July 25. 2013 10:54PM

Hooksett, Manchester see progress in school talks

New Hampshire Union Leader
Union Leader Correspondent

School district officials in Manchester and Hooksett are hopeful that they will be able to resolve their long-running dispute ahead of a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The hearing at Hillsborough County North Superior Court was originally slated for Monday, but following a productive 10-hour mediation session Wednesday, officials requested that it be postponed so they could communicate with other school boards members.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, who chairs the city’s school board, said he strongly preferred to resolve the matter outside of court. “I hope we can come to a resolution that will allow us to continue the relationship we’ve had for over 120 years,” he said.

The district has scheduled a special meeting of the Board of School Committee on Tuesday, July 30, the day before the court hearing. The meeting, a portion of which will be held in non-public session, is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Manchester filed a lawsuit against Hooksett earlier this year, seeking an injunction against the district to prevent it from continuing to allow its high school students to leave the Manchester district. The city’s lawyers contend that the policy violates the tuition contract the district has with Hooksett and Candia, whereby the communities are supposed to send “all” of their students to Manchester, with waivers granted only in exceptional circumstances.

Prior to Manchester seeking the injunction, the Hooksett School Board initiated the process of declaring the city in breach of the contract, primarily for allowing numerous classes to exceed the state guideline of 30 students per teacher.

Hooksett School Board Chair Trisha Korkosz said that after two court-ordered mediation sessions, the two sides might be able to agree to a deal that avoids the matter being settled in court.

“I am happy with (how the two mediation) sessions went, I am cautiously optimistic that this will give us the time needed to work out a deal,” Korkosz said.

However, she added that no new mediation sessions have been scheduled.

Korkosz has previously said that she does not understand the basis of Manchester’s injunction claim against Hooksett, as the contract allows the board to authorize students to leave the district on a case-by-case basis, which she said the board has been doing.

The hearing on the injunction claim is now set for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at Hillsborough Superior Court. tsiefer@unionleader.com