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January 28. 2014 9:19PM

Hooksett committee begins work to sell voters on Pinkerton contract

HOOKSETT — The High School Warrant Article Committee discussed ways Tuesday to sell voters on the district's 10-year school contract with Pinkerton Academy.

Committee members proposed setting up a breakfast for senior citizens to tell them about the pact, preparing a presentation for the Feb. 7 deliberative session, and helping with the Feb. 12 informational night. Discussion also centered on how to craft the district's message and what demographics to target.

For people who don't have school-age children, it will come down to how much the contract will cost, school board member Phil Denbow said.

To convince voters about the merits of the Pinkerton contract, Denbow said the district will have to demonstrate that Pinkerton represents a lower cost compared to the Manchester School District.

Over the summer, Manchester and Hooksett reached a settlement to prematurely terminate the district's sending contract at the end of this school year. Soon after the settlement was reached, Hooksett entered into negotiations with Pinkerton on a new sending contract, which according to state regulations must be a minimum of 10 years.

"A large portion of people don't care where their kids go to school; they only care how much it costs. Where I'm nervous is the people who constantly come out and vote against everything that might make this town better," Jack Sweeney said.

Yvonne Preston said cost comparisons were critical.

"We need to hype up the cost savings on maintenance costs with Manchester; it's cheaper to go to Pinkerton than to stay at Manchester," Preston said.

Superintendent Charles Littlefield said that with Manchester tuition rising to $10,200 combined with capital costs of roughly $800,000, the true cost per student of going to Manchester next year would be about $11,400, which is less than the $10,800 tuition at Pinkerton.

Littlefield said that Pinkerton's tuition for next year was calculated without including the roughly 105 incoming Hooksett freshmen expected to go to Pinkerton next year.

Denbow added that if residents approve the contract, at the end of the school year, Hooksett, along with all sending districts, will get a rebate on the difference at the end of next year.

One of the biggest issues facing the district will not only be educating the public, but battling misinformation being spread on social media, Denbow said.

"The numbers (for the contract) are going to be big, and the objective people who educate themselves about it will like it. But there are going to be all kinds of online stuff saying it's more expensive, and that's not true," Denbow said.

The meeting also came with a warning from Littlefield, who said that opponents of the contract would seize on the smallest error if the district were to make one when calculating the numbers to show Pinkerton represents a savings compared to staying with Manchester.

"It could be the death knell if an anti-contract person were to find an error in the calculation. So we need to determine the rules for how the numbers are calculated and be very clear on them," Littlefield said.

bklein@newstote.com


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