The School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited, the 13-member committee tasked with developing a solution to the Manchester Public Schools' and long-term sustainability, held its first official meeting Tuesday evening in the Lincoln Center Hearing Room.
The committee is made up of four members of both the Board of Directors and Board of Education and five appointed members of the general public; previously, one member of the Building Committee was to sit on the panel, but the change to a fifth member of the public was announced at Tuesday's meeting.
The 13 members are: Town Directors John Topping, Steve Gates, Mark Tweedie and Cheri Pelletier; Board of Education members Sarah Walton, Neal Leon, Michael Crockett and Deborah Hagenow; and members of the public Megan Alubicki, Clare Miller-Burti, Jason Doucette, Les Stewart and Alan Strong. Topping was the only member not present for the first meeting.
Aside from the members of the committee itself, the meeting was only attended by General Manager Scott Shanley, Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel and members of the press; although several residents did wander in later.
Before the committee began its business, Mayor Leo V. Diana and Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini chaired the meeting and addressed the group.
"By properly balancing your different perspective I'm confident you will develop a creative, thoughtful solution - one that is best for our community and students," Pattacini said.
The committee decided the first thing it should do was elect officers. Gates suggested that the non-elected members of the public serve in the officer positions, but after some discussion Crockett, a Republican, was nominated and elected chairman of the group. Alubicki was elected vice-chair and Doucette secretary. Walton was appointed to the position of facilitator for the committee. Pattacini and Diana then left their seats at the table, and turned the meeting over to Crockett.
The group then discussed its strategy going forward and future meeting times. Noel and Crockett agreed that getting any sort of referendum question for funding on the ballot by the November election was "wishful thinking."
Crockett said he wanted the group to focus on the "big picture" for Manchester Public Schools, which could include some radical ways of thinking and looking at the existing state of schools in town.
"Maybe we should just have five super elementary schools, rather than 10," he said, floating one potential idea. "I think this is the type of thinking we need to investigate."
The group agreed that it would hold a series of site visits at the various schools in town, including Nathan Hale Elementary School, which is slated to be closed indefinitely at the end of the year until costly repairs can be undertaken, and set a tentative meeting date of Thursday evening, April 26 as the date of its next meeting, when it hoped to have the consultants who drafted the school facilities plan present.
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