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May 17. 2013 9:23PM

Nashua school parking surprise

NASHUA — Since David Ryan became principal at Nashua High School North seven years ago, the high school has been offering free and reduced parking to students who qualify for free or reduced meals, without the knowledge of district officials or the Board of Education.

District Chief Financial Officer Dan Donovan initially informed the Board of Education Monday that a $10,000 reduction in parking revenue collected this year compared to last was due to North instituting the free parking policy this year.

"We have followed this practice since I have been the principal at Nashua North. It was never an action we considered reporting to the Board of Education or district administration because it has never been questioned or brought up until now," Ryan said.

Ryan added that once district officials were made aware of the policy, he was asked to discontinue it. Money collected by parking and bus fees are deposited into the city's coffers to help reduce the tax rate.

"The drop in revenue and fee breaks are not intentional breaches of any policy," Ryan said.

Donovan said he is unsure how much North's independent parking policy cost the city, as he has no idea how many discounted passes were issued over the last seven years. Ryan attributed any lost parking revenue from last year to this year to a decrease in the number of parking passes sold combined with a lack of enforcement of students at North who break the rules. Ryan said that school security has to spend most of its time enforcing parking rules at South, where parking is much tighter.

"Over time North students realized there was little to no enforcement in the North lots, so students stopped purchasing passes because there were no consequences for doing so, and this has translated into dwindling revenue," Ryan said, who also added that, "the inability to properly enforce the parking passes at both schools is due to the reduction in security positions."

Board of Education President Robert Hallowell agreed, saying the reduction in parking revenue is probably due to a decrease in the number of parking passes sold. As to the issue of North's now defunct parking policy, Hallowell said the board would get an update from Superintendent Mark Conrad on the issue at the next board meeting.

"(The board) will look into it, there is obviously some communication or consistency issue there," Hallowell said.

Conrad previously said he would schedule a meeting between himself and administrators from the North and South high schools to develop a uniform policy. If it is decided to expand the discounted parking policy, Conrad said the Board of Education would have to approve.

Ryan said he was looking forward to that meeting, "to iron out the direction in which we will go with regards to parking passes for the high school students."

Board member Sandra Ziehm said that she wasn't surprised to learn that the two high schools have been executing different parking policies for so many years.

"This is another example of inconsistent enforcement of policies in our schools, which has been a problem in this district," Ziehm said.

Ziehm added, "There are a lot of things (the Board of Education) should approve that doesn't seem to make it to us."

Board member Elizabeth Van Twuyver said that she would look into the parking situation with Conrad to get to the bottom of what is going on.

Along with the concern of lost revenue for the city, Van Twuyver said it might be worth looking into which students North's parking policy was benefiting.

"We are all wondering why these people cannot afford to pay for meals but can pay for a car, that doesn't make much sense," she said.

bklein@newstote.com


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