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Vote to withdraw Hooksett School Board proposal criticized

HOOKSETT - A previously approved school board warrant article to expand the size of the board has been withdrawn by the board. The method in which it was withdrawn, however, has some members calling foul.

The proposed warrant was to increase the size of the school board from five members to seven. It was designed to ease the workload of the board members and also to free the chairman to exclusively attend to the duties of that position. If the voters approved the proposal, the new seats would not have been filled until the 2014 town election.

The initial motion to create the warrant with the board's attorney was passed by the board on Dec. 18 in a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Dana Argo and board member Cheryl Akstin opposed. Both had argued at the time that they were uncomfortable voting for it without more data and preparation. After the motion passed, the final language was to be approved at the following meeting.

At that meeting, on Jan. 7, David Pearl and Trisha Korkosz, two of the yes votes, were ill and could not attend, leaving Michael Dubisz as the only prior yes vote in attendance. A discussion ensued where Argo questioned whether the warrant needed a second vote to be placed on the ballot. Superintendent Dr. Charles Littlefield said the decision belonged to the board.

"(The meeting minutes say) you voted to create a warrant," said Littlefield. "It'd be up to the board to decide whether the inference is to make the warrant article and to place it on the ballot."

Dubisz offered a motion to place it on the ballot and during the discussion the opposition members voiced their previous concerns.

"I felt that it was hastily done. I had absolutely no time to research or seriously think about it," said Akstin.

Dubisz countered that a full reconsideration of the warrant was not appropriate as it had been already passed and that they were called now only to approve the final language and affect minor edits, such as time frames, as necessary.

"It's already been passed. Even if one is against the vote, it's been passed," said Dubisz. "I don't see how you can now vote not to put it on there. ... There have been many things that have passed that I may not have agreed with. Once the school board members have passed it, I abide by that ruling. ... I think (this is) not doing things in the right way."

Dubisz withdrew his motion, after which Akstin offered one of her own to withdraw the warrant entirely. Her motion passed, 2-1.

Pearl has characterized the vote as a questionable procedural measure and breach of the public's trust in the board.

"It was a fair vote (which passed it)," he said. "It wasn't a money issue. It wasn't anything that was going to affect next year. And it wasn't even necessarily going to affect us at all, because it was going (to the voters). ... I don't think it serves the public when school board members do this."

He continued: "The thing I found ironic is I saw the end of the meeting (on video) when they tried to form a subcommittee to deal with the breach (of contract process with Manchester), and nobody volunteered for it. This is exactly why I wanted to go to seven people. And I understand it. ... People are busy, and this is part of the reason I motioned for seven."

Akstin and Argo could not be reached for comment on the vote.

Warrants for the Hooksett School District ballot were required to be submitted on Jan. 8, the day after the vote. Local education activist John Lyscars, who has been critical of the withdrawal vote, created a petition to have it returned to the ballot, though by 3 p.m. Tuesday it had only 8 signatures.

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