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Mar. 14—THE NEWS THAT former school board member and alderman Rich Girard is considering a mayoral run this year revived one of the biggest rumors in Queen City politics.
Will former mayor and current District 4 Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas make a bid for his old seat?
Rumors of a possible run have swirled since Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur posted on social media that Gatsas, who served four terms as mayor from 2010-2018, was mulling another run.
"After watching the city he loves being run into the ground by the worst mayor in Manchester history, former mayor and current Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas will be running for mayor to reclaim his old seat," Levasseur wrote in a public post on Facebook on Nov. 12.
Since then both, Gatsas supporters and opponents have wondered whether he will take on Joyce Craig for a third time. Gatsas fended off Craig's mayoral bid in 2015 but lost to her in 2017.
Reached last week by phone, Gatsas wouldn't confirm whether he is considering a run.
He didn't say no, either.
"No comment," Gatsas said. "Signups don't even start until July."
Craig has yet to declare whether she will seek reelection. Girard looks like he'll toss his hat in the ring, and 2019 mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan is considering her options.
The window to file to run in the 2021 municipal election won't open until 8 a.m. on July 12. Until then — or until someone actually announces a run — all the pundits can do is sit, wait and wonder who's in and who's out.
Summer 2021 could be interesting.
Holding back a problem
Members of the school board's Teaching and Learning Committee recently gave the green light for the district to develop a policy regarding "retention" — holding students back a year.
The district wants to determine why so many students "stay back" — a practice that has cost Manchester schools more than $55 million over the past decade, according to a recent analysis.
School officials reported to committee members that 4,061 students have been held back over the past decade — though that figure includes 2,241 pre-kindergarten students enrolled in programs for children 3 to 5 and doesn't break out how many of those pre-kindergarten students remained in the programs for multiple years.
According to the analysis, the cost of retaining students totaled $3,375,000 during the 2019-2020 school year and $55,740,000 over the past 10 school years.
Assistant Superintendent Amy Allen told committee members that students who repeated a grade in middle school are 11 times more likely to drop out of school completely.
A student who repeats two grades is 90% more likely to drop out of high school, with the majority between the ninth and 10th grades.
Administrators presented recommended updates to the district's policy on retention — last updated in 2013 — which included never retaining Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or English Language Learner (ELL) students without direct approval of the district's IEP or ELL Directors, eliminating poor behavior as a reason for keeping a student back, including parents in the decision process on potential retention cases, charging tuition to parents demanding their child be held back without an academic reason, and refusing retention unless research-based interventions have been attempted and have failed.
Other recommended factors for administrators to include in the proposed new policy involve intervention at an early age and increasing the number of guidance counselors.
Ward 8's Pete Perich wondered whether it was illegal to require that parents pay for a second year of schooling in the same grade. He mentioned a specific case he remembered where a family held their son back a year, hoping to improve his chances at a college athletic scholarship.
School officials said while it is not illegal, it hasn't been common practice in this area of the country recently..
Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Kelly Arnold of Ward 2 said the topic is important as the district begins to look at the impact COVID-19 is having on students and education in Manchester.
"I know we have so much work to do because if you talk to a lot of people, this year has been a throwaway year for so many kids," Arnold said. "I don't want to penalize them. I don't want to retain kids, especially due to COVID, but I think we need to bring ourselves on where we need to go regarding teaching and learning."
School board members voted last week to approve a plan for students and staff at Hallsville Elementary School after the school is closed this summer.
The plan, presented by Manchester Memorial High School/Manchester School of Technology Network Director Forrest Ransdell, puts 231 Hallsville students into grades K-4 at Jewett Elementary School, for a projected K-4 student population of 458 students in the 2021-2022 school year.
Hallsville students heading into fifth grade will attend Southside Middle School in the fall.
Under the plan, children of families living east of Mammoth Road and north of Candia Road will attend Weston Elementary School in the coming years, though families in that area with students currently attending Hallsville can transfer to Jewett if they want.
A small area at the corner of Mammoth and Candia roads currently lies in the Green Acres Elementary School district. Under the plan, current students can stay at Green Acres, but in the future, families in that area will send their kids to Weston.
Two staff positions — a half-time assistant principal slot and a reading supervisor — will be eliminated. Most other positions will slide over to Jewett or Southside, though one English teacher position will head to Highland-Goffe's Falls Elementary School, a math intervention specialist will go to Wilson Elementary School, and several food service positions and crossing guards will head elsewhere in the district.
School board members voted 12-2 to approve the plan, with Jeremy Dobson and Peter Perich opposed.
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at email@example.com.