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March 05. 2013 11:21PM

Hooksett may go directly to state on Manchester high school overcrowding issue

The Hooksett School Board may refer their contract dispute with the Manchester School District directly to the state Board of Education after discovering a line in their contract that suggests the 180-day waiting period may not be required.

Hooksett School Board Vice Chair David Pearl offered a motion Tuesday night to direct Superintendent Dr. Charles P. Littlefield and the district's attorney, Gordon Graham, to inform the state Board of Education of their intent to defer the contract dispute to them, and to request a hearing "at the earliest convenience."

The remaining two school board members present expressed support for the move, but were reluctant to move ahead with it until they discuss the issue with Graham before their next board meeting, March 19. Pearl argued that contract was clear, and the board should not delay.

Board Chairman Tricia Korkosz argued that moving ahead without first consulting the attorney would not be doing "due diligence." The motion failed 1-2, with Korkosz noting that she was only opposed "at this time."

Initially, the board's understanding was that a 180-day grace period was required for the Manchester school district to remedy the complaints. Manchester has discussed measures to address classroom overcrowding in recent months, such as a class size cap, but has publicly and aggressively disputed Hooksett's allegation that it is in breach and declined several overtures from the town to discuss the issue.

Hooksett formally declared Manchester to be in breach of contract with the town in December 2012, largely due to classroom overcrowding.

The most recent figures from February indicated that 42 classes at Central High School, which is attended by the majority of Hooksett's high school students, were over state-mandated class size limits. The contract between Hooksett and Manchester notes that the city agrees to meet these standards.

The section of the contract dealing with breach of contract notes that if the existence of a breach is disputed, "the dispute shall be submitted to resolution" to the State Board of Education.

bclogston@newstote.com


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