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January 14. 2013 6:23PM

Mayor Ted Gatsas: to businesses supporting Manchester's schools

In the past several weeks, city businesses have stepped up in a big way to help support education in the City of Manchester. While this is certainly not a new practice for the businesses community, we don't always do the best job offering the rightful thanks and recognition in a public forum. This seems to be an appropriate opportunity to offer thanks and discuss the exciting things happening in city schools.

In the next few weeks new computer labs will be operational in each of the three city high schools. These labs will be used for the Virtual Learning Academy Classroom (VLAC) and distance learning. VLAC's labs will give Manchester high school students expanded curriculum opportunities and the potential of a more personalized and tailored educational experience. Not every child learns at the same pace, and other students are looking for new challenges; I am excited that these computer labs will help meet their educational needs.

The new and updated labs also will allow for new distance learning opportunities among the city high schools via Skype. There are boutique classes offered at each of the high schools. I refer to these classes as "boutique" because they are unique to each school. The overwhelming reason for the classes is the individual expertise of the teachers within the school. This should not mean that only the students attending certain schools should have that expertise available to them. That had been the case because we lacked the available technology. With the new computer labs, this will no longer be true. Students at each of the city high schools will have the opportunity to participate in many of the "boutique" classes at another school via Skype. This is yet another example of how we are offering students access to new educational opportunities using the updated computer labs.

Without the generosity of local businesses, the Manchester School District would have had no way to realize this opportunity. Dan Quirk of Quirk Automotive on South Willow Street, Gus Scrivanos and family, who own several Dunkin Donuts franchises throughout the city, and Jeremy Hitchcock of DYN Inc. in the Millyard have contributed a total of $37,500 towards the purchase of new computer equipment for these labs.

We are not only seeking monetary donations; the School District is currently seeking volunteers to staff these labs. The responsibilities of the volunteer include monitoring students for the time they are using the lab. Anyone interested in volunteering his or her time should send a resume to Dr. Tom Brennan, Superintendent of Schools, at 624-6300 or superintendent@mansd.org.

The next exciting recent development in the school district is the ongoing search for a new superintendent. At the beginning of the school year, Dr. Brennan announced his retirement. The position of superintendent will be the single most important hire this city makes in the foreseeable future. It is for this very reason that we needed to use every avenue available to us to find the right person to get the school district onto a solid foundation and position it for future success. Like most things, this kind of help does not come free, and it was beyond the current spending capacity of the Manchester School District to pay for this service.

Thanks to the generosity of Andy Crews of AutoFair, Dianne Mercier of People's United Bank, Patrick Tufts of the Granite United Way, the Trustees of the Norwin & Elizabeth Bean Foundation and the Cogswell Benevolent Trust for contributing a total $25,000 to secure the service of PROACT.

PROACT is a national search firm with a track record of finding and placing education professionals in school districts across the country. An aggressive timeline has been established and at the end of March the Manchester School District will be poised to announce a new superintendent.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my thanks and gratitude to the people, businesses and organizations that have made these recent opportunities possible. It is because of their commitment and belief in the City of Manchester and our schools that we are able to realize these exciting developments that will undoubtedly benefit city students.
Ted Gatsas is serving his second term as mayor of Manchester.

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