In addition to honoring retiring teachers and providing a recommendation on block scheduling for the upcoming school year, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) was busy this week with a full board meeting on Monday and committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here are some of the highlights from those meetings this week.
Budgets finalized for district and food services
On Monday, the BOSC approved a finalized school district budget for the 2022-’23 school year, following the ratification of a final amount by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen several weeks earlier.
In that ratification, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen cut $2 million from the budget with the expectation that pending legislation from Concord would make up the deficit.
In case the $2 million is not allocated, Manchester School District CFO Karen DeFrancis explained that cuts were made in employee benefits, payments to debt service and out-of-district tuition costs, with costs for homeless transportation transferred to grant funding.
The food service budget, which has a fund independent from the rest of the district was also approved.
Ward 6 BOSC Member Ken Tassey requested that the food service budget reduce the number of items high in sugar and also requested that more of an effort be made to provide halal and kosher offerings as well as food items that meet other dietary requirements of other students.
Other BOSC members and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig did not oppose Tassey’s proposals in theory, although some BOSC members stated that the nutritional content of food items would need to be balanced with whether students would eat those items.
Craig also requested that more in-depth conversations such as this one be undertaken at the committee level.
Live streaming coming to West, Central and Memorial sports teams
On Monday, the BOSC approved a contract with Play On/Pixellot to install cameras at Manchester’s three public high school football/soccer fields (Gill Stadium, Bill Meisel Memorial Field, Clem Lemire Athletic Complex) as well as the schools’ basketball courts for the upcoming school year.
Ward 10 BOSC Member Gary Hamer expressed concern over Better Business Bureau complaints with Pixellot and preferred that the district seek a contact with Hudl, a company that already provides game film for the district’s football and soccer teams.
Manchester School District Athletic Coordinator Christine Telge replied that she has no preference between Hudl and Pixellot, but noted providing live streaming cameras through Hudl would cost the district over $30,000 per year, while Pixellot would make its revenue through advertisements and subscription fees on the livestreams, costing the district nothing.
She added that there were only a few dozen complaints out of millions of live streams viewed across the country through Pixellot.
Until the vote, Manchester Central and Manchester West were the only NHIAA Division I schools without live-streamed football games.
Health Insurance Benefits removed for BOSC Members
Also on Monday, the BOSC voted to eliminate all medical and dental benefits for BOSC members as of July 1 and request to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that BOSC members receive stipends equal to those aldermen receive beginning with the next BOSC in January 2024.
The issue came up when several members of the BOSC learned that access to the health and dental benefits they received as members of the BOSC made them ineligible for health insurance plans through the Healthcare Marketplace, Medicaid and other avenues.
Not all BOSC members were enrolled with health or dental plans, but Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley said that she was paying significantly more in premiums for the school district plan than she would have paid for the plan she wanted through the marketplace.
A legal grey area as to whether members of the BOSC were employees or independent contractors or something else completely delayed a final decision over several months prior to Monday.
It was also determined that it would be legally acceptable within the city’s charter that elected officials can take away benefits from themselves, as under the charter elected officials can only vote to increase benefits for boards elected in the future.
Maximum Class Size Recommendation Set
At Wednesday’s BOSC Policy Committee, a policy recommendation requested by Ward 2 BOSC Member Sean Parr was moved forward to the full board regarding maximum class sizes.
From kindergarten to fourth grade, a maximum of 20 students will be allowed per class, with 25 students from Grade 4 to 12 and 24 students in any lab course.
Classes of less than 15 students may be allowed to run in situations where resources are available, and district administrators may exempt minimum or maximum class sizes if instructors are not available to meet guidelines.
The proposal was made in an attempt to increase educational achievement and graduation rates through offering students greater personalized attention.
Additionally, the proposal is aimed at helping reduce fluctuations in class sizes, which is hoped to help the BOSC and administrators create long-term facility plans.