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July 15. 2014 9:46PM

Manchester school district makes bid to run Job Corps center

MANCHESTER — The school district has submitted a proposal to run the federal Job Corps center being built off Dunbarton Road.

The district’s bid was disclosed at Monday’s Board of School Committee meeting, much to the frustration of Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry, who insisted that the board should have had a say in whether to move forward with the plan.

Mayor Ted Gatsas has on several occasions expressed his support for having the district run the center, which is to provide job training for 300 disadvantaged students ages 16 to 24.

On Tuesday, Gatsas said the board will have the chance to debate the matter next month, when it goes before the Coordination Committee.

“There’s nothing being hidden,” he said. “If the board doesn’t want to move forward because some people think more revenue is not a good idea,” they don’t have to move forward.

Gatsas noted that if Manchester wins the contract, it would be the first school district to operate a Job Corps center in the country. There are 125 such centers, and the Manchester center will be the first in New Hampshire in the program’s 50-year history.

“Everyone I talked to said it’s an ingenious idea,” Gatsas said. “It’s cutting edge education.”

But Beaudry said on Monday that the mayor and the school administration were “as usual putting the cart before the horse.”

Beaudry faulted Gatsas for saying at a prior board meeting that the board had already voted to support bidding on the project. “There was never a motion made in relation to Job Corps. This was a figment of your imagination,” he said.

Turning to the mayor, Beaudry said, “I’m tired of doing things after the fact. After cutting a deal, you came here. You have no authority to negotiate outside this board.”

He added, “We have to put a stop to this.”

The board did not share Beaudry’s outrage, and with the exception of Beaudry and Debra Gagnon Langton, voted to refer the matter to the Coordination Committee.

Ryan said he couldn’t disclose any details of the contract because it was “a sealed bid,” but he said it could be “quite lucrative based on a five-year projection.”

Ryan said the district was partnering on the proposal with ETR, or Education and Training Resources, a Kentucky-based company that operates Job Corps centers in Georgia, New York and Connecticut. Other parties were also part of the district’s proposal, Ryan said.

Ryan said he expects competing bids. “I know there are 50 companies that operate Job Corps centers around the country,” he said. “These are pretty hot commodities. There are people that make their living off operating Job Corps centers.”

The district’s proposal was submitted June 30, Ryan said.

According to the request for proposals to operate the Manchester center issued earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Labor, the five-year contract will be governed by a cost-plus-fixed-fee arrangement. The government would cover agreed upon costs to run the center and pay a performance-based fee to the contractor of up to 2.4 percent of the operating cost.

In 2011, the Job Corps program cost an average of $27,000 a year per student. By comparison, Manchester paid an average of $9,700 per high school student in 2012, according to state data.

Under the request for proposals, the Manchester center would have 300 students when fully operational, with 268 of them living on the premises. There would be 290 staff members.

Beaudry raised another concern on Monday, that the Job Corps center would pull students and resources away from the Manchester School of Technology, a facility that similarly focuses on vocational training and that has been a point of pride for the mayor.

Gatsas insisted on Tuesday said the district would be able to use the expertise it has developed at MST at the Job Corps center. “They would work in parallel,” he said.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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