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Hooksett and Manchester school officials seek new deal

HOOKSETT — After Hooksett and Manchester last year negotiated an early break from a 20-year school contract, representatives from both sides are set to meet Wednesday night.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Cawley Middle School in Hooksett.

“It is a first meeting between the parties to hopefully discuss short-term and long-term plans,” said Hooksett Superintendent Charles Littlefield.

“Neither groups have ever met before, and therefore there will certainly be some introductions and just getting to know each other,” said Hooksett School Board Chairman Joanne McHugh, who serves on the Hooksett negotiation committee with Amy Boilard and Mike Berry.

The Hooksett trio will be joined by Manchester negotiation committee members Kathy Staub, Christopher Stewart, Sarah Ambrogi, Erika Connors and Mayor Ted Gatsas.

“Hooksett reached out to our school board and asked if we would be willing to sit down to talk,” said Stewart. “I believe it’s very important that our two communities continue to have an open line of communication and so I’m looking forward to meeting with Hooksett’s representatives to hear what they have to say.”

Though he’s not a member of the negotiations team, Hooksett School Board member Jim Sullivan said Hooksett is in a unique, but positive situation. It is negotiating short-term and long-term agreements with Manchester and Pinkerton Academy, while maintaining memorandums of understanding with Bow, Londonderry and Pembroke Academy.

“I am just happy that the two boards are speaking and want something that satisfies Hooksett’s parents and students, and addresses any of the concerns the past board had that resulted in our new five-year agreement,” said Sullivan. “Maintaining choice is paramount until that time Hooksett is ready for its own school.”

Both Sullivan and board mate John Lyscars said their chief concern is ensuring students who begin their high school education at Manchester Central or Manchester West are able to complete their education in the Queen City.

Lyscars cited a May 22 letter from Littlefield to Manchester Superintendent Debra Livingston asking for such confirmation, a request he said has yet to be addressed.

“All of our partner schools (Bow, Londonderry, Pembroke and Pinkerton) have agreed that if a child begins at their school, they will be allowed to finish there. Manchester has yet to agree to this in writing,” said Lyscars. “From my perspective, as a representative, I want to be able to assure parents that all of our partners in education have the best interests of the children in mind, no matter where the child is from, regardless of future negotiations.”

“I have full faith in our team and know they will be able to address first the issue of students (being allowed) to stay once enrolled in Manchester and other issues that still exist,” Sullivan said. “In regards to other aspects of a long-term contract, the board provided our views previously and I want an open-ended contact with Manchester, just like an agreement we need with Pinkerton, which will give our students a choice of two good schools without the requirements of minimal numbers.”

Lyscars, who said he hopes Hooksett and Manchester will be able to extend the current accord beyond last year’s court-mediated settlement, which extends to 2018, noted Hooksett School Board members are likely to vote at their Aug. 5 meeting on the default school district for student assignment for the 2015-16 school year. Pinkerton holds the designation, but shares the label of school district of record with Manchester.

“Beyond getting an answer to our May 22 request, I am hopeful the upcoming meeting is a good starting point for the committees to meet to discuss future plans for Hooksett children,” he said.

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