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September 29. 2013 10:49PM

Hooksett official says school discussions are above board

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas plans to ask the city school board to consider whether Hooksett administrators are violating a settlement agreement by negotiating with other schools and districts where students could enroll as early as next fall.

"My belief was we negotiated in good faith," Gatsas said Friday. "I'll be talking to the school board and finding out what they'd like to do."

Hooksett superintendent Charles Littlefield said he is confident his discussions are within the boundaries called for in the settlement reached this summer when Hooksett dropped a breach of conduct allegation in return for Manchester calling off a lawsuit it had filed.

According to the settlement, Manchester will continue to accept students from Hooksett from 2014 through 2018, but Hooksett is no longer obligated to assign students only to schools within the Manchester district.

The long-time agreement that had Hooksett students attending high school in Manchester expires next June.

While Hooksett students could still attend Manchester high schools, Littlefield said he is working on an agreement to provide other options.

"Until we really reach out to parents and youngsters, it would all be speculation," Littlefield said Friday.

Littlefield said a preliminary plan would use Pinkerton Academy in Derry as the "anchor" school for Hooksett students, who would also have the option of attending classes in Bow, Pembroke, Londonderry and Manchester.

"This is a fairly complex process. We're thinking about a fairly complex model that provides the anchor and some choice," Littlefield said. "Nothing is finalized. This is all a work in progress."

The settlement calls for Manchester schools to remain an option through 2018, when incoming freshmen next fall will be seniors, and the two districts agreed negotiations on an extension could begin on or before June 30, 2016.

Gatsas said he was hopeful Manchester would remain the primary district for Hooksett to send its high school students.

He plans to bring up the matter when the Manchester school board meets Oct. 16.

"The students that I've talked to are very happy being here in Manchester," Gatsas said. "We'll bring it up and have a conversation about it and see what direction the board wants to go with it."

dalden@unionleader.com


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