‘We need services for our students, desperately’

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Photo/Laura Aronson

MANCHESTER, NH – Around 175 teachers in red shirts crowded the Aldermanic Chamber for the June 11 meeting of the Board of Mayor and School Committee (BOSC). The teachers union, Manchester Education Association (MEA), declared an “impasse” last week in its negotiations with the Special Committee on Negotiations for the BOSC. The district has over 2,000 employees.

When 57 retiring teachers received their certificates, the audience loudly cheered for them.

The board defeated a motion to restore cuts in the maintenance budget for contactor Aramark, supported only by Rich Girard, who proposed the motion, and by Jimmy Lehoux.

During the public comment section, teachers lined up to urge funding for supplies and for teachers pay. William Krantz, principal of McLaughlin Middle School said:

Photo/Laura Aronson

“Leadership by definition requires us to be collaborative and work together on some pretty big problems. You guys are up against it. The elephant in the room is money. We really have to put our heads together to figure out how we can leverage all the great stuff in Manchester to deal with it, free up some funds at the state or federal level, maybe some additional property tax revenue. But we understand it’s not reasonable to raise taxes for $20 million, it just doesn’t make sense, at least it doesn’t make sense to me.’

“It is hard work, but it’s what you are elected to do, specifically the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. That’s no disrespect to you guys, you are kind of beholden to them. My sincere hope is that they will avail themselves individually to get to know what we’re up against. It is the end of the school year and to be honest, I’m pretty disappointed. I haven’t had a lot of visitors seeing what we do, not just to see students doing nice things. They need to come into our school and see when things aren’t doing so well. Lately it seems we’ve had a good number of examples going on, and they need to see how we handle it within our resources. We have people going above and beyond the call of duty, and I expect that of them. Speaking for all 22 schools, there’s stuff going on that if not handled well, could go really badly for the city. It’s just critical when we are at a special point in this city’s history, and I’m glad that you are here.’

“We need to figure out how we are going to leverage all the good things that are going on, how we are going to push that rock up over the hill. You can’t just fall on the backs of the good folks of Manchester. I get that. But how do we come together, how do we leverage the Manchester-proud people, the Manchester manufacturers, and all the other stakeholders out there? How do we get all these folks together to try to come up with more resources, and some are going to translate into dollars.’

“We need services for our students, desperately. We need fair pay for all the folks who are busting their tail to try to manage this wonderful city. If we let it continue, I just don’t know that all those folks who are out there, thinking about investing in us, if they’re really going to want to do it. So, with all due respect, please keep our work in heart. You’re not alone. You need some help from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and tomorrow night I want them to be there. Thank you.”

Maxine Mosly, Vice President of MEA, said: “I work with students in the middle school setting on how you speak with and treat other people. I’ve had questions from my students in the last two weeks about what happened at that board meeting, about how adults could be allowed to speak to each other in the manner in which we adults spoke to each other. What I observed two weeks ago, is that there’s a lot of anger from members of this board at these meetings. A tremendous amount of time at the last board meeting was spent on issue that have nothing with educating our students in the classroom, with the supplies and tools and technology that they need, and how we’re going to treat our employees. I implore this board, that when you enter this chamber, this is about the students, your employees, and the wellbeing of the Manchester school district. What happened at the last board meeting was, in my opinion, the most embarrassing board meeting I have observed in 38 years in Manchester. I hope to never see that behavior again from anyone.”

Sue Hannan, President of MEA, said:

“Yes, we are the ones who called an impasse. The reason we called an impasse was because we felt that everybody needed to step back and take a look at what had been done so far. What has been done so far is a lot of talk, but no action. We couldn’t even go to mediation because there were so many things open, that a mediator would not have been able to help. So we needed to take a step back and hope that the board would be able to do the same thing, to reevaluate, to look at the team and ask, ‘What do we do to get this thing started?’ We don’t mind restarting it, even tomorrow, just to get back to the table. We could use some marathon days during the summer. We don’t want to go through the summer and not have our people getting their steps. We’ve ask this of the board multiple times since February, to go to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to ask for this appropriation. Are you willing to change up your proposal to take care of your own who are still here? “