School lines: City redistricting at last
In late September, Manchester's Board of School Committee finally voted to allow Superintendent Tom Brennan to redraw the city's school district lines. They waited only three years (and that is being generous).
When Ted Gatsas ran for mayor in 2009, he advocated redistricting (it had come up before that, too). His opponent advocated simply spending more money on schools. Gatsas won and proposed a redistricting plan before he even took office. It met with resistance. Instead of redistricting, the school board advocated spending more money on schools.
Gatsas' opponent in the 2011 election also advocated spending more money on schools. Gatsas won again. But nothing ever became of redistricting until this fall, when the district laid off more than 100 teachers. The layoffs were made necessary because - surprise - school board members and aldermen sided with the teachers union in its struggle with Gatsas over health insurance and retirement concessions. The school board advocated ... spending more money - even though the district did not have it and the spending cap prevented the district from getting it.
Finally, after no one could continue ignoring the fact that money was not going to fall from the sky, the school board authorized the superintendent to redraw school district lines. It should not have come to this point.
Redistricting made sense considering the decline in enrollment, particularly after the departure of Bedford high school students. Had the city done it years ago, this fall's class size mess might have been avoided, or at least minimized. Next time, let's not delay a sensible reform to put pressure on aldermen to raise taxes.