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June 10. 2013 11:40PM

Manchester school officials look for best use of dollars

MANCHESTER — Manchester schools Superintendent Thomas Brennan is devising how to spend the additional funds aldermen sent to the school district as part of the final budget it approved last week.

Brennan will be meeting with incoming Superintendent Debra Livingston to come up with a plan for spending the additional $1 million, along with other budget adjustments.

Brennan discussed the numbers with the Board of School Committee at its meeting Monday.

Based on the calculations of district Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis, the additional funds will not allow the district to hire many more teachers, beyond replacing the more than 40 who are retiring or resigning.

She estimated that the district would be allowed to hire four more teachers with a budget of $156.7 million, the amount approved by the aldermen.

Prior to voting to direct Brennan to come up with a spending plan in time for the next school board meeting later this month, the board debated whether new hiring should take place in the high schools or the elementary and middle schools.

Brennan has advocated investing more in early learning programs in the elementary schools.

Ward 9 board member Art Beaudry supported this view. “If we don’t get the primary grades up to speed, we won’t reduce the dropout rates,” he said.

However, board member John Avard, Ward 10, said the district must address the teacher shortage in the high schools given the prospect of the sending towns of Candia and Hooksett pulling their students.

“I think it’s vital to meet contractual obligations to the sending towns,” he said. “I think it’s vital to have the high schools staffed at whatever level it takes,” he said.

The total amount of money the district may have to hire teachers will hinge in large part on the outcome of negotiations with its largest union, the teachers. Concessions with a smaller union, the paraprofessionals, generated $500,000 in savings over two years.

In other action , the board voted to have principals prepare class schedules by July 1.

The vote was an attempt to prevent the perennial problem of a chaotic start to the school year, which board members have blamed on class schedules only being released just before the start of school in the fall.

Brennan said while he supported the move, he didn’t think it would be possible to implement this year, especially given new policies capping enrollment at 30 student per class and the elimination of under-enrolled courses.

However, the board voted unanimously to request the principals produce the schedules.

“If these schedules are given, they would still be provisional,” said Ward 1 board member Sarah Ambrogi. “If this were a bill in Congress, I would call it the ‘the guarantee of a good first day of school bill.’”

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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