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Public spokesman hired: In non-public session, of course

The Manchester public school system now has a public spokesman who was hired during a non-public portion of a public meeting last week. You can't make this stuff up. Except, if you are the school board, we suppose you can go into non-public session and make up anything you please.

A couple of observations:

First and foremost, the school board and its new superintendent have not made a convincing case, or much of a case at all, for hiring a public spokesman, a "cheerleader'' for the schools, as proponents have put it.

Why can't Supt. Debra Livingston and the administration and the school principals speak for the schools? Is this new person going to really get out district information to the public or will she be charged with filtering and delaying the release of public information? We will wait and see.

Second, why is the school board spending money on more administration jobs at a time when it continues to cry poverty? Not only was a PR person hired last week, so too was a $100,000-a-year director of an "innovation zone.'' The salaries for both these new positions, along with that for a new school clerk, were all set higher than the top limit posted for the jobs.

"I thought teachers were more important at this point in time,'' said board member Debra Gagnon Langton. Apparently she thought wrong.

As for these positions being filled behind closed doors, we think that Mayor Ted Gatsas and new school board boss Dave Wihby ought to look at the spirit as well as the letter of the public's Right to Know Law. Its "personnel'' exception was intended to protect the rights of employees in disciplinary and investigative situations.

Whatever our elected board members are saying, or being told, about people they are about to hire to do the public's business ought to be within the public's earshot. We wish Gatsas and Wihby would set that tone.


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