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November 23. 2013 2:21AM

Wooing Hooksett: Manchester's second chance

Hooksett's school board sailed away from Manchester's high schools earlier this year, and the skiff has hit a rock. Pinkerton Academy, the supposed savior of Hooksett's high school students, will not accept the terms Hooksett wanted for the upcoming school year. And just like that, Hooksett students are back in Manchester for 2014.

A few months ago, things looked pretty bleak for Manchester's public schools. Hooksett sued for breach of contract and the school board voted to let the town withdraw early, leaving 600 students free to switch to another school district.

To understand what a blow this was for the city, one just has to look at this year's tax increase. The rate was at first thought to be under the city's tax cap. But the final rate set by the state came in just above the cap - partly because of lost tuition payments. If all Hooksett students were to leave, the financial hit for Manchester would be huge.

That seems less likely because of three recent events. One was the Pinkerton snag. The school and Hooksett cannot agree on terms for next year, which pushes any contract out for another year. A second was Manchester's announcement of its STEAM Ahead New Hampshire program at Manchester High School West.

The program, in partnership with Millyard tech firm Dyn, will offer students college credit for advanced courses in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It is to start next year at West and eventually be available throughout the district.

The third was the school board's decision to develop its own academic standards that would be more rigorous than Common Core.

The Pinkerton snag gives Hooksett a year to cool off - and consider the changes taking place in Manchester's schools.

Many, if not most, Hooksett parents never wanted to leave Manchester. But the city came across as non-responsive to Hooksett's needs. It is easy to see why Hooksett's school board sought a separation. But now there is time to reconsider.

Manchester's aldermen, school board and school administration have a chance to woo Hooksett back. They need to take advantage of it.


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