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Hooksett high school choices to be aired

HOOKSETT - With the dispute over the contract with the Manchester School District to educate the town's high school students continuing, the Hooksett School Board wants to hear the parental perspective in a round table discussion planned for April 17.

The format for the discussion will see participants moving through a series of group discussions on various possibilities for high school education.

Tables in the Cawley Middle School gym will each be assigned a particular subject, with a volunteer facilitating the conversation.

Attendees will discuss each issue with the facilitator and others at the table, after which they will move on to the next table and a new topic.

There are six subjects in all, which school officials say center on a single basic question.

"We are asking one central question, which is 'What do we want for our community and our high school students?'" said School Board Vice Chair David Pearl. "That's going to be our theme question at all the tables, and we're looking at it through different lenses."

Those six "lenses" include a deliberately broad discussion of education issues in Manchester; consideration of Hooksett setting up its own high school, either through construction or using Manchester West High School, as well as sending high school students elsewhere, through a contract with one high school, such as Pinkerton Academy or by reaching agreements with multiple high schools to educate studetns from Hooksett.

Participants will also be invited to discuss special education, and transportation issues.

The facilitators will take notes on the discussion, and major points raised will be posted on a central discussion board in the cafeteria, allowing participants and school district leaders to have a sense of the conversations at hand.

At the end, attendees will be asked to vote for issues they deem "most important" in each of the general subject categories through placement of colored stickers on the board listing the discussion areas and issues raised.

The high school controversy has been one of the most pressing issues facing the town in recent months.

The Hooksett School Board formally gave notice last December to Manchester that it considers the city district to be in breech of the maintainence agreement with the town.

The vote was largedly based on overcrowded classrooms in Manchester which resulted from funding and staff cuts at the start of the current school year.

Several overtures to Manchester for both informal talks and more formalized discussion aimed at an "amicable and mutual" early release from the contract, have either gone without response or have been declined by the city district.

While debate continues on whether to end the arrangement with Mancheter, some of the fiercest debates in Hooksett not been over whether the district should be on the road toward separation from Manchester, but rather over where that road should take the town.

One purpose of the round table is to informally gauge interest in the opinions, to see where the community envisions itself, what residents think of the options that have been discussed and whether they have new ideas any of their own.

"In the first place, it's to start a discussion in the community about exactly what (the road forward) is. We're really curious to see what ideas come out of that," Pearl said. "And then, to a certain extent, it's to see where the community is ... giving us somewhat of an indication of a community feel."

Pearl said the forum may help foster conversation and awareness of the issues and possibilities facing the district on the question of where children attend high school.

"Another objective is to get people talking to each other about this issue, so that people can start a conversation and be able to talk about some of the different things that are possible." Pearl said.

The Hooksett School Board's high school round table discussion will be held on April 17 at 6:30 in Cawley Middle School's cafe.

Refreshments will be served, provided by the learning center Mathnasium. The Builders Club will be providing childcare.

Volunteers are still being sought. Anyone wishing to contribute to the event may contact the Hooksett School Board at

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