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Hooksett School Board meeting contentious

HOOKSETT - Infighting on the Hooksett School Board in recent weeks led members of the public to decry the situation at the board's meeting Tuesday, where they issued a plea for a returning focus on education.

Several parents, most of whom identified themselves as supporters of Jen Leger, former opponent of recently seated board member John Lyscars, spoke at the public input of the board's April 16 meeting to criticize what they saw as petty infighting on the board. Parent Jack Sweeney spoke to what he saw as a lack of "professionalism, back room dealings, arrogance and bizarre behavior" on the board.

"What I have seen, read and heard is this board focusing on issues having nothing to do with educating our children," he said. "I've seen such arrogance from elected officials who (have) forgotten that they're here to serve the people who elected them, and not their own personal agendas."

Jess Lapaglia was a similarly disheartened parent.

"At the beginning of this meeting, I was embarrassed to sit in this room, as many of you may have been embarrassed to be in front of the room," she said. "I would like the board to be focused on education. I understand that there is politics that comes along with this ... but I would just like (to) make sure that we stay focused on education, and especially the high school issue."

The parent's pleas, some of which went so far as to accuse board members of "bullying," were not immediately successful Tuesday, however, as the board began what was one of the most bitter meetings it has seen in some time.

The board's troubles were apparent from the start, when board members wishing to respond to the public comments set off a number of flare-ups over procedural questions.

The night was relatively quiet and civil from there, however, until a discussion on the possibility of allowing administrators to participate directly in the meetings in a collaborative fashion (as currently, questions from to board to administrators must be directed through the superintendent) revived old allegations of "bullying."

"When I first came on to this board two years ago, that was the relationship that the Hooksett School Board had with the administration ... but because of behavior that has occurred at this board of bullying of staff members, that's not the way we are now," said Chair Trisha Korkosz.

"I'm not directing it at a certain person."

Vice Chair David Pearl, who weathered accusations of bullying under the previous chair Dana Argo over the quantity of e-mail inquiries to staff members, immediately called a "point of order."

"Are you going to start accusing members of this board of bullying? I'm very surprised when you understand we're in a school district, and that's a very serious word," said Pearl. "I would remind you that this board voted that in fact there was not bullying on this board, and it's irresponsible for you to start saying these things and not speaking to the motion."

The height of the tensions, however, was over a discussion on digitizing the board's policies, an already contentious debate which inspired much of the despair in the earlier public comments.

The issue began when a motion was made by Lyscars at the board's April 2 meeting to request that the superintendent scan all of the board's policies and place them on their website. The motion ultimately failed, due to concerns that the action would place an unnecessary burden on the superintendent's office.

At this point, Lyscars took the project up on his own, informing the board of his intention to scan the policies on his own and post them on his personal website.

Korkosz responded to this notice informing Lyscars that such an action would place him in violation of six school board policies, largely dealing with a member's undermining or subverting the will of the board, as well as a policy implying that the divulging of information gained "by virtue of his official position" could be grounds for removal from office through a court petition.

Ultimately, Rich Girard of the Rich Girard Show issued a right-to-know request for the policies and provided them to Lyscars, who uploaded the electronic files to his site.

During the discussion on April 16, Pearl stated that state law overrode any policy Lyscars may have violated, as the board's policies were public documents and their dissemination could not be hindered by any board vote under RSA 91-A, the right-to-know law.

Lyscars went further, however, arguing that that board's vote was not regarding the posting of the policies at all, but rather on the question of having the superintendent do the work. As a result, he argued that his private action was completely outside of the board's vote.

At several points, the discussion broke down into near anarchy. Board member Cheryl Akstin pressed several times for the discussion to be dropped, eventually stating that Lyscars was pushing not so much for an apology as a "humiliation" of Korkosz.

Lyscars stated that it was "easy for" her to say as it was his integrity that had been challenged by the accusation, and as such he would not be satisfied until Korkosz detailed the specifics of his violation as he "might have to give an apology" himself, or apologize for the mistake.

Korkosz continued to maintain he belief that Lyscars had violated the policy, but after continuing pressure she ultimately issued an apology for the e-mail.

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