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Paul Feely's City Hall: 'Personal attacks' decried over former assistant superintendent

By PAUL FEELY
July 08. 2017 10:08PM


REMEMBER THAT RETREAT the members of the Board of School Committee took part in earlier this year, part of an effort to improve working relationships between elected officials?

Might need to schedule another one of those sessions. Soon.

The full school board isn't scheduled to meet again until Aug. 14, but the last time this group got together featured enough fireworks to last through the summer.

Board member Connie Van Houten of Ward 12 brought forth a letter she sent to Mayor Ted Gatsas, detailing her concerns over a motion to censure former Asst. Supt. David Ryan made by At Large board member Rich Girard at a May 23 meeting of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, regarding Ryan's lack of attendance at recent meetings. Ryan left the Manchester school system June 30 to take a job as co-superintendent of SAU 53, based in Pembroke.

"One of our employees was called out for non-attendance even when cautioned by our superintendent that we should be going into non-public for a personnel matter, even when it is not an individual's prerogative as a member of the board to even deal with anything of that sort," said Van Houten. "We are crossing the line into defamation. We are crossing the line into personal attacks."

"The more we keep bringing up issues like this and attacking each other - board members - in public doesn't help us," said board Vice Chair Art Beaudry of Ward 9. "It doesn't help the district and doesn't help our students at all. I personally would like to see this stop."

"First of all, the employees of this board who come before us in public session, under the Right to Know Law, are considered public figures," said Girard. "If all we can speak are rainbows and sunshine and flowers about how wonderful they are then it is a very one-sided conversation. As a governing body we have to vote on their contracts. We have to determine whether or not they get renewed. We get to determine whether or not they get dismissed. To say that somehow we are not to speak anything that could be considered critical is, to me, a farce."

Girard went on to detail his concerns over Ryan's lack of attendance at recent meetings.

"The comments I made at Curriculum and Instruction were all factual," said Girard. "The person in question had missed two in a row at Curriculum and Instruction, no notice to the committee chair, no notice to the superintendent. When I asked him on both occasions if he knew why Mr. Ryan was not there he said 'I don't know.' He missed a meeting of the Finance Committee at which the athletic equipment bids were discussed. I can't remember a time when the person handling the equipment bids didn't come before Finance to be able to answer questions."

Board members voted to receive and file Van Houten's letter.

Following the comments on Ryan, board members quizzed Supt. of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas on the proper "chain of command" for board communications if and when they have issues with a district employee.

"You should bring it up to me," said Dr. Vargas. "Then again, if it is the shared view of the majority of the board you should go into executive session or non-public and have a discussion about that situation. I don't believe that you should discuss personnel issues publicly, respectfully, even if you have the right to do so."

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Word from Gatsas is that Bill Krantz at the Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School has given the go-ahead to start a robotics team at the school - the last school in the city to do so. According to Gatsas, with McLaughlin now included, every school in the city - elementary, middle and high school - will have a robotics team in place.

"We have all the schools on board," said Gatsas. "We are the only district in the country that can say that."

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City aldermen recently appointed two new members to the Manchester Development Corporation (MDC) board of directors, Suzanne Brunelle of Devine Millimet and Branch and Mike Reed of Stebbins Commercial Properties.

At the MDC board's annual meeting, David Eaton of Colliers International was elected chairman, Don St. Germain of St. Mary's Bank was elected vice chairman, Lori Chandonnais of Citizens Bank was elected treasurer, and Dan Muller of Cronin, Bisson, Zalinsky, P.C. was elected secretary.

Special recognition was extended to several members honoring their six years of service and leadership to the MDC, including Adam Schmidt, and Joshua Wright and former Chairman Joseph Wichert.

The MDC is a nonprofit economic development branch of city government whose mission is to promote the growth and prosperity of the Queen City by investing in economic development projects and activities within Manchester, supporting the interests of local businesses and industries and attracting new businesses.

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Ready. Set. Go.

The filing period for the 2017 municipal election opens tomorrow at 8 a.m., and runs through 5 p.m. on July 21.

Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache said last week he will look to retain the seat, announcing his intentions to seek reelection.

"As a lifelong resident of the Queen City, no one knows the issues or the people of the West Side better than me," said Gamache, a three-term member of the BMA. "My phone rings daily with concerns about Manchester and problems to solve. I promise a continued focus on constituent services because our city is meant to serve the people first."

Gamache, 79, has lived in Ward 11 all his life. He retired from the Manchester Fire Department as district chief after 33 years in the department, and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife, Arlene, have been married 56 years.

Jimmy Lehoux confirmed last week he intends to run for the Ward 8 school board seat. Lehoux narrowly lost to incumbent Erika Connors in 2015, 52 to 48 percent - or just 71 votes.

"That's too close not to give it another go," said Lehoux. "As a product of the public school system and a father of two, who also attend public schools in the Queen City, it's imperative our children receive the best education possible. We can do this by giving the teachers the proper tools they need for their class, redistricting for smaller class sizes and emphasize parental involvement. I also want to be a voice for the promotion of trades. This can and should be done within the tax cap. I feel as a school board member, I will bring new and fresh ideas to the board as well as give an outsiders point of view."

Connors, incidentally, is a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for the special election in Hillsborough County District 15, the seat left vacant by the death of Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt in March. Andy Parent and Albert E. MacArthur Jr. are vying for the GOP nomination. The primary is Sept. 19, while the special election will be held Nov. 7.

Staff reporter Paul Feely covers Manchester City Hall for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email: pfeely@unionleader.com.


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