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November 15. 2012 11:42PM

Hooksett parents speak out about Manchester schools

Hooksett parents spoke up loud and clear at a joint meeting between Manchester and Hooksett school officials Thursday night.

"Hooksett and Manchester kids can't get the education they are worthy of [given the budget issues]," said Phil Denbow, whose daughter graduated from Central last year. "I now have an eighth-grader who will be heading to high school this fall. With the current money issues that your district is having, why would I knowingly send my son into that environment?"

"I honestly feel this board is failing my daughters," said Dave Levesque, who has twin daughters who are West seniors. Levesque took issue with extended lunch periods, aging computer systems, and Hooksett's lack of representation on the Manchester Board of School Committee.

Manchester Superintendent Thomas Brennan, Mayor Ted Gatsas and the Manchester Board of School Committee all were in attendance, but did not have an opportunity to respond to the public's comments.

Between the two boards, discussion ranged from budget issues to the use of Manchester High School West. There were also questions about Hooksett's recent change of policy allowing parents to transfer their students from the Manchester schools, and whether that change was in violation of the contract between the city and town.

Hooksett School Board member David Pearl asked the city board to vote on whether they felt the policy to be a violation, saying: "I think if you feel that way, you should say it. If you don't, I would appreciate it if you don't say it."

Gatsas interrupted Pearl, saying, "if we thought you were in violation, we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation."

Manchester's continuing budget issues were another point of concern. Pearl noted that "the result is unpredictable."

"The budget that the mayor must produce in the city of Manchester must take into consideration the tax cap," said Gatsas. "Under the guidelines of our charter, I don't have any choices. I can tell you that I will follow the law of the city."

Also discussed was the possibility of using Manchester West, which is under-enrolled, by transferring Hooksett Central students to West or leasing West as a Hooksett high school. The idea was put forth by Brennan during an Oct. 2 meeting with the Hooksett School Board.

Pearl took issue with the suggestion that Hooksett should set the terms of such a discussion.

"If it's a plan that you have, part of that plan I think would be what you're planning to offer to us," he said. "From my point of view, there's nothing appealing about the process, because nothing has happened to West to make it appealing to us."

Brennan noted that the leasing option has unique benefits.

"The roles would be reversed, where we would be sending students to your high school [and] where you, as a school district, could control the education and other aspects of that building," he said.

The Manchester Board of School Committee will meet with the Candia School Board, which has also expressed concerns about overcrowding in the city schools, at the Health Department building in Manchester on Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.

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Brendan Clogston may be reached at bclogston@newstote.com.


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