MANCHESTER, N.H. – Wednesday marked the 641st day since the Manchester Education Association (MEA) has worked under a contract with the Manchester School District, but it looks like that number may not grow much larger.
In 13-0 vote, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) voted to recommend a new proposed contract with the MEA, which now goes to the Board of Aldermen for final approval.
Ward 9 BOSC Member Arthur Beaudry was the only member of the BOSC with any specific questions about the contract during Wednesday’s meeting, which was held electronically due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite his questions surrounding school athletic programs, an altered step structure and two separate paths regarding healthcare options, he praised the proposed contract along with the rest of the board.
Ward 8 BOSC Member Peter Perich was the only other member who shared any concerns, but those concerns came from a statement he shared from a constituent, with other constituents supporting the measure.
Mayor Joyce Craig voiced her support for the BOSC’s decision on this agreement as well as an agreement for the school district’s directors and coordinators in a statement following the meeting.
“These contracts are fiscally responsible, fair and sustainable, and the board’s approval goes to show how effective communication and respect can positively impact outcomes,” she said. “I’d like to thank all of our educators for their dedication to teach and care for our students — our community is better because of them, and I’m confident these contracts will move our district in a positive direction.”
Manchester School District Superintendent John Goldhardt also praised the decision in a statement following the meeting, saying during the meeting that the agreement was not perfect but came after a respectful negotiation and that the agreement’s approval will help increase morale among Manchester’s teachers.
“This vote by the (BOSC) tonight is an important step forward and a strong signal that the board recognizes how valuable our teachers and staff are,” said Goldhardt. “Our goal is to provide an equitable, high-quality education for Manchester children – to be able to do that, we need to make sure we are recruiting and retaining the best teachers and staff. These agreements put us in a better position to compete with surrounding communities, which will be a benefit to the entire community.”
The vote for the directors and coordinators contract passed 10-0-1, with Ward 11 BOSC Member Kelly Thomas and At-Large BOSC Member James O’Connell not voting on that contract while voting on the second contract and At-Large Bosc Member Joseph LaChance abstaining.
LaChance and O’Connell expressed concern that the special meeting to provide a recommendation on the contracts was happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Goldhardt replying that the fact the vote was taking place at this time only added to the gratitude that he feels the city needs to show its educators to help retain staff from competing districts.
Craig did not provide an exact date during the meeting to when the agreement would go before the Board of Aldermen, estimating that it could be heard by that board on April 7.
A full copy of the contract can be found below. The most recent MEA agreement can be found here.