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December 18. 2012 11:44PM

SNHU dean to continue helping Manchester school board

MANCHESTER - The dean of the Southern New Hampshire University School of Education has agreed to continue assisting the school board in its strategic planning process.

The decision, announced at Tuesday's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, came after both the school and aldermanic boards voted to send a letter urging Dean Mark McQuillan, who stepped down after Mayor Ted Gatsas questioned his role as facilitator for the planning process, to reconsider.

The announcement came during an eventful meeting of the aldermen, the last of the year.

The board also voted to allow Manchester Airport Director Mark Brewer to travel to a conference in January, despite a freeze on travel imposed by Gatsas over concerns that Brewer's trips had become "excessive."

Also at the meeting, Police Chief David Mara acknowledged that he had approved a sign for the new "Michael Briggs" police station building before he sought approval from the aldermen. He said he never anticipated that the name would generate controversy.

In a letter received Tuesday by the Office of the City Clerk, Dean McQuillan thanked the school and aldermanic boards for their support.

"I believe this process is an essential part of the City's strategy to improve student achievement and services across the district," he wrote. "I ... will return to my work with the Strategic Planning Committee with the same enthusiasm and hopefulness I had when the project began in August."

McQuillan had bowed out last month after Gatsas called on him to explain comments he made indicating that there was "good evidence" that the school were underfunded. Gatsas questioned whether McQuillan was playing an objective role as facilitator.

The decision to allow Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Mark Brewer to travel in January came after Gatsas ordered a freeze on future travel after Brewer traveled more than 40 days this fiscal year, and the airport spent more than $43,000 on travel.

Much of the travel was related to Brewer's position as vice chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives.

Alderman Dan O'Neil made the motion to allow the trip. He handed out a letter from 2010 indicating that Gatsas had supported Brewer in his taking a leadership role with the association.

After a vote to table the motion failed, the board passed the motion on a voice vote.

The issue of the name of the new police station was raised by Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur. He called on Police Chief David Mara to explain why he didn't tell the aldermen, before approving the name of the station appeared on the agenda two weeks ago, that a sign had already been ordered for the new building.

Mara said the decision to name the station the Michael L. Briggs Public Safety Building was made as part of a routine approval during the building process. Briggs was a city police officer killed in the line of duty in 2006.

At the last aldermen's meeting, Levasseur suggested that Officer Ralph Miller be included in the name of the station. The current station is named after Miller, who was killed while on duty in 1976.

"At no time did I ever imagine that I had the authority to approve the sign. I always knew it would have to got through the BMA," Mara said. "In hindsight, I would have asked the board sooner. I never imagined there would be such a controversy."

In an exchange that was at times tense, Levasseur said the chief could have handled the naming differently. "If you had just said something before that meeting, I don't think there would have been such a hullabaloo," he said. "I understand you're a busy guy. Stuff falls through the cracks. I just would have liked to have known that before the meeting."

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