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Superintendent Answers Questions About SMARTR Committee Proposal

Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel outlined a series of answers to questions by school board and community members regarding the future of Manchester schools Monday night.

An artist rendering of the proposed fifth/sixth grade academy that would combine Bennet Academy and the Cheney Building. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Town of Manchester.
An artist rendering of the proposed fifth/sixth grade academy that would combine Bennet Academy and the Cheney Building. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Town of Manchester.

Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel presented the Manchester Board of Education with about six pages of answers to questions submitted by various members of the school board and greater Manchester community concerning a proposal to drastically revamp the town’s public schools model at the board’s meeting Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, but afterwards many board members said they still remained confused and frustrated over the direction the process was headed. 

“We’re spinning our wheels,” said Neal Leon, an unaffiliated member of the school board, adding that he was “extremely frustrated” with the process so far. 

“We still don’t have an answer ourselves in terms of what to do,” Leon added. 

Under the proposal currently on the table, which was assembled by the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited (SMARTR) Committee, the town would establish a joint fifth/sixth grade academy at the site of the current Elisabeth M. Bennet Academy on Main Street. Then expand and renovate two existing elementary schools "like new," while closing two others by the year 2020.

In total, the projects would cost an estimated $100 million, with Manchester taxpayers responsible for about $40 million of those costs after state reimbursements.

But the schools to be renovated and closed have not been formally determined by the Manchester Board of Education. 

After a public forum was held at Waddell Elementary School on Dec. 18, 2013 – which is one of the schools potentially slated for closure – Kisiel said he felt the need to provide a written explanation to a number of the questions asked by members of the community and school board regarding SMARTR’s proposal.

Kisiel said his answers were just the administration’s response to a number of the questions posed, not a full report or a recommendation on any aspects of the proposal.

“The board has a major responsibility of not just taking the SMARTR committee’s recommendation, but at that point going beyond them,” Kisiel told the school board. “…Are there other options? I think that’s a question this board needs to consider.”

Leon said he was frustrated because he had a counter proposal to SMARTR’s plan, but that there did not seem to be any forum to present his plan.

“I think I might have a Plan B, but we can’t talk about that,” Leon said.

Carl Stafford, a Democratic member of the school board, said he thought the board needed to be as deliberate and thorough as possible in its process before coming to any decisions or recommendations on whether it wanted to vote to close elementary schools or try and come up with another plan.

“I don’t want to just rush the process because we can,” Stafford said. “It doesn’t work for me like that.”

The school board has already voted to place the fifth/sixth academy on a referendum ballot, which is expected to be held in the spring.

Kisiel’s answers are attached to this article as a PDF.

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tina bourke February 24, 2014 at 08:32 AM
I learned that our governor has been very generous in helping to fund education to cities and towns which is us.
tina bourke February 24, 2014 at 08:34 AM
I learned that the governor has been very generous in funding education for cities and towns which we benefit from.
Dean February 24, 2014 at 05:48 PM
Tina, you are right, he has been giving more for education, but he has earmarked the money for new programs only, mainly to pay for corporate reform backed common core and computerized testing. Towns can not use the new funds to fill current obligations or budget holes leading to cuts and other town services like police, fire, and parks and rec along with the towns being forced to raise taxes. Not sure how this benefits kids or taxpayers.
James Bond March 19, 2014 at 09:40 AM
Corporate backed tests,will result in those corporations using those results to hire in the future.That's why they're involved.The tests themselves does nothing for the students learning process. The proof of it lies in the fact that they do not affect a students promotion or graduation.This begs the question what do these tests affect? I feel it only affects the amount of money a town receives,with no designation where the money is spent.Thus there are no requirements that it be spent on student based programs.Common Core should be titled what it is,'Where the Money Goes'.

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