Supt. Brennan meets with Hooksett board, says work is ongoing
HOOKSETT — In a frank response to the Hooksett School Board's letter accusing Manchester High School Central of being in breach of contract with the town due to classroom overcrowding, Manchester Superintendent Dr. Thomas Brennan cautioned that while improvements have been made at Central, the problem would not be solved within the school year.
“The likelihood that we will have the staffing to ensure that all courses at Central will be below 30 (students per class), I'm not too optimistic about, but we will reduce the number,” Brennan said at the Hooksett School Board meeting Tuesday. “I know the agreement, and understand what it says in terms of school approval, and my meetings here before I never held back, so I want to make it clear that we're trying … but right now I believe I'm at the end of my allotment in terms of staffing.”
Brennan insisted that no classes would contain over 40 students going forward, and based on information he received from the school's principal, math classes will be down to 30 or less. Social studies, English, and international languages remain areas of concern, however.
He also invited the Hooksett School Board to meet with the Manchester Board of School to discuss the issue and possible solutions, including the potential use of Manchester High School West as an alternative to Central. Later in the night, the School Board instructed Hooksett Superintendent Dr. Charles Littlefield to schedule the meeting.
Responding to other concerns listed in the letter sent by the school board, which first accused the Manchester school of being in breach of contract, Brennan noted that although some students remained without textbooks, orders had been made for more books. He also disputed the allegation that three class levels had been merged into a single class. He said two levels had been combined, but suggested that this was not uncommon.
School board members struggled after Brennan's response with apparent contradictions between the Manchester superintendent's statement and accounts given by Hooksett parents.
“There are still 40 kids in classes in Manchester. Kids are counting,” board member Trisha Korkosz said. “They go to school and they tell their parents there's 40 kids in this class, there's 38 in that class, and he's telling us that they're all below 40. I don't want to call someone a liar in public, but how do we verify something when what parents tell us and the school district tells us don't match?”
Littlefield responded to Korkosz by speaking to a disconnect he believed existed between the Manchester administration and their schools after visiting Central.
“I think a lot of things are happening and a lot of things are going on that Tom [Brennan] couldn't possibly be aware of,” Littlefield said.
Later in the meeting, the school board voted to hold a public forum Oct. 16 explaining the situation to parents and the town's options ,should Manchester ultimately be found to be in breach of contract. Board member David Pearl, the initial proponent of the forum, also hoped that it would provide an opportunity to gather concern's from the community to bring to the Manchester Board of School, and also assess the public's will to move from Central regardless of the school's standing under the contract.
“I feel that there is a will now to leave Manchester and a thought that that's going to happen with breach of contract,” Pearl said. “My concern is, if that doesn't happen, what option do we have this year to take care of next year? I would like to explain that to the public.”
Hooksett's continuing relationship with Manchester Central remained uncertain by the meeting's end. School Board Chair Dana Argo said at the conclusion, “The process has begun, wherever it takes us.”
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