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November 13. 2012 11:18PM

Manchester mayor turns cold shoulder to parent tours

MANCHESTER - A school board member and an alderman are moving ahead with plans for a series of parent tours of local schools, over the strong objections of Mayor Ted Gatsas.

"We as a district should not be parading parents through our schools. I wonder if there's going to be another alderman who wants to set up another tour next week because they missed yours," he said Tuesday night.

School board member John Avard and Alderman Patrick Arnold had scheduled a tour Nov. 29 of Gossler Park Elementary, Northwest Elementary and Parker-Varney Elementary, followed by a discussion.

The tour was the first of eight rounds of "Look, Listen and Learn Tours."

Gatsas raised concerns about the disruption parent visits would pose, and he questioned their value. Superintendent Thomas Brennan echoed some of these concerns.

"I think we all know what the problems are. If anybody in this room doesn't know what the problems in the schools are, they've been on another planet," Gatsas said.

Avard said the tour groups would be limited to 10 parents, who would have to register through him.

"I think the taxpayers have a right to know what's going on in our schools," he said. "The goal is to increase the communication between the aldermen, the board and the public, whether it's how schools are being affected by the budget, or whether seeing the many wonderful things going on."

Avard noted that there are some issues in the district he was made aware of only because he has kids in city schools.

Alderman Arnold was more pointed in explaining his motivation for the tours. "Education has been ignored as a priority in Manchester for too long. I want to personally see the effects of this year's budget on our city's schools," he said in a news release announcing the visits.

The board had not intended to vote on the tours Tuesday, but a motion was made whether to authorize them. Avard said he would abide by the board's decision.

The board voted 7-5 to approve the tours, with board members Sarah Ambrogi, Christopher Stewart, Ted Rokas, Dave Gelinas and Mayor Gatsas voting against the motion.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.


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