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Hooksett exploring tuition pacts, considering lawyer

The Hooksett School Board may consider seeking an attorney to assist it in the drafting of potential contracts with area high schools as a contractual dispute with Manchester continues to simmer.

Vice Chair David Pearl offered a motion at the board's meeting Tuesday night to direct district Superintendent Charles P. Littlefield to solicit quotes from "qualified law firms" in order to help the board to "negotiate possible tuition agreements with area high schools."

According to Pearl's proposal, the attorney, who would necessarily be "familiar with New Hampshire educational contractual law" and have "no valid perceived conflicts on interest" with Manchester, Bow, Pinkerton, Goffstown, or Londonderry, would draft potential tuition agreements with area schools and assist in the preparation of potential warrant articles. The agreements would necessarily be contingent on the outcome of the district's contractual dispute with the Manchester School District, which the town has accused of being in breach of contract, largely over overcrowded classrooms in violation of state standards.

The hired attorney would not handle the district's dispute with Manchester. The district's regular attorney, who would continue to handle the Manchester dispute, is unable to fulfill such a service for the board, as he has a professional conflict of interest with one of the cited schools.

According to the timeline laid out by Pearl, these meetings would be completed by Oct. 1 of this year, with potential warrant articles being finalized before the New Year.

"I think that this board needs to explore what options we have as far as other high schools," said Pearl. "This board has sent a letter of breach to Manchester stating that we feel that we should be out of the contract by June of 2014. I think it's now incumbent on this board to now be looking at preparations for that date, and I feel that we need the services of a professional . to get that information for us."

Chair Trisha Korkosz argued, however, that as the motion was not a specific item on the agenda, discussed under the more general "Manchester High School Issues," the board could not vote on it at that meeting. After some discussion of potentially waiving the rules in this instance under the argument that time was "of the essence," Pearl ultimately withdrew his motion.

The board was also set to appoint a new board member Tuesday night in the wake of Mike Dubisz's April resignation, though that vote ultimately ended in a deadlock, with no final decision made.

Nominees for the seat were Jim Sullivan, Jen Leger, Kathy O'Hara, and Darlene Cote.

Sullivan spoke to his experience as an educator, 12-year school board member, and town council chair. Leger, a former candidate for the board, emphasized character and her community support (several members of the public spoke in support of her at public input). O'Hara spoke to goal setting and data gathering. Cote emphasized the struggles of the parents of special needs children, as well as her ability to "see all perspectives."

When the names were nominated at random, Sullivan received no votes, Leger received the votes of Korkosz and Cheryl Akstin, and O'Hara and Cote received the votes of Pearl and John Lyscars.

The board lacks a policy to address the next step in the event of a deadlock and no appointment was made.

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