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.