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Paul Feely's City Hall: Administrator resigns after Edelblut criticizes city's special ed program in letter

By PAUL FEELY
September 16. 2017 7:51PM
FRANK EDELBLUT (File photo)



ANOTHER HIGH-ranking official will soon exit the school district's central administration, after the Manchester school board gave Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas the ability to fire employees, if necessary, to address problems with special education.

Dr. Jennifer Dolloff, who oversees special ed as the director of student services, has submitted her resignation, effective later this month, according to a school source.

She is the second high-ranking administrator to leave the district since Vargas started a year ago. This summer, Assistant Superintendent David Ryan resigned to become co-superintendent of a nearby school district based in Pembroke.

The school board vote and subsequent resignation follows a critical letter from state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut about the city's special education program.

The letter, dated Sept. 7, addressed Manchester's "longstanding noncompliance" with the state's special education laws and required corrective actions.

"We would like to inform you," the letter reads, "that over the last five months, Manchester School District has made minimal progress towards correcting the noncompliance." No monthly progress reports, and no communication from the district about the lacking reports, Edelblut wrote.

In May, state officials listed "necessary corrective actions" it expected from Manchester's special ed officials. They include delivery of a copy of Manchester's special ed policies to the state by June 15, monthly progress reports, and monitoring of corrective actions.

"Since June 15, timelines have not been adhered to and most recently there has been no communication from the district regarding the (Compliance and Improvement Monitoring) corrective actions due Sept. 1," reads the Edelblut letter.

The school board spent two hours behind closed doors, returned to the public and voted 10-3 to authorize Vargas to run the district and address the situation "as he sees fit," with all options on the table. Opposing the move were At Large school board member Nancy Tessier, Connie Van Houten of Ward 12 and Dan Bergeron of Ward 6.

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While school officials reported the first day of school in Manchester overall went smoothly, school board member Lisa Freeman of Ward 5 relayed a call she received from a parent reporting an issue with a bus driver.

"They told me the driver had one hand on the wheel and a piece of paper in the other because they were not familiar with the route," said Freeman. "The parent was very upset because that's not safe."

"I'm aware of that," said Manchester Transit Authority Mike Whitten. "It was a new driver that was hired this summer, who failed a number of protocols we have in place. They failed to notify us when they were lost, they didn't want to embarrass themselves over the radio, and continued to make a series of incorrect decisions, and as a result they were terminated. They no longer drive for us."

"I hate that they got terminated," said Freeman. "But some people are meant to do it and some aren't, and when you have a busload of children you have to have all your faculties."

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City Clerk Matt Normand reports the Board of Registrars met Wednesday night to set the checklist, which shows 55,904 registered voters heading into Tuesday's municipal primary election. According to Normand, that number reflects 8,577 registered voters identified for removal during the checklist verification process his office conducted over the summer, where staff reviewed the voting history of all 64,420 voters on checklists citywide to generate a report of any voter who has not voted since November of 2012 - in other words, registered voters who failed to participate in the last nine citywide elections.

Tuesday's election is nonpartisan, but Normand passed along updated voter registration breakdowns by party. As of Sept. 14, 18,305 Queen City voters are registered Democrats, 15,616 are registered Republicans, 18 are Libertarians, and 21,965 fall into the undeclared category.

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One last reminder for Ward 6 voters ahead of Tuesday's primary election - the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has declared all voting activities in Ward 6 will take place at the Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School, located at 290 South Mammoth Road.

"I am extremely grateful to the administration at McLaughlin, especially Principal (Bill) Krantz, and also representatives at the school district for stepping up and helping the Ward 6 election officials solve a dire situation when the voters lost access to their former polling location at St. Pius X Parish," said Normand. "The Ward 6 selectmen are excited over the new polling location within the gymnasium of one of the city's premier middle schools."

According to Normand, McLaughlin Middle School has ample parking available and "an expansive, modern space for all voting activities," which he believes will improve the voting experience for all Ward 6 voters.

"The majority of the parking is behind the gymnasium, but there are two accessible entrances to the gymnasium so voters and first-time visitors to the school campus should look for directional signs to guide them if necessary," said Normand.

Normand also wants to remind Ward 6 voters of the special municipal election being held Tuesday at the same time as the regular primary election. This special election is being held to fill the current vacancy in the office of alderman, where the top vote getter will be sworn in to complete the remainder of the current term. Voters arriving at McLaughlin on Tuesday will receive two ballots - a yellow ballot for the special election, and a white ballot for the regular municipal primary election.

The same three candidates for alderman - Ryan Van Orden, Peter Macone, and Elizabeth Ann Moreau - will appear on both ballots. The white ballot will have candidates for school board and mayor on it as well.

Voters who have any questions or concerns about the upcoming elections are encouraged to call the city clerk's office at 624-6455 or visit the elections page at the city website at www.manchesternh.gov/elections.

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Before ballots are cast Tuesday, the Aldermanic Committee on Lands and Buildings will meet Monday. On the agenda are two requests from At Large Alderman Dan O'Neil to name two buildings after well-known Manchester residents.

O'Neil proposes naming the Shops Building, located next to the Public Works Department building on Valley Street, in honor of late Alderman Ed Osborne, who represented Ward 5 from 1983-1986 and 2002-2015.

O'Neil points out in his written request to committee members that Osborne was instrumental in getting the strobe light snow emergency system installed across the city, and had a passion in the areas of traffic signs, streets and trash collection. O'Neil also suggests naming the ski lodge at McIntyre Ski Area after longtime manager Don Sarette. In 1978 then-Parks and Recreation Director Ron Ludwig asked Sarette, owner of Don's Sports Center on South Willow Street, if he would manage the rental shop amd ski school at McIntyre, which he then did - for more than 30 years.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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