MANCHESTER SCHOOL DISTRICT
BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMITTEE
July 14, 2008
The Board of School Committee met at the School Administration Offices on
Monday, July 14, at 7:00p.m. Present were Mayor Guinta, Vice Chair Labanaris, and
Committee Members Craig, O’Sullivan, DeBlasi, Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas, Kruse,
Beaudry, Avard, Dolman, Cote, and Langton. Present from Administration were Supt.
Tom Brennan; Asst. Supt. Karen Burkush; and Business Administrator, Ms. Karen
Mayor Guinta presided. The Board shared in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by
a moment of silent reflection. The clerk called the roll.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING
Comm. Gelinas made a motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.
Comm. Langton seconded the motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
1. Eight members of the public addressed the Board in support of the Ombudsman
Program and their desire that the Board approve the continuation of the
Program for the benefit of the at-risk students of the District. They included
parents Ronald Moglia, Cecile Shannon, and Liz Feliciano; students Cameron
Moglia, Brianna Feliciano, Chris Ramirez, and Shaun Connolly; and James
Woodlock, a Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer in the City of Manchester.
2. Calvin McNeil came forward asking several questions of the Board including
who approved the raise for the Food Services Director position, what is the
policy regarding nepotism in the hiring of District personnel seeing that there
were 16 candidates who applied for the Food Services Director position and
Mr. Burkush is the person being recommended. He also had questions about
X2 Aspen Student Information System
Two representatives from X2 Aspen, Marcy Lamlein and Brian Ciccolo,
came forward. Ms. Lamlein said that they have been working with the District’s
Administration for some time since the selection committee had chosen the X2 Aspen
Student Information System for the District. Mr. Ciccolo shared a presentation of how
the system is set up for different users such as a middle school teacher, a student and their
parents, and an assistant principal. He illustrated how each could use the system in many
different ways available for the different scenarios. Reports required by the State
Department of Education can be done through the system. Mr. Cicollo explained who
can access the system and how certain information can be ‘read only’. There is a high
level of security regarding access in the system.
Committee members asked questions of the representatives along with Mr. Smith,
the IT Director of the District. Concern was expressed that if the District would be
purchasing the system that it would be compatible with current programs used by the
District and that it would do what it is the District is looking for it to do. Supt. Brennan
said that he would like the opportunity to meet with Mr. Smith concerning this matter and
requested that this matter be postponed until next month.
Comm. Kruse said that part of the agreement the Board made with the Aldermen
was that the SIS system would be purchased. A plan needs to be put into place to move
forward with the purchase and implementation of the system.
Mayor Guinta said this is something the District needs for a lot of reasons
including being able to track students and teachers and to illustrate that the District has
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the capability and the willingness to bring parents into their child’s educational
opportunities and to make them more accountable. And, to have a tool that is functional
and a great measurement tool. He wouldn’t want to vote for it without knowing what the
additional costs would be, for example, the cost of additional computers needed. Mr.
Smith said the District would be light years ahead of where it is now with things as they
are now. To realize everything the system can do, ideally, there would be a computer in
every classroom, but things can move along as a continuing process. Comm. Soucy said
it would be important to have a schedule for a phase-in plan for the system.
Comm. Craig stated that she feels the District needs a commitment from the
Aldermen of the per-year funding of the per-pupil cost and the ongoing operation of the
system. Currently, there is $50,000 in the budget for the Redeker System. Annually, an
approximate additional $100,000 would be needed. It would make no sense to purchase
the system and not be able to use it as intended.
Comm. Kruse made a motion to postpone this item until the next month’s
meeting of the Board in order for the Administration to put together an
implementation plan. Comm. Avard seconded the motion. The motion passed by
BOARD AND SUPERINTENDENT COMMUNICATIONS
1. Comm. Dolman asked Supt. Brennan if he had looked into the issues
expressed in past meetings regarding the ROTC Program personnel. Supt. Brennan said
that he had. He had signed off on the two employees for this school year but his intention
is to give them notice for next year. The notice would be with regard to the personnel
and not with the program.
2. Comm. Beaudry said that after the presentation on the Ombudsman Program
given at the last C & I Committee meeting and after receiving some phone calls along
with the fact that several people came forward at this meeting in support of the
Ombudsman Program, he would be willing to support the continuation of the Program for
one more year. He requested that the Superintendent work with the people at
Ombudsman and come back to the Board by February 1 with a recommendation for
some other alternative ed programs or to do something different with the Ombudsman
Program such as moving the Ombudsman Program to West High School if it will
continue to be a program in the District.
Supt. Brennan informed the Board that he had met with the representatives of the
Ombudsman Program. He would be continuing a discussion with those representatives
regarding costs etc., and he would also be speaking with the administration at West. The
data and the numbers regarding the Ombudsman Program are very impressive. He would
hate to see that Program go away. He asked that he be allowed the opportunity to assess
whether it is an appropriate program for the District or what alternatives there may be
such as using the PASS Program for the students needing an alternative ed program.
Mayor Guinta said he sees the need for a programmatic audit to explore the
alternative ed programs in the District and which should be retained and expanded. Vice
Chair Labanaris said the District spends a lot of dollars every year on alternative ed
programs. The issue at hand is not whether the Ombudsman Program is an effective
program or not but whether because of budget constraints the District can expend the
large amount of money to retain it.
Comm. Beaudry made a motion, seconded by Comm. Kruse, to continue the
Ombudsman Program for one more year with the caveat that the Superintendent
would look into the possibility of moving the Program to West High School. The
motion passed by majority vote; Comm. Avard voted in opposition of the motion.
3. Supt. Brennan informed the Board that he had recently attended a meeting at
the DOE and he met with Commissioner Tracy and the Deputy Commissioner along with
30 representatives of the DOE. All pledged their support to work with the Manchester
School District. This is a positive move and it will have a significant impact on the
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4. Mayor Guinta welcomed Dr. Brennan as the new Superintendent of the
Manchester School District. He noted that they had had a meeting together and they
would be continuing to meet on a regular basis to keep a dialogue going moving forward.
Coordination Committee—Katherine Labanaris, Chair
Vice Chair Labanaris made a motion to approve the Special Education
Handbook and the Contracts Policy that had been approved by unanimous vote by
the Coordination Committee. Comm. Dolman seconded the motion.
Comm. Craig asked about the contracts policy and the requirement that the Board
consider contracts ten months prior to renewal when there are one-year contracts. She
also asked a question regarding accountability and who would be the responsible person
to bring contracts forward for consideration at the ten-month period. Mayor Guinta said
the policy allows for flexibility but the intent is that there is a documented process for
reviews and renewals of contracts. Supt. Brennan said it would be his responsibility to
ensure that the policy is adhered to as well as to develop the procedures to implement the
Mayor Guinta called for the vote on the motion to approve the Special
Education Handbook and to approve the Contracts Policy with the amendment that
the Superintendent shall present to the Board procedures relative to the policy. The
motion passed by unanimous vote.
Curriculum & Instruction Committee—Debra Langton, Chair
Comm. Langton made a motion to approve the three items approved by
unanimous vote by the C & I Committee. Those items were the Early Reading
Grant, the Lois Lenski Covey Foundation Grant for Wilson School Library, and the
Winneg Family Charitable Fund Donation to Beech Street School. Comm. DeBlasi
seconded the motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
Comm. Langton noted that a final presentation by the District’s Language Arts
Committee had taken place at the C & I Committee meeting.
Building & Sites Committee—Arthur Beaudry, Chair
1. Comm. Beaudry removed item ‘d’, the Elementary School Project Feasibility
Study, from the agenda.
2. Comm. Beaudry made a motion, seconded by Comm. Avard, to approve
the City Services Invoices and to approve the Northwest Playground Equipment
Vandalism for approximately $20,000. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
3. Comm. Beaudry made a motion to approve the Warehouse Lease
Renewal. Comm. Herbert seconded the motion.
Comm. Beaudry noted that this item had passed at the Building & Sites
Committee by majority vote. He had been the dissenting vote. He would vote against
this again this evening because $38,000 could be better spent on direct student services
rather than on a lease for warehouse space. Comm. Langton concurred.
Mayor Guinta asked if the lease was a yearly lease. Ms. DeFrancis said the lease is
a three-year lease but the Administration would be looking into getting the language
changed in the lease to include an option to get out of the lease with a 60-day notice with
Because of some uncertainty regarding this matter, Comm. Beaudry and Comm.
Avard rescinded the motion to approve the lease renewal. Comm. Avard made a
motion, seconded by Comm. Dolman, to refer the warehouse lease renewal to the
Finance Committee for further review of the terms of the lease and the change in
the language regarding a 60-day notice to get out of the lease. The motion passed by
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3. Comm. Beaudry noted that the Alarm Vendor Contract had passed the Building
& Sites Committee by majority vote; Comm. Gelinas had voted in opposition.
Comm. Beaudry made a motion to approve the Alarm Vendor Contract with
Reliable Security and for the service to begin in July of 2008. Comm. DeBlasi
seconded the motion. The motion passed by majority vote; Comm. Gelinas voted in
Comm. Beaudry made a motion, seconded by Comm. O’Sullivan, to go into non-
public session for discussion of negotiations strategies. Following a roll call and a brief
recess the Committee entered into the non-public session.
RETURN TO PUBLIC SESSION
Comm. Kruse made a motion to return to public session. Comm. Beaudry
seconded the motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote. Comm. Kruse made a
motion to seal the minutes of the non-public session for reasons that negotiations may be
divulged and the motion was seconded by Comm. Gelinas. The motion passed by
Athletic Committee—Stephen Dolman, Chair
Comm. Dolman removed the item related to the Temporary Athletic Coordinator
from the agenda.
Finance Committee—Doug Kruse, Chair
1. Comm. Kruse removed item ‘h’ the Preschool & Kindergarten Facility
Property Letter and item ‘k’ the X2 Aspen Student Information System from the
Committee’s list of items for consideration as they had been discussed earlier in the
meeting. He stated that at the Finance Committee’s meeting, a presentation on gross
budgeting had been made by Mr. Plodzik, the District’s auditor. This is something that
the Finance Committee and the Administration will be moving toward with the FY10
budget. Comm. Cote requested that item ‘g’, the Legal RFP, have a separate discussion.
This item had been approved by majority vote by the Finance Committee but he had
voted in opposition of the motion.
2. Comm. Kruse made a motion to approve the Professional Leave
Requests, to accept the Treasurer’s Report, to approve the Manifests of Authorized
Expenditures, the City Services Billing, the Operating Statements for Expenditures
& Revenues, the School Food & Nutrition Services Operating Statement, the
Northwest Playground Equipment Vandalism, and the Patricia Stips Library Fund.
Comm. Avard seconded the motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
3. Comm. Kruse made a motion to approve the law firm of Upton &
Hatfield for a three-year contract as the District’s legal service provider. Comm.
Avard seconded the motion.
Comm. Cote stated that he wished to make some positive comments regarding the
current law firm that the District currently has and why the District should keep
Wadleigh, Starr, & Peters as their counsel. Comm. Beaudry shared why he supports the
change to go with the law firm of Upton & Hatfield.
Discussion ensued and questions were raised, particularly regarding exclusivity,
whether the District could use the City Solicitor for certain matters, and whether the
District would be obligated to pay travel costs for the attorneys from Upton & Hatfield.
When asked for his recommendation, Supt. Brennan stated that he supports staying with
the current legal representation that the District has. That is the recommendation he
made to the Finance Committee and he would continue to make that recommendation.
This was the recommendation that had come forward from Dr. Aliberti as the Acting
Superintendent and he reinforced it.
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Comm. Herbert moved the question. A roll call was requested by Comm.
Beaudry. Voting in favor of the motion to approve having the law firm of Upton &
Hatfield for a three-year contract as the District’s legal services provider were
Comm. Kruse, Beaudry, Avard, Langton, O’Sullivan, and Mayor Guinta. Voting in
opposition of the motion were Comm. Dolman, Cote, Craig, DeBlasi, Herbert,
Soucy, Gelinas, and Vice Chair Labanaris. The motion failed by a vote of 8-6.
Comm. Cote made a motion to go with the recommendation of the
Administration and continue with Wadleigh, Starr, & Peters as the District’s
general legal counsel for a five-year contract as stipulated in the RFP. Comm.
Soucy seconded the motion. A roll call request was made by Comm. Kruse. Voting
in favor of the motion were Comm. Cote, Craig, DeBlasi, Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas,
and Vice Chair Labanaris. Voting in opposition of the motion were Comm.
Langton, O’Sullivan, Kruse, Beaudry, Avard, Dolman, and Mayor Guinta. The
vote was 7-7. The motion failed.
Comm. Dolman said that he voted in opposition of both motions. The District has
no contract now with a law firm and things could remain the same working with the firm
that is used now. The District wouldn’t be held to a five-year contract or a three-year
contract. Mayor Guinta said that would be if the firm would agree to that. Comm.
Beaudry said that the District should have a contract and not operate by an open-ended
deal as is currently being done. That is one of the reasons why this was sent out to RFP
because there was an open-ended contract with the same firm for over 30 years. He asked
that both firms come in and make presentations to the Board so the Board would have
more information in making their decision. Comm. Cote said that any information
needed was provided in the documents presented in the bid process and a presentation
was not needed.
Comm. O’Sullivan made a motion, seconded by Comm. Avard, to post the RFP
again. Comm. Soucy noted that 39 letters had gone out to firms with experience in
education law and there were only 4 responses. Reposting would likely end up with the
same results. Comm. Gelinas made a motion to table this item. Comm. Soucy seconded
the motion. Mayor Guinta allowed further discussion to take place.
Comm. Dolman said that he is concerned with the issue whether the District will
become a department of the City in the near future and if so the District would have the
use of the City Solicitor. Mayor Guinta informed the Board that he had recently spoken
with the City Solicitor. He indicated that he could not take on additional work with the
current staffing level should legal counsel be required for District business. An attorney
would need to be hired with expertise in education law.
Comm. DeBlasi made a motion to have a presentation by the law firm of
Upton & Hatfield and by the law firm of Wadleigh, Starr, & Peters. Comm. Kruse
seconded the motion. A roll call was requested. Voting in favor of the motion were
Comm. DeBlasi, Kruse, Beaudry, Avard, Dolman, Langton, Craig, O’Sullivan, Vice
Chair Labanaris, and Mayor Guinta. Voting in opposition of the motion were
Comm. Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas, and Cote. The motion passed by a 10-4 vote.
Comm. DeBlasi made a motion that the other 2 law firms that had submitted
bids be notified they were not selected as finalists and they were not being asked to
make a presentation on their proposals to the Board. Comm. Kruse seconded the
motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
1. Personnel Report
Comm. Gelinas made a motion to approve the Personnel Report. Comm. Cote
seconded the motion.
Supt. Brennan noted that a revised report had been presented to the Board from the
one that had been sent out with the agenda material. He asked the Board to accept the
Administration’s recommendation in regards to the nominations on the revised Personnel
Report. Comm. Langton remarked that she wished to see consistency with the
information provided in the interview forms. Supt. Brennan said that he would be
looking over the way the personnel report is presented and making recommendations on
the administrative level for consistency and clarity.
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Comm. Beaudry expressed his concern that the District hires candidates from
outside of the District. He stated that he would vote against #6, #7, and #8 on the report.
Vice Chair Labanaris concurred. She said she feels the strongest organizations are those
that promote from within. There are applicants in this group that have given 20 years and
more to the District and they’re not being hired for promotional positions. One candidate
has only been in the classroom for 4 years and already is a candidate to be an assistant
principal. That is a meteoric rise to a promotional position when he has not even spent
one day in this District. Her feeling is that it is incumbent upon the District to promote
from within whenever possible. Those are her reasons for not supporting candidates #6,
#7, and #8.
Comm. Herbert made the observation that people on the interviewing teams are
peers with the candidates so it is puzzling why their recommendations are not of the in-
house candidates but of the candidates from outside of the District.
Mayor Guinta said that historically this has been a concern expressed by the Board.
There are questions with the selection process and whether it should be changed. It is the
responsibility of the Superintendent to review the hiring practices of the District. Supt.
Brennan said the Board was approaching a slippery slope and he would caution the
Board. He is a strong proponent of hiring from within but with all due respect there are
some teachers who are not destined for jobs in administration. Committees are formed
and candidates are chosen with the intent of getting the best possible person for the job
and for the District. If there are recurring names that are applicants to administrative
positions that do not get nominated as candidates, Supt. Brennan said that he would be
willing to meet with those people.
Mayor Guinta asked if the motion was to approve the revised Personnel
Report. The maker of the motion and the member who had made the second agreed
Comm. Avard made an amendment to the motion to approve the revised
Personnel Report without #6, #7, and #8 included. Comm. Dolman seconded the
motion. Comm. Beaudry requested a roll call vote. Voting in favor of the motion
were Comm. Avard, Dolman, Langton, Craig, O’Sullivan, DeBlasi, Beaudry, Vice
Chair Labanaris, and Mayor Guinta. Voting in opposition of the motion were
Comm. Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas, and Kruse. By a vote of 9-5 the motion passed.
Comm. Craig made a motion to accept #6, #7, and #8 on the Personnel Report.
Comm. DeBlasi seconded the motion. Comm. Kruse requested a roll call. Voting in
favor of the motion were Comm. Craig, DeBlasi, Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas, Kruse,
Avard, and Cote. Voting in opposition of the motion were Comm. O’Sullivan,
Beaudry, Dolman, Langton, Vice Chair Labanaris, and Mayor Guinta. The motion
passed by an 8-6 vote.
2. Tabled Item: School Food & Nutrition Services Director Position
Comm. Gelinas said that the Board had requested a letter from the City Solicitor
regarding some questions that had been raised about this matter and that letter has not
been received by the Board. He said this item should remain on the table and not be
brought up for consideration this evening.
Comm. Kruse made a motion to remove from the table the item regarding the
School Food & Nutrition Services Director Position. Comm. Beaudry seconded the
motion. A roll call was requested. Voting in favor of the motion were Comm.
Kruse, Beaudry, Avard, Langton, Craig, and O’Sullivan. Voting in opposition of
the motion were Comm. Dolman, Cote, DeBlasi, Herbert, Soucy, Gelinas, Vice
Chair Labanaris, and Mayor Guinta. The motion failed by a vote of 8-6.
Comm. Gelinas made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Comm. Cote seconded the
motion. The motion passed by unanimous vote. The meeting was adjourned at
A TRUE RECORD ATTEST: Suzanne O. Sears, Board Clerk
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