Ted Siefer's City Hall: School board on the defensive over Cupcake-gate
As the Union Leader first reported on Wednesday, the Coordination Committee has signed off on a school policy that would limit birthday and holiday parties to one per month. There could be more parties, but only so long as "nutrition standards for healthy snacks are followed." Now blow out the candles on your tofu!
All of this perhaps raises the question: Doesn't the school board have more important things (last pun) on its plate? After all, in just a month or so the district will be without a superintendent - and an assistant superintendent. (Michael Tursi announced last week he'll be taking a superintendent job elsewhere.)
But readers had pointed things to say about the board's priorities in the comment section of the cupcake article at UnionLeader.com, where, to be sure, comments tend to skew in a critical direction.
He noted that the revised sweets policy was proposed by the district's nutritionist to comply with federal regulations, and he rattled off a list of school board accomplishments, including the technology bond and shortening the school year. He also defended the superintendent search, which was extended after the board rejected the three finalists interviewed in March.
Remember how the school board, in response to the revelation that it was on track to overspend its legal budget by more than $200,000, voted to try to hire an in-house attorney for the district rather than rely on outside firms?
"We started to find that educational law is a very broad field," Ward 8 board member Erika Connors told her colleagues on Monday. "When looking at one person with expertise in all these areas, that person does not have a clerk, which will be an additional cost. We think it will be a very difficult process."
The board approved the motion, but not before Mayor Ted Gatsas tried to pin down a price range.
Gatsas was skeptical.
"I can see someone at the back looking at me like that's not going to work," said Gatsas, referring to one of the attorneys in the gallery who was waiting to discuss the latest legal matter facing the district in non-public session.
Here's a potential bit of good news. District officials, at the suggestion of Gatsas, are looking into the possibility of using up to $1.4 million in surplus federal grant money to hire more teachers next year.
The response of Superintendent Thomas Brennan and DeFrancis was that it was worth a shot.
Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry took a little time at last week's meeting to give a shout out to the mayor and the aldermen for voting, at long last, to finalize the $2.8 million technology bond.
To which Gatsas quipped, "Does that include email?"
Beaudry, as is well known by his colleagues and probably quite a few of his constituents, doesn't "do email."
"I don't like sitting in front of a computer. I return phone calls within 24 hours. Calling is better than returning a bunch of emails," he said.
But he insisted he was proud of the work of his committee. "Whatever job I have to do, I do what has to be done, and I pride myself on my work ethic."
Ted Siefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tbsreporter