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School deal leaves bitter taste for some in Hooksett

Union Leader Correspondent

July 31. 2013 10:56PM

HOOKSETT — After a judge approved a deal on Wednesday allowing Hooksett to terminate its high school agreement with Manchester four years early, there was mixed reaction from residents and school board members alike.

School Board members David Pearl and John Lyscars voted against the deal, with both arguing that there wasn't enough time to allow for public input.

"I voted against the settlement because it fundamentally changes the contract, which was approved on the warrant by the voters in 2003, and I felt at a minimum we needed to have a hearing to hear from those people before we committed to the deal," Pearl said.

Lyscars agreed, saying the issue wasn't even on the agenda posted before the meeting.

During Tuesday's meeting, board Chairman Trisha Korkosz said the deal, which ends the Hooksett-Manchester agreement in 2014 rather than 2018, was finalized only on Monday, and with a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday, it was paramount that the agreement was voted on immediately.

Both Lyscars and Pearl supported the breach claim against Manchester.

"I don't think it is right. I am not happy under the circumstances," Pearl said.

Lyscars said there might be unintended consequences for parents who still want to send their children to Manchester.

"Parents will no longer be able to choose between Central and West High School; that option will no longer exist. I think we did a disservice to Hooksett residents," Lyscars said.

Pearl and Lyscars also said they disagree with the rest of the board regarding one of the stipulations in the contact that states the two districts must negotiate in good faith by 2016 regarding the continued enrollment of Hooksett students who wish to attend Manchester.

During Tuesday night's board meeting, board member Cheryl Akstin said her interpretation of that clause was that it is designed to allow the two sides to discuss allowing Hooksett students in Manchester the ability to finish their high school career there.

"Mr. Pearl and I see it differently," Lyscars said. "We see that as a requirement to negotiate a multi-year contract in good faith."

While Hooksett will gain the freedom to send its students where they wish starting next year, Manchester will receive increased tuition fees from Hooksett starting in the 2014-2015 school year, along with $200,000 to be paid out in equal installments over the next two years.But for many parents in Hooksett, the news of the agreement came as a relief.

"I think this is far from over, but I think we are on the right track. It is not the best-case scenario, but the kids are ultimately going to benefit," Hooksett parent Jen Leger said.

With a daughter entering ninth grade, Leger said many of the current eighth-graders had their final year of middle school ruined by the uncertainty of where they would attend high school.

"It was very difficult on the current eighth-grade class. It really did tear the class apart; it wasn't a good experience. But I am hopeful that the kids coming forward won't have to go through that," Leger said.

With three children in the Hooksett School District, Stacie Berry said she is also relieved that a deal was worked out.

"I am very excited, and I am looking forward to a new beginning here in Hooksett. We have to look for a contract for the town, but I think it was in the best interest of the town and the education of our kids to do the agreement," Berry said.

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