Even as the district prepares to search for his replacement, kudos continue to come in for departing Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas. A steady stream of compliments were directed toward Vargas during the public forum portion of the most recent school board meeting.
“We want to sincerely thank Dr. Vargas for his work on behalf of the district and for his genuine support of Manchester Proud,” said Dr. Patricia Lynott, president of University College at Southern New Hampshire University and a member of Manchester Proud. “Dr. Vargas, you’ve been a valued member of our council, and we have so appreciated your advice and your support. Our community is beginning to really unite in support of our schools and both confidence and expectations are on the rise, expectations that their voices matter and that we can all work together toward the best interest of our kids and community.”
“Thank you for opening the doors and allowing us to really work collaboratively with our kids in creating impact,” said Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO at the Manchester Boys and Girls Club. “It wasn’t always that way. We didn’t work together and what we’re seeing now in our community is youth service agencies coming together, working with principals, working with teachers, working with social workers.”
“We’re really concerned with the resignation of Superintendent Vargas because you’ve represented hope,” said Ward 1 resident Anthony Poore, whose daughters attend Manchester High School Central.
“You represented something that these kids could look towards and emulate and look towards and say, I could be you, because we have a growing diverse constituency, as we all know, and who is in positions matters. And I just want to say thank you on behalf of people of African descent within this city who looked at you with such joy.”
“As somebody who grew up in this city, I have never met a superintendent of your caliber,” Ward 8 resident Mike Porter said. “I’m here tonight to ask you to reconsider. I don’t want to go through another search.”
“Manchester Proud, I don’t know enough about them one way or the other as to what they’re going to do for us, but they’re in your corner,” Porter continued. “Boys and Girls Club is in your corner. Parents are in your corner. Do you realize, Dr. Vargas, this is the first time I as a parent have felt my voice being heard inside the schools? You’ve opened that up. You did something many superintendents didn’t do before: you gained the trust of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. You said you were going to spend the money on something and that’s what you did.”
Later in the meeting, school board Vice Chair Art Beaudry made a motion for a vote of confidence for Vargas.
“I put this on the agenda to express to the public that the board has appreciated the work and dedication that Dr. Vargas has displayed,” Beaudry said. “Dr. Vargas has moved this district in a much needed direction for the betterment of the students, parents and taxpayers in this great city.”
The motion passed on a unanimous vote.
School board members are expected to vote Monday night on a final version of a Request for Proposals (RFP) from firms interested in heading up the search for a new superintendent of schools.
The Board of School Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
If approved, the RFP is expected to be released Tuesday, with a deadline for submissions of 10 a.m. on Feb. 15.
According to a timeline provided by the school district, RFP responses will be opened and reviewed on Feb. 15, with interviews conducted with finalists via Skype slated for Feb. 25.
The timeline pegs March 11 as a possible date for selection of a firm.
According to the RFP, the firm chosen will be asked to “provide and facilitate community input and engagement efforts regarding desired superintendent skills, characteristics and qualifications; this may include focus groups, surveys and larger community meetings.”
The RFP also states these efforts must include “key stakeholders including but not limited to parents and parent organizations, under-represented groups, students and student leaders, employees, the business community, district partners, and key elected officials.”
The RFP also lays out the following details of the search process:
Advise the school board on an appropriate compensation package for the position;
Develop a position paper and/or job description with the school board designed to successfully recruit the best candidate;
Screen, evaluate and rank qualified applicants and provide a report on each applicant, using criteria set forth by the school board;
Conduct thorough reference and background checks on all interviewees, as required, including an extensive reference check on three to six finalists.
Coordinate and facilitate community engagement receptions to provide the community an opportunity to meet and evaluate the final candidates in person.
School board members have approved a request to have inventor Dean Kamen serve as graduation speaker for the Manchester High School Central Class of 2019. Central’s graduation ceremony is planned for Saturday, June 15, at 10 a.m. at SNHU Arena, and Principal John Vaccarezza indicated in a memo to school board members that Kamen has agreed to speak at the event.
School board members may have voted to receive and file a complaint lodged by Ward 8 resident Jim Gaudet, asking the conduct board review actions by Ward 2 school board member David Scannell — including leaking a confidential letter to the media — but the issue might not go away very easily.
In his complaint Gaudet wrote, “Committee member Scannell violated section 9.01 when he — acting without authority and as an individual member of the Manchester School Board — intentionally leaked what he knew to be or through reasonable measures would or should have known, was a confidential communication between Attorney Karen Hewes, representing a student of the Manchester School District, including the Manchester Board of School Committee, to local media outlets,” including the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Hewes, representing Manchester High School Central senior Rachel Phelan, 18, wrote a letter to at-large school board member Rich Girard requesting he stop discussing her publicly or during meetings or face legal action, after he contacted her through a district-operated student email account regarding an opinion piece she authored in a student newspaper.
Last month, after school board members voted to ask the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office or Manchester police to investigate who leaked the letter, Scannell admitted publicly he was the source of the leak.
Beaudry called the proposal a waste of time and resources with “very little if any tangible results.”
“The Conduct Board is a political, appointed board that is riddled with conflicts of interest and lacks the authority to remove a member from the board,” Beaudry said. “Committeeman Scannell has already admitted that he leaked the confidential information to the news media.”
Beaudry said he would rather see the matter referred to the Hillsborough County Superior Court under RSA 42:1-a, Manner of dismissal; breach of confidentiality.
“Our attorneys have consistently told us this information is confidential and shall not be disclosed to the public,” Beaudry said. “Committeeman Scannell ignored that directive for nothing more than political reasons.”
Ward 5 board member Lisa Freeman agreed with Beaudry.
“We have two camps: the Scannell camp and the Girard camp,” Freeman said. “What the conduct board will do is give us an opinion we already know. What we need is a resolution.”
A motion to receive and file the complaint passed on an 8-4-2 vote, with Mayor Joyce Craig, Sarah Ambrogi, Leslie Want, Dan Bergeron, Pat Long, John Avard, Katie Desrochers and Beaudry in favor. Opposed were Girard, Freeman, Jimmy Lehoux and Ross Terrio. Kelly Thomas, Mary Georges and Scannell abstained.
“We have many pressing issues that we need to focus on,” Craig said. “Finding a new superintendent, developing the school district budget, improving early literacy, improving graduation rates, decreasing truancy, finalizing contracts for district employees, and I could go on. This board needs to set its sights on these priorities, and not on each other. It’s a new year, and we have the opportunity to show that we can work together in the best interest of students.”
Following the meeting, Gaudet said it was obvious to him Democrats on the board “don’t want to follow the charter and do their jobs,” leaving it up to a member of the public to file a Petition for Removal with the courts.
“So now it appears that a private citizen not elected to public office will have to do the job all of those elected officials swore an oath to do, and failed to do, by voting to receive and file,” Gaudet said. “It was not unexpected, as the last six charter violations were all done by Democrats and the wagons were circled and they were protected. It’s pathetic. He is unfit for public office.”
Gaudet said what’s even more sad is that more people aren’t outraged at the attitude of these elected officials that the city charter “doesn’t matter or apply to them.”
Later in last week’s meeting, Scannell apologized to board members for his actions.
“As I noted at our Dec. 10 meeting, I’m sorry to the board and to Mr. Girard that releasing the letter compromised the collegial spirit that should characterize relations between board members,” Scannell said. “Counsel and I have already reached out to the family to express regret for any impact on the student.”