Gosselin said.
The idea was proposed at the school board's Athletics Committee meeting Tuesday. Rest assured, it was only discussed; no action has been taken on the proposal.
Gosselin said it's likely that girls' basketball, boys' hockey and baseball, all varsity level, would be able to draw enough of a crowd to generate revenue. In the case of other sports, the overhead - for paying ticket-takers, for example - probably wouldn't justify the move, he said.
Gosselin said charging at the gate was a better alternative to instituting a "pay-to-play" system. "There are too many kids that don't have the money for that," he said.
<i>Ted Siefer may be reached at <a href='mailto:email@example.com'>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Follow him on Twitter: <a href='https://twitter.com/#!/tbsreporter' target='_blank'>@tbsreporter</a>.</i>