WHEN CITY school board members chose a consultant to led the search for a new superintendent, the vote was not without controversy — despite those same board members expressing unanimous support for that same consultant in a phone poll conducted just 10 days prior.

As reported last week, school board members have chosen McPherson & Jacobson LLC of Omaha, Neb., as consultants to oversee the superintendent search. Members of the search committee — consisting of Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry as chairman, Mary Georges of Ward 3, Leslie Want of Ward 4, Lisa Freeman of Ward 5 and Kelly Thomas of Ward 12, with Mayor Joyce Craig serving as a non-voting member — recommended McPherson & Jacobson.

Board members — including Craig — voted 15-0 in a phone poll conducted March 1 to accept McPherson and Jacobson to conduct the search. So it was a bit surprising when David Scannell of Ward 2 announced prior to last week’s vote to ratify the phone poll that he wanted to change his vote.

“When we first embarked on the superintendent search process I very reluctantly went along with a proposal that did not include what I would look at as real participation from certain constituencies,” said Scannell. “And I was willing to go along because I did receive assurances that there would be real participation among certain constituencies. If this is any indication of how individuals who I’m most concerned about are going to be treated, all I have is a vote and I’m going to vote no.”

Scannell said he had concerns with the locations for two community forums to hear from residents on the qualities they want in a new superintendent. Those forums are being held at Memorial and West (see below for dates) — but not at Central or Manchester School of Technology.

Scannell also made allegations that local business leader Arthur Sullivan — who has offered to solicit donations from local businesses to cover the cost of hiring a search firm — has had too much of a say in the committee’s discussions thus far.

Taking a deep breath, Scannell said he was “going to think long and hard about this but I am going to say it,” then referenced a conversation he had with Beaudry regarding the forum schedule.

“When I had the conversation with Mr. Beaudry, I said ‘Why can’t we add a date, we are paying for the search?’” said Scannell. “He indicated to me, which is something I know, that we are receiving funding from a donor, which I appreciate. He indicated to me that the donor signed off on this schedule of having only two sessions. That is profoundly disturbing to me.”

Scannell also leveled accusations that Sullivan has participated in non-public sessions of the superintendent search committee.

“I appreciate the money, but to give someone that much of a say I think is inappropriate,” he said.

Beaudry responded to what he termed “false” accusations, saying there is no “conspiracy” to leave Central or MST out of the equation.

“The last search we had them all at Memorial, the only reason why we are having anything on the West Side is Memorial is not available on the 19th,” said Beaudry. “We looked at the places that have the best parking, we want participation, and Central has no parking around there.”

Beaudry also disputed Scannell’s claims that Sullivan took part in any decisions voted on by the committee.

“When I said Mr. Sullivan signed off on this, the whole committee agreed to what they presented to us for the whole cost,” said Beaudry. “That’s what we signed off on, he was part of that because he was coming up with the money. He had no more say. The people that voted were the five voting members. There was no conspiracy here.”

Want, of Ward 4, later backed up Beaudry’s version of events.

“I just want to make clear that during these meetings Mr. Sullivan was an observer,” said Want. “He is not a voting member of the committee, and the decisions that were made were made by the committee. Although Mr. Sullivan was there, and I appreciate his support tremendously as I’m sure we all do, he was not a voting member and wasn’t part of making the decisions.”

Peter Ramsey, head of the Palace Theatre Trust, is scheduled to go before the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday to reveal the identity of a sponsor he says has agreed to pay $250,000 for 10 years for a renovated Rex Theatre.

But ahead of that, he has a request going before the Aldermanic subcommittee looking for aldermen to waive building permit fees associated with the renovation of the property, located at 23 Amherst St.

Ramsey estimated the cost for general building permits for the site at $18,000. Building permit fees are set by city ordinance, and can only be waived or adjusted by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

City planner Leon LaFreniere reports in a memo that while it is not common, the aldermen “have on rare occasion” waived fees in cases where they have determined that “the greater public good is served” by doing so.

City aldermen voted in October to approve a partnership between the Manchester Development Corporation (MDC) and The Palace Theatre to renovate and operate the Rex Theatre as a performance venue. Under the agreement, the MDC is loaning the Palace Theatre $1.7 million to renovate the building into a 300-seat multi-use theater and function space. Under the terms of the agreement, the Palace Theatre will repay that loan — with a 2 percent annual interest — over 10 years.

Scheduled forums

Here are the schedules for the two superintendent search community forums scheduled for this week.

The first is Monday, March 18, at Manchester Memorial High School at 1 Crusader Way. The schedule for the day is as follows: 3:30 p.m. — Students; any students from Manchester High School West or Central who would like to attend this session, a bus will be at both schools at 3:15 p.m. to transport them to Memorial. 4:30 p.m. — Teachers; 5:30 p.m. — Administration/District staff; 6:30 p.m. — Chamber of Commerce; 7 p.m — Aldermen.

The second forum will be held Tuesday, March 19, at Manchester High School West at 9 Notre Dame Ave. The schedule for the day is as follows: 3:30 p.m. — Principals and vice principals; 4 p.m. — Support staff; 5 p.m. — Parents; 6 p.m. — Manchester Proud; 7 p.m. — General Community (parents unable to make the 5 p.m. session are invited to attend the 7 p.m. session)

For the second year in a row, Craig will spend a night outside to raise awareness and money for homeless youth in New Hampshire.

Craig is participating in Waypoint’s fifth annual SleepOut, an event dedicated to raising community awareness and funds to help stabilize and transform the lives of homeless youth in New Hampshire. The event will take place Friday, March 22 in downtown Manchester at Stanton Plaza in front of the DoubleTree Hotel.

”I’m looking forward to participating in Waypoint’s SleepOut again this year,” said Craig in a statement. “Homelessness is a moral challenge, and we must address it with empathy and resolve. By raising funds and supporting organizations such as Waypoint, our community will ensure homeless youth have access to the critical support they need.”

Craig will be joined by her entire staff at the event, including Chief of Staff Ryan Mahoney, Policy and Strategic Outreach Director Lauren Smith and Community Outreach Director Donald Stokes.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com