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Replacing Brennan: School board hostility has a price
Manchester school board considered censuring Superintendent Brennan, committee members say
Manchester Superintendent Thomas Brennan announced on Monday night that he will step down when his contract expires next June. Finding a quality replacement will not be as simple as at least one school board member thinks it will be.
Being Manchester’s superintendent is no easy task. The city school system has challenges that others in New Hampshire do not have. Yet that is not the reason that finding a top-quality replacement for Brennan probably will prove difficult. It’s the politics.
Brennan’s challenging job was made tougher by the rough and bitter nature of city politics, in which he was used as a pawn, then a whipping boy. Factions on the school board immediately seek to draw any new superintendent to their side. As soon as a superintendent appears to become an ally of one faction, the other targets him for retribution.
For Brennan, the bullets flew once he became thought of as an ally of Mayor Ted Gatsas, who also is the school board chairman. Gatsas wanted significant cuts and restructuring within the school system, and Brennan often sought to work within the mayor’s spending proposals rather than help opposing school board members fight them. Brennan often stated that the cuts would make it difficult for the schools to function as well as they could, but he never joined the school board faction that sought to vigorously oppose them. For his seeming alliance with Gatsas, he became a marked man.
Board members made it their mission to browbeat Brennan at every board meeting, demean him, and undermine him.
Board member Art Beaudry, a persistent and vocal Brennan critic, said on Monday that the district has some attraction for superintendents, so “I think we will find people who want to come.” People, sure. But outstanding leaders who can improve the district? Finding them will be much tougher than it should be thanks to board members who took such pleasure in creating a hostile working environment for the current superintendent.
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