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February 16. 2013 11:49PM

Manchester superintendent tries to stem Hooksett defections

MANCHESTER - The city's Board of School Committee fired off a letter to the Hooksett School District on Friday, demanding that the town rescind its approval for nearly 50 youngsters to attend school outside the city next year.

"This obvious and deliberate attempt to circumvent the Agreement must stop immediately as it is an insult to our intelligence and an intentional breach of the Agreement," Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan wrote.

It's the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter battle between the two districts over class sizes.

In December, Hooksett filed a breach of contract claim against the city, claiming that overcrowded classrooms qualified as a reason to let the town out of an agreement to send its high school students to Manchester schools.

In his letter, Brennan said it is the Hooksett School District that is in breach of contract, not Manchester.

Under the agreement between the two school districts, Brennan wrote, Hooksett is supposed to send all public high school students to Manchester except the "few" who petition to attend another school.

However, he said, nearly a third of Hooksett eighth-graders have been granted approval to attend other schools next year.

Earlier this month, the Hooksett School Board rejected a proposal from Manchester to cap class sizes at 30 and cancel most classes with fewer than 15 students, enrolling those students instead in on-line courses.

Hooksett board members and parents voiced concern that would slash Advanced Placement courses and other classes required for seniors to graduate.

In Friday's letter, Brennan wrote, "The Manchester Board of School Committee is disappointed with the manner in which the Hooksett School Board has forced our century-old relationship to reach this level of dispute."

Asked to comment, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said, "The letter speaks for itself."

Gatsas said Hooksett taxpayers could find themselves paying twice for their children's education. "If they do pay tuition to other schools, I think they're still going to be liable to pay tuition to us," he said.

Gatsas also said other school districts may be complicit in violating the Manchester-Hooksett contract. "The school districts that are courting them need to be careful that they're not interfering with our contract," he said. "If the Hooksett School District would like to remove their letter saying we're in breach, I think we'd like to have a conversation on how to maintain our 100-year relationship."


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