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Manchester school board approves City Year agreement

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 12. 2017 12:32AM


MANCHESTER — City school board members unanimously approved a new agreement between the Manchester School District and City Year New Hampshire, a group that places AmeriCorps workers in Manchester schools as extra personnel to help staff members connect with students.

The new contract comes on the heels of an announcement by City Year Executive Director Pawn Nitichan that the number of City Year corps members working in the district would drop from 70 to 61, a reduction she blames on a drop in combined funding from the city and school district.

In a letter to Mayor Ted Gatsas, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas, and city aldermen and school board members, Nitichan and City Year NH Board Vice Chair Kerri St. Jean point out that funding dropped from a total of $575,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 to $250,000 in Fiscal Year 2018.

Last year the school board voted to increase funding for City Year, despite concerns from several members over using a one-time grant of $200,000 to help cover operating expenses for the program, saying the program had grown larger than originally expected without seeking approval of the school board to expand.

“In order to provide the best possible services to Manchester’s students in each of the schools we support, the City Year NH Board has had to reevaluate the level of services we currently provide to the city,” write Nitichan and St. Jean.

City Year is cutting the number of corps members in Manchester schools from 70 to 61, resulting in members working in 1-2 fewer classrooms in each of the eight elementary schools it partners with in Manchester.

“The Title I reallocation grant that we relied on last year was not maintained this year, and this is the result,” said At Large board member Richard Girard.

Nitichan was unable to attend Monday night’s school board session because she was out of town at a conference, but board members had a few questions for City Year Chief of Staff Ted Wayne and others.

“When was the decision made to reduce the number of corps members?” asked Mayor Ted Gatsas. “I know I had some concerns about the number of corps members. I had my staff ask several times about the number of corps members that would be in our schools. On July 30 you (Ted) responded that we would have 70 corps members. What changed that decision between July 31 and Sept. 5?”

“I don’t have an answer for you at the moment,” said Wayne.

School board Vice Chair Art Beaudry asked Gatsas if he wanted to table the contract until Nitichan could attend a meeting in person.

“No, nothing is going to change,” said Gatsas. “The corps members are at the schools and working with students, and that’s what is most important.”

City Year New Hampshire currently has 61 AmeriCorps members serving in eight elementary schools in the Manchester school district: Bakersville, Beech Street, Gossler Park, Henry Wilson, McDonough, Parker-Varney, Hallsville Elementary and Northwest Elementary.

According to the new contract, City Year plans to put six corps members at Bakersville for the current school year, nine at Beech Street, seven at Gossler Park, six at Hallsville, eight at McDonough, 11 in classrooms at Northwest, seven at Parker-Varney and seven at Wilson.

Corps members are usually between 17 and 24 years old, and most are college graduates. City Year New Hampshire competes annually for federal grants to cover roughly 25 percent of its budget, while it raises another 50 percent through private donations and grants. The group looks to the city school district to cover the remaining 25 or so percent.

This is the eighth year City Year has partnered with Manchester schools.

pfeely@unionleader.com


Education Local and County Government Manchester