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January 13. 2014 10:40PM

Manchester Mayor: Hooksett needs to be wooed by city

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas wants school leaders to continue to “woo” Hooksett, as Pinkerton Academy steps up its efforts to attract the town’s high school students.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Gatsas called on Superintendent Debra Livingston, as well as fellow board members, to tout the benefits of Manchester high schools, where Hooksett has sent its students for more than a century.

“I think we need to do something to woo the students and have them understand, whether we send a letter, to tell students by going to West they’re going to have the opportunity to get a full 30 credits for college. I have to believe that’s going to intrigue an awful lot of parents,” Gatsas said, referring to the STEAM Ahead initiative at Manchester High School West.

Gatsas’ message came after Pinkerton Academy announced last week that it would waive a requirement in the contract approved by the Hooksett School Board whereby the majority of students per high school class — at least 75 — would attend the school.

This week, Pinkerton administrators began reaching out to Hooksett eighth-graders to help them with course selection.

The new contract must still be approved by Hooksett voters. Gatsas and other school officials have noted that many parents are likely to be wary of sending their kids to Derry and severing the relationship with Manchester.

“I think the only thing they’re not doing is providing a steak dinner in Derry,” Gatsas said, referring to the recent efforts made by Pinkerton officials to appeal to the town. He added, “It’s important we do everything we can to put our best foot forward.”

The loss of tuition revenue threatens to open a large hole in the Manchester district’s budget.

22 building projects

In other business Monday, the school board voted to send its Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) — a list of 22 building projects that total

$22.2 million — over to the aldermen, who set the district’s budget.

The board had finalized the list in November, but Mayor Gatsas objected to sending the aldermen the entire list of projects.

Before the vote Monday, Gatsas reiterated his concerns that the list was impractical and too costly. He noted that just the top item on the list — enclosing classrooms with partial walls at Beech Street and Webster elementary schools — would cost more than $4 million.

“I can’t agree more, with no walls, it’s very hard to learn,” said Gatsas, who is also chair of the board of aldermen. “But when you start talking about how much it’s going to run, it’s going to run pretty close to the cost for a new school.”

But other members of the school board argued that the aldermen needed to know the extent of the repairs required in the schools, which are technically the property of the city.

“The full list is even deeper than $22 million. These are highest-priority items,” Ward 10 board member John Avard said. “Never in history have (the aldermen) approved the whole list, but if we’re lucky, they’ll get to the first few down.”

The vote to send the CIP list to the aldermen was 13-2, with Ward 3 board member Chris Stewart and Gatsas voting no.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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