HOOKSETT — The Hooksett School Board has voted, by a 4-2 tally, to make the Manchester School District its default high school choice for the 2015-16 school year. That means that any student who does not choose Pinkerton Academy, Bow High School, Londonderry High School or Pembroke Academy will automatically be assigned to Manchester Central or Manchester West.
School board member John Lyscars said he and his peers are still focused on obtaining a definitive answer from Manchester as to whether Hooksett students who begin school at Central or West prior to the district’s current deal expiring in 2018 will be able to complete their education at that respective school.
In the interim, designating Manchester as the default district came down to logical reasoning, he said.
“I voted to approve Manchester as the default school for assignment, simply because we currently have a longer-term agreement with Manchester than we do with Pinkerton Academy.,” said Lyscars. “Over time, I am hopeful to help build relationships I refer to as ‘partners in education’ with the surrounding school districts that have space for Hooksett children. Strengthening all of these relationships is beneficial to Hooksett children, however it also benefits the receiving school districts as well.”
School Board chairman Joanne McHugh and Todd Lizotte voted against making Manchester the default school district for high school placement. Mike Berry, who sits on the high school negotiations subcommittee with McHugh and Amy Boilard missed the meeting.
Board member Jim Sullivan said superintendent Phil Littlefield suggested tabling the vote until Hooksett locked up its one-year tuition agreement with Pinkerton for the 2015-16 school year, and until Manchester officials provided an official assurance to Hooksett students that they would be able to finish school in the Queen City, but Sullivan, Lyscars, Boilard and David Pearl chose to move forward since they had a majority vote.
“I personally felt we have achieved those assurances, which we will be receiving in writing soon,” said Sullivan. “Based on previous discussions that Pinkerton will be signing off on the contract and with Manchester, who has stated verbally that they will allow students to stay once enrolled, I felt that it was prudent to vote on assignment,” said Sullivan. “I voted yes for three reasons. One, we currently have the longest agreement with Manchester through 2018. Two, it has the lowest current tuition rate. And three, Manchester still has the highest Hooksett high school population.
“To me, the vote really was just a technicality, for with Hooksett, even with an assigned school, our students will still have the ability to decide the high school of their preference,” he added.
More school board notes
Prior to the aforementioned vote, McHugh, Boilard and Littlefield provided the other board members with a recap of their July 29 meeting with Manchester’s negotiations subcommittee, in which both sides agreed to a mutual interest in allowing Hooksett students to begin and finish their high school education in the Queen City.
“Overall, it sounded like a very positive meeting, where both sides were able to see the other’s side from a different perspective,” said Lyscars. “At this time, Hooksett is waiting for Manchester’s board to put down in writing that a child that begins at Manchester Central or West will be able to complete their education at those schools.
“It is key that this be completed before the high school fair in September so that Hooksett parents have assurances from Manchester in writing,” he added.
Board members agreed to schedule special meetings with both Manchester and Pinkerton in the near future to finalize short term agreements with both districts.
In addition, the school board on Tuesday night established a basic framework to the district’s transfer policy, namely requiring that a student meet with the school they are attending first in an effort to iron out any issues. Freshmen are also required to remain at the school they choose for at least one year, and any student transferring from a memorandum of understanding school (Bow, Londonderry or Pembroke) must transfer to either a Manchester school or Pinkerton.
Lyscars said he was the lone voice of opposition to the final transfer requirement.
“I did not support this limitation, however after considerable debate and finding no support on the board, I compromised so we could get something to the policy committee,” he said. “I will challenge this again and see if we can find some middle ground. It is too early with this new choice model to place these types of restrictions on families.”
The board also voted in favor of Littlefield’s recommendation of Anne Kelly as new assistant principal at Hooksett Memorial School, and then tabled its discussion on potentially canceling the district’s “bring your own device” policy at Underhill and Memorial schools.