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Manchester Mayor Gatsas: Vote tells me Hooksett is satisfied with Manchester schools

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 12. 2014 10:14PM

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas said Tuesday's vote in Hooksett tells him the town is satisfied with the quality of education in the city's high schools. He said he looks forward to sitting down with a new Hooksett school board and discussing the future relationship between the two communities.

Gatsas spoke the day after Hooksett voters rejected a 10-year deal that would have sent a majority of the town's future high school students to Pinkerton Academy in Derry. Meanwhile, Candia voters overwhelmingly called for school officials to explore sending that town's students to schools outside the Manchester system.

Hooksett voted down the Pinkerton contract by a vote of 56 to 44 percent. Hooksett sends about 650 high school students out of town for their education.

Of those, 428 students attend Manchester high schools; the town pays a tuition and capital costs of $5.45 million.

Gatsas, who used to represent Hooksett as a state senator, said he was confident the vote would fail.

"I'm sure they are satisfied" with the quality of education in Manchester schools, Gatsas said. He noted that Manchester School of Technology is the only full-time vocational high school in the state, and the STEAM program at West High School will offer a full year of college credits to graduates.

Superintendent Debra Livingston pointed to the Running Start program, which offers community college credit to students.

"The changes we're making in Manchester schools, that speaks volumes," Gatsas said. "I'll put our education up against anybody in the state."However, the interim principal at Manchester High Central said the school may have to do a better job to maintain faith in the school. John Rist was principal at Central for 10 years before retiring in 2011, and remains an avid Central booster.

"Obviously, the Hooksett people were looking for an alternative. There must be some dissatisfaction. Hopefully, that will be rectified," he said. He and Livingston said the crowding of high school classes that took place last year has been resolved.For more than 100 years, Hooksett sent its high school students to Manchester schools to be educated. Last summer, the city and Hooksett ripped up a 20-year contract that committed Hooksett students to Manchester schools until 2018.

Hooksett got to send its students wherever the school district decided. In exchange, the Manchester tuition rate for each Hooksett student jumped nearly $2,000, to $10,200 per student next year.

Already, 106 Hooksett students have signed up for Pinkerton Academy next year. But Gatsas predicted the bus ride to Derry will exceed the estimated 50 minutes, and those students will be in Manchester schools before the year ends.

Voters also ousted Hooksett board chairman Trisha Korkosz, one of the staunchest advocates for a Pinkerton deal.

"Now that there's a different school board in Hooksett, I'm happy to sit down, talk with the board, and see how to change the contract," Gatsas said. The mayor said he had no problem with a new long-term contract for Hooksett, but he doesn't see the town getting a seat on the Manchester school board.

Livingston said she'd like to see the Hooksett and Manchester boards meet.

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