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Paul Feely's City Hall: Vargas to steer raise toward school's parking lot paint

By PAUL FEELY
October 08. 2017 12:52AM
Superintendent of the Manchester School District Bolgen Vargas (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

WITH SCHOOLS closed tomorrow for Columbus Day, the Board of School Committee will hold a Tuesday night session at City Hall. On the agenda? Salary increases for Karen DeFrancis, the school district's business administrator, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas.

Raises for city officials are not that unusual. What Vargas plans to do with his, if approved, is noteworthy.

According to his contract - which runs through June 30, 2018 - Vargas was paid an annualized base salary of $165,000 from Oct. 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. According to the contract, "the amount of pay increase for the second year of this agreement shall equal the City of Manchester's tax cap for the ensuing year," excluding any override, "and shall be conveyed to the Superintendent as soon as the calculation is available."

Factoring in the tax cap increase of 1.2 percent, Vargas is due a salary increase of $1,980. In paperwork submitted to school board members, Vargas indicates he would like to see $980 used to paint parking lot lines at Highland Goffe's Fall Elementary School, while leaving the remaining $1,000 in the salary line of the district's FY 2018 budget for future allocation as needed.

DeFrancis was signed to a two-year contract that included tax cap increases for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. The two-year deal ended on June 30, but under the provisions of the contract there is a one-year rollover. DeFrancis has yet to receive a raise in FY'18.

A 1.2 percent tax cap increase would result in a salary increase of $1,310.82 for DeFrancis, bringing her total salary in FY'18 to $110,546. If approved, the salary proration impact is $907.56, effective with the Oct. 26 payroll.

Tuesday's school board meeting is scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m.

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Just prior to the start of school last month, Vargas said in an interview with the Union Leader he was excited to launch what he called a "unique partnership" between the district and the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester, which gives the organization access to school attendance data in "real time." Boys and Girls Club personnel can then work with students who are repeatedly absent, and try to determine why.

"They are going to be able to see daily whether children are coming to school or not," said Vargas. "We are going to be working towards what I consider a key priority. We have a significant amount of youngsters that don't make it to school every day. When a first-grader is not coming to school, that is not a child's problem - that is a community, family and school issue, that we are working to resolve."

Late last week, Vargas announced the formation of a new committee consisting of community stakeholders to monitor attendance issues and review attendance systems, policies and procedures in place at city schools.

The committee will be chaired by Parkside Middle School Principal Forrest Ransdell, and include district staff members Peter Lubelczyk, Kelly Espinola, Lewis Cataldo, Sara Laughlin, Tim Otis, Paula Greenspan and Arthur Adamakos.

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Campaign staff for mayoral candidate Joyce Craig and incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas have established and confirmed a series of forums/debates for the candidates. The pair have agreed to appear on New Hampshire Today with Jack Heath on WGIR AM on Monday, Oct. 16, at 8 a.m.; a debate hosted by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the Puritan Conference and Event Center, 245 Hooksett Road; Thursday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m. live on New Hampshire Public Radio's 'The Exchange'; and a session at WMUR taping on Oct. 27.

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State Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut will attend an education roundtable on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communication, 749 E. Industrial Park Drive, in Manchester. According to organizer and Ward 6 school board candidate Jon DiPietro, the non-partisan event is free and open to the public. All are encouraged to come and bring their questions.

Edelblut is expected to open the night with some remarks, and candidates in attendance will then be invited to introduce themselves. This will be followed by a roundtable discussion on several topics of relevance to Manchester School District, including: Title One funding; special education; cost downshifting; standardized testing; and parental rights and involvement.

Some school board candidates have stated on social media that they were not invited to attend the event.

"Nobody has been individually or personally 'invited' to this event," wrote DiPietro in response. "It's an open invitation and everyone is welcome. The only individual notice sent out was to Dr. Vargas as courtesy to him."

Registration for the event is available through EventBrite.

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John Lyscars, founder of Higher Education Lifts People, or HELP, has organized the Education On Tap "Bend The Elbow, Not The Knee," event Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at New England's Tap House Grille, 1292 Hooksett Road in Hooksett. The night is billed as "an opportunity to have some fun listening to and speaking with your favorite Manchester BOSC candidate."

According to Lyscars, confirmed attendees thus far include Ward 1's Joseph Lachance, Mark Flanders of Ward 4, Lisa Freeman of Ward 5, Ward 6's Jon DiPietro, Jimmy Lehoux of Ward 8, Kelly Thomas of Ward 12, and At Large school board member Rich Girard.

Lyscars said he is awaiting responses from mayoral candidates Joyce Craig and Mayor Ted Gatsas.

The format of the evening will be introductions for all attendees, followed by brief talks to the voters/taxpayers from Manchester and Hooksett by candidates in attendance.

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UNH Manchester hosted a field trip by city high school English Learner (EL) students recently. Seventy-one EL students from Central, Memorial and West high schools heard a presentation about the college application process and were given an opportunity to attend a mock college class with UNH professors. Students also heard from a panel of former Manchester EL students who now attend UNH.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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