Parents tell board: Grow up
Parents unleashed a stream of concerns and complaints at Hooksett’s School Board on Tuesday, June 4, and while board members seemed to listen, they remained deadlocked on several major issues, including how to move forward with a high school plan.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, parents and concerned residents told members that Hooksett has had it with the infighting and continual conflicts that have dominated School Board deliberations for the past several months. They asked members to stop bickering and start focusing on the town’s schools and students.
“I am asking the board to remember why you are serving on the board,” said Don Flood, a parent with six kids who either attend or have graduated from the Hooksett School District. “Please grow up and work together.”
Dave Levesque told members that some of the opinions and ideas they’ve posted online, in forums and blogs, have created a picture of a school board mired in disorder and dysfunction.
“I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m in Hooksett because of this stuff,” said Levesque, adding that the board needed a Kumbaya session.
Others, like Ruth Mariano, expressed support for Superintendent Charles Littlefield, who has been challenged and criticized by several board members on a range of issues.
“I pity Dr. Littlefield who is bombarded by tyrannical diatribes on a daily basis,” said Mariano, adding that the best service some board members could offer Hooksett would be to submit their resignations.
A number of people directed their comments to board members David Pearl and John Lyscars. Both men refused to attend a recent workshop on high school issues after Chairman Trisha Korkosz dismissed their demands for a public apology for adjourning a meeting despite a motion to extend the time.
Pearl and Lyscars have also criticized the administration and other board members for a lack of communication and an inconsistent approach to policies.
Town Councilor Vincent Lembo, who has been attending recent School Board meetings, said Pearl and Lyscars have been argumentative and irresponsible.
“There are two members who have alienated the superintendent, the schools, the administration and staff, the SAU District and the Manchester School Board,” said Lembo.
Although the School Board meeting was calmer and members were more cooperative than they have been over the past few weeks, compromises on substantive issues were still elusive.
Hooksett has been exploring an early end to its high school contract with Manchester because of overcrowded classes. Pearl has been pushing the board to approve sending out a request for quotes for legal assistance with potential contracts with other area schools.
But Korkosz and board member Cheryl Akstin have said they need more information on the town’s options before bring in the lawyers.
Board members turned to Littlefield for advice, and the superintendent did not hold back.
“You are a rudderless ship in terms of the future,” he told them. “You have no plan, no mechanism in place to create a place, and you are not serving our kids well.”
Littlefield negotiated a contract for Auburn to send its high school students to Pinkerton Academy in Derry and he offered to find a solution for Hooksett.
“Get out of my way, and let me develop a plan for your high school,” he told board members.
Littlefield’s suggestion triggered a cheer among parents in the audience and a motion from Akstin to let the superintendent put together a high school plan.
But when Pearl proposed an amendment to that motion to gather quotes for legal services while Littlefield did his planning, the board split and nothing moved forward. Korkosz and Akstin voted against Pearl’s amendment.
Pearl and Lyscars then voted against having Littlefield head up the planning for a high school option for Hooksett.
Although Hooksett’s contract with Manchester runs through 2023, the town has claimed a breach of contract and the agreement could be dissolved by September 2014.
Hooksett’s claim is scheduled to be heard on July 1, at Hillborough Superior Court North.