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Manchester school board to invite Hooksett and Candia to sit on committee

MANCHESTER — The school board is expected to officially invite representatives from Candia and Hooksett to join a key committee as nonvoting members.

The board's Curriculum and Instruction Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send letters to the school boards of the towns, inviting each to select a member to join the committee.

The move is the latest overture to the high school sending towns following a year of acrimony that saw the Hooksett school board propose pulling its students from the city and entering a new contract with Pinkerton Academy. (Related story, Page B1.) Voters in the town earlier this month overwhelmingly rejected the new contract, as well as the members of the board who backed it.

Since then, Mayor Ted Gatsas has expressed a desire to sit down with the new school boards of the towns in the interest of fostering a better relationship.

Parents in Hooksett and Candia have criticized large class sizes and other issues in Manchester high schools.

Ward 8 school board member Erika Connors, the chairman of the curriculum committee, said the time was right to reach out.

"I think it's always been important to include them in the discussion, but now is a great time to take a step forward in moving in that direction," she said. "We want to include them as much as possible in the curriculum discussion. That would affect Candia and Hooksett more than anything."

In the past, Hooksett has sent a representative to school board meetings, but only intermittently. The city charter prevents town representatives from voting on the school board.

"There has always been an open invitation to any member of the boards to come, but this would be an official invitation, to have one of their members be standing members," Connors said.

The full school board is expected to approve sending out the invitation at its next meeting.

The district gets about $7 million in tuition revenue from its sending towns, although this amount has declined since last year as Hooksett began sending students elsewhere.

Gatsas and others have touted new initiatives in the district, in particular STEAM Ahead NH, a program beginning in the fall at West High that will enable students to seek college credit for coursework being developed with local companies and colleges.

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