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Manchester, Hooksett will resume schools conversation

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 14. 2014 9:20PM

MANCHESTER — School officials from Manchester and Hooksett will be back at the table later this week, when the city’s Special Committee on Negotiations resumes deliberations.

The committee is scheduled to meet with Hooksett school officials at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Central High School Library, 207 Lowell St.

Manchester school officials on the committee — Mayor Ted Gatsas, Superintendent Debra Livingston and school board members Kathy Staub, Christopher Stewart, Sarah Ambrogi and Erika Connors — are looking to build on progress made at their last session earlier this month.

“Hooksett came into the last meeting looking for certain assurances, which we were able to give them. Now they need to decide if they want to remain with us long-term,” said Staub.

Last year, Hooksett negotiated a break from its 20-year contract with Manchester, with the mediated settlement resulting in a five-year deal that allowed current Hooksett high schoolers to continue attending Central and West, while giving the district leverage to negotiate a long-term deal with Pinkerton Academy of Derry. Since then, many Hooksett families have opted to send their kids there, with about 100 of Hooksett’s roughly 165 incoming freshmen attending Pinkerton.

A 10-year contract with Pinkerton was rejected by Hooksett voters last March. Following the vote, Hooksett school officials requested that talks with Hooksett be reopened.

Earlier this month, city school board members passed a motion declaring any student from Hooksett who enters a city high school as a freshman will be allowed to attend that school all four years. The motion was proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas, in response to requests by Hooksett officials to hammer out an agreement on this one issue before beginning broader talks at this week’s session.

Gatsas’ motion was a change from a prior stance where he argued a four-year guarantee was unnecessary. He said the motion sends “a clear message” to incoming freshmen that they can remain at the same school all four years.

Hooksett officials are looking to negotiate a renewable five-year deal with Manchester, and likely Pinkerton as well, while maintaining memorandums of understanding with Bow, Londonderry and Pembroke Academy.

“We have worked to create a successful learning environment for the 21st century,” said Staub. “Whether they (Hooksett) want to be a part of that moving forward, that’s up to them.”

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