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For now, no pink slips for city teachers

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 16. 2012 12:09AM

MANCHESTER - For the second time this week, the city school board on Wednesday ignored pleadings from the mayor and school superintendent and voted against issuing layoff notices to teachers.

The number of layoffs was lower - 161 pink slips as opposed to 211 on Monday. But only three of the 15 board members favored the Reduction in Force Wednesday. Another three abstained; two of them said they will likely vote for it in the future.

Mayor Ted Gatsas has said he needs to send out the RIF notices to get unions to negotiate concessions. The notices must be sent out by April 1 for administrators, April 15 for principals and May 10 for teachers.

After the vote, Gatsas quickly departed City Hall and told school board members 'see you next month,' which is when the board is next scheduled to meet.

A slim majority of the board seems committed against RIFs, although one - Ward 9 School Board member Arthur Beaudry - said he would eventually vote to authorize a RIF.

But Beaudry said he won't do so if two administrators receive pay raises. The board is considering contracts with Business Manager Karen DeFrancis and Assistant Superintendent Mike Tursi which include a 2 1/2-percent pay raise alongside concessions in severance pay and health care.

Why, he questioned, give pay raises to people earning six-figure salaries while seeking concessions from teachers whose starting pay is in the low-$30,000s.

'It seems all we pick on are the paraprofessionals and the teachers,' Beaudry said.

But the board voted 8-5 against efforts by Beaudry to bring the administrator contracts up for a vote Wednesday.

The board also voted against tapping trust funds for $2.7 million to put toward the budget.

Last week, the school board recommended a $152.47 million budget, an amount that must eventually be approved by aldermen. The budget includes layoffs and reductions of kindergarten to half-day across the district, as well as reduction of high-school graduation credits by 2, to 20.

School Superintendent Tom Brennan said he continues to speak to the unions. There is some movement, he said, but unions want to know what they would get in exchange for concessions.

Gatsas told the board he wanted concessions from unions, but not exchanges.

'It makes for a difficult conversation when it's a one-sided conversation. Let's have them offer me something,' said Ben Dick, president of the Manchester Education Association. 'Go look at the police contract and tell me there wasn't an exchange.'

Gatsas said Dick should look at the firefighter contract, which included health care concessions and a conversion of overtime to straight time.

'Police might have gotten something different because they were the first to sign,' Gatsas said.

Voting to authorize the RIF were: John Avard, Jason Cooper and Roy Shoults.

Opposing it were: Beaudry, Debra Gagnon Langton, Ted Rokas, Donna Soucy, Kathy Staub, David Gelinas and Erika Connors.

Sarah Ambrogi, Christopher Stewart and Gatsas abstained. Two were absent: David Wihby and Roger Beauchamp.

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