Superintendent John Goldhardt said last week that concerns expressed by city school board members over a memorandum of understanding with a Nashua firm have been addressed, opening the door for Manchester schools to adopt a mobile communication app designed to enhance student safety.
The Safety Alerts for Education (SAFE) platform, developed by Ping4 Inc. of Nashua, is offered to schools throughout the state at no cost.
Goldhardt said last week he had a “productive meeting” with Ping4 CEO Jim Bender to address concerns brought up by school board members involving a promotional video shot by Ping4 for its app.
Some board members and parents were upset, as were others, because the video showed students from Manchester High School Central, filmed without the consent of the students’ parents.
The company has agreed to blur the faces of students appearing in the video, along with the name of the school, Goldhardt told school board members last week.
“He has sent me the blurred images,” Goldhardt said. “I haven’t looked at them thoroughly, but what I saw looked acceptable. I’ll review them and make sure it meets the request from this committee.”
The SAFE app, endorsed widely by a group of state leaders including Gov. Chris Sununu last fall, is available at no cost to Manchester schools and other districts. In the event of a school shooting or other emergency, the app relays alerts created by school officials or law enforcement to students’ and parents’ cellphones.
School nurses contract
Just in time for the start of school, school board members last week also approved a new contract for school nurses’ contract on a 7-6 vote. Voting for the contract were Mayor Joyce Craig, Kathleen Kelley Arnold, Mary Georges, Leslie Want, Dan Bergeron, Katie Desrochers and Pat Long. Opposed were Lisa Freeman, Rich Girard, Ross Terrio, Jimmy Lehoux, Art Beaudry and John Avard.
The agreement states the Manchester health department will have nurses in all city schools.
In turn, the school district will reimburse the health department $2,324,320 for Fiscal Year 2020.
Craig will chair this year’s New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention, scheduled for Sept. 7 at SNHU Arena.
Hassan Essa, a candidate for alderman in Ward 12, will serve as convention secretary. Essa is currently a student at UNH Manchester and a member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard. He came to Manchester as a refugee in 2000.
“These mayors, municipal leaders and activists are working every day to expand opportunities for all Granite Staters and to create an economy that works for everyone — not just those at the very top,” said Ray Buckley, state Democratic Party chairman. “New Hampshire Democrats are not only focused on defeating Donald Trump and Chris Sununu, but on winning elections all the way up and down the ticket, because we know that progress starts in neighborhoods and in communities across the state.”
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 announced last week it will endorse Craig in her reelection bid, noting her “energy, hard work, and clear vision” has earned her another term.
“Manchester is NH’s largest city, and what happens there sets the tone,” said John Hattan, second vice president of the SEA. “The city faces many unique challenges and Mayor Craig has faced them head-on with a collaborative approach, engaging business and community leaders for creative solutions. We’re pleased to see that her advocacy extends to the Legislature, fighting to undo cuts in state aid that have hurt communities throughout NH. Her experience and temperament serve her in this work, and we wholeheartedly endorse her bid for reelection.”
SEA/SEIU Local 1984, which began as the State Employees’ Association, represents public and private sector employees around the state, with more than 800 members living in Manchester. Many SEA-represented worksites are also based in the Queen City, including Manchester Community College, the Sununu Youth Services Center, Health and Human Services district office and numerous state liquor stores.
“I’m honored to receive this endorsement,” Craig said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with SEA members to deliver city and state services and make progress on the priorities that matter most to Manchester residents.”
Mark Gomez, environmental programs manager for the Public Works Department, gave aldermen an update recently on the expanded automatic trash pickup program set to launch this fall.
In October 2018, aldermen approved an expansion of the city’s automated trash collection program. The downtown area, alleys and most one-way streets will be excluded from the expansion.
According to Gomez, an online site has launched (https://trashcarts.manchesternh.gov/) where residents can purchase trash carts at a 50% discount for single family and two-family homeowners. The 50% discount will extend through the end of the year.
Gomez said city staff hope to have all of the trash carts delivered in October, and then in November deploy the next two automated trucks.
“We expect (the new trucks) to come in probably in September,” Gomez said. “Once those come in we will begin to train the drivers and make sure we have the routes ironed out. In November we will be fully deployed and begin enforcing the requirement that all trash be in a trash cart.”
School lunch price hike
Students in the Queen City will pay a bit more for lunch this school year, following a vote by the Board of School Committee.
In response to a request from Jim Connors, director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Manchester School District, the cost of school lunches will increase by 10 cents this fall, while the cost of breakfast and the price of milk would remain unchanged from current prices.
Current school lunch prices are $2.65 at city high schools and middle schools, and $2.40 at elementary schools. The new prices will be $2.75 for lunch at high schools and middle schools, and $2.50 at elementary schools.
The last school lunch increase approved in Manchester was a 10-cent hike in September 2018. Prior to that, prices were increased by 10 cents in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2008, 2007 and 2001, and 15 cents in 2003 and 1998.
In a memo to school board members, Connors writes the price increase will not affect children from families who qualify for assistance.
“Their meals would continue to be federally subsidized,” writes Connors. “The current subsidy rate is substantially greater than our current meal prices.”
Connors estimates a 10-cent price hike will have a $35 annual financial impact to a family with two children enrolled in the district, if they purchased lunch every day.