Aldermen approve school bond, give tentative approval to teacher contracts

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MANCHESTER, NH – On Tuesday night, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) finalized approval of a bond request for the first phase of the Manchester School District’s Facility Plan.

The BMA gave tentative approval to the request at their last meeting, which provides $290 million in funding for a new Beech Street Elementary School, completion of the district’s transition of fifth-grade students into middle schools and planning for location of the city’s three high schools in Manchester School Department Superintendent Dr. Jenn Gillis’ plan to ensure the district has three high schools, four middle schools and 12 elementary schools. Conceptual work has been presented to place a new high school at or near the site of the current Beech Street Elementary School that could be considered.

Earlier in the meeting, an update from Manchester Proud, a residents and business organization created to support the city’s public schools, drew questions about the facilities plan from Ward 8 Alderman Ed Sapienza and Alderman At-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur.

Sapienza asked Manchester Proud Coordinator Barry Brensinger if one of the city’s current public high schools would be closed, which Brensinger said he could not speak to. Levasseur referenced $190 million appropriated around 20 years ago to expand the city’s high schools with the expectation that they would expand while enrollment has instead decreased. Levasseur asked Brensinger if this proposal was comparable and believed that not enough data had collected to compare the plan with potentially renovating the city’s schools instead.

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Joe Kelly Levasseur on Dec. 5, 2023. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

“We could have compared apples to apples, but all we can do is compare apples to nothing right now,” said Levasseur.

Brensinger disagreed with Levasseur’s recollection of that appropriation, stating that it was largely a way to catch up with deferred maintenance while the facilities plan is a way to completely transforming the district’s buildings to make them more conducive to 21st Century educational methods.

“It’s not simply about repairing doors and windows and bricks, it’s about recreating our facilities as a tool to serve our students and teachers,” said Brensinger.

The BMA also gave tentative approval to five contracts for five Manchester School District unions, after their support from the Board of School Committee last week, including teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, directors and coordinators, and administrative support staff. The agreements now hold over for two weeks before a final vote of the Aldermen on December 19.

The District began negotiations with all five unions this fall, with existing contracts set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on June 30, 2024. Superintendent Jennifer Chmiel Gillis said that the District’s focus in negotiations was recruitment and retention of employees.

“As we move toward hiring season, having these agreements settled will be an invaluable tool to both help us retain our current staff and recruit the top staff from other districts,” Gillis said. “I would like to thank the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for voting in support of these agreements tonight, and I ask you to give final approval on December 19.”

The Board of School Committee and unions have ratified the tentative agreements. If approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, all of the agreements would take effect on July 1, 2024.

“The Board of Mayor and Aldermen did the right thing approving the five collective bargaining agreements for educators in the Manchester School District,” said Mayor Joyce Craig. “These contracts are fair for our educators, our students and our community. The District will now be in a strong position to support and retain our exceptional existing staff and attract the best new educators for years to come.”


 

About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.