Hooksett, Manchester seek agreement with mediator to settle school dispute
HOOKSETT — After being ordered by a judge to engage in mediation sessions regarding the Manchester School District’s injunction claim against the Hooksett School District, officials from both sides said they hope the sessions will result in a compromise.
During a hearing Monday in Hillsborough County North Superior Court, Judge Gillian L. Abramson decided that instead of hearing Manchester’s injunction claim against Hooksett, the two sides would engage in two mediative sessions with former judge Robert E.K. Morrill on July 12 and 24.
“It is good we are finally sitting down to discuss this. We have been trying to talk to them for six months, but it took a court to force us to do it,” Hooksett School Board Chairman Trish Korkosz said.
If no agreement is made by the end of the second session, Hooksett Superintendent of Schools Charles Littlefield said Judge Abramson would hear Manchester’s injunction claim on July 29.
Korkosz said the two districts have not had any official communication since late last year, roughly around the same time Hooksett filed a breach claim with the state Department of Education in an effort to get its high school students out of Manchester high schools in 2016, due to issues including classroom overcrowding.
While saying that everything will be on the table during the mediation sessions, including Hooksett’s breach claim, Korkosz cautioned that the breach claim is beyond the scope of the court.
“That will have to be discussed before the state Department of Education,” she said.
Manchester Schools Superintendent Debra Livingston said that she would not comment on the reasoning behind the district’s injunction claim, but did say it was her hope the sessions would result in a solution.
“They filed the injunction claim to stop us from sending our students to other districts,” Korkosz said.
She added that while the majority of Hooksett’s high school students remain in Manchester schools, dozens of students have requested permission to attend other schools.
“According to our contract with Manchester, so long as the board individually examines each students request, there is no violation. I am no closer on understanding what Manchester’s point of view on this is,” Korkosz said.
Hooksett Board member John Lyscars, who attended Monday’s hearing with Korkosz, said that considering all of the negative reports about Manchester high schools and that 75 students from Hooksett are actively trying to leave Manchester, Manchester officials should focus more on improving its schools rather than filing an injunction against Hooksett.
Despite that, Littlefield and Livingston both said that they would attend the meditative sessions in good faith to try to hammer out an agreement.
“Communication is always a good thing,” Livingston said.