School bond supporters look to win over more aldermen
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 8-6 on Tuesday to approve the bond, which will fund a district-wide wireless network, a new telephone and intercom system and the purchase of hundreds of new computers.
Following the standard process for new bonds, a final vote will take place at the next aldermen's meeting, likely in two weeks. In order to finalize the bond, it must be approved by 10 of the 14 aldermen.
The bond, first proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas as part of his school budget for next year, has proven controversial, with opponents questioning its scope and timing in light of the district's teacher shortage.
Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig has been one of the fiercest critics. She had argued the size of the bond could be reduced since the bulk of the money - $1.8 million - was earmarked for the purchase of equipment that wasn't to take place for another two years, at earliest.
District officials have since revised the proposal, and now intend to purchase hundreds of new computers in the first quarter of the new fiscal year.
She said she hasn't decided if she will change her position on the bond when it comes back for a final vote.
"Possibly," she said. "I feel I made my position clear, that I prefer spending money on hiring teachers, but the majority of the board doesn't feel that way."
The vote on the bond Tuesday came after a tense debate.
Jeff DeLangie, the district's information technology director, said most school computers are nearly 15 years old, a fact he called "unacceptable."
Alderman At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur responded, "I've never heard people demanding more computers. They're demanding smaller class sizes."
He added, "I find it appalling that you've allowed things to get to the point that you have 15-year-old computers. How did you get there?"
DeLangie responded, "We got there by a city the size of Manchester having a $50,000 equipment budget per year. That's what I call appalling."
In addition to the new computers, the bond would fund teacher training and new telephone and intercom systems at the schools, which police and school officials have called a safety priority.
Voting for the bond on Tuesday were Aldermen Ron Ludwig, Ed Osborne, William Shea, Tom Katsiantonis, Barbara Shaw, Phil Greazzo and Normand Gamache.
Joining Levasseur and Craig in voting no were Aldermen Pat Long, Garth Corriveau, Dan O'Neil and Patrick Arnold.