Long introducing school autonomy measure next week

Pat Long on Dec. 20, 2022. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – At next week’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long plans to introduce a city charter amendment on November’s municipal election ballot that would give the Manchester School District complete autonomy.

Although the school district would still be referenced in the city’s charter, all other school district-related matters would be overseen by the Manchester Board of School Committee. Currently the Board of School Committee proposes a fiscal year budget, which is then approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Long’s proposal would also remove the Mayor of Manchester from their role as the chair of the Board of School Committee. The change would also allow the Board of School Committee to set its own tax rates and would not change current contractual agreements with the city departments for police and slow plow services.

He says that this would bring Manchester in line with Concord, which made a comparable move in 2012. Long also added that earlier confusion over the proposal had been rendered moot once courts determined that it was legally permissible for voters to approve changes to the charter.

Long additionally believes this proposal would allow the Manchester School District to better plan long-term finances as well as help students and parents in the city.

“The bottom line is that the voters should decide and that I have a lot of confidence in (Manchester School District Superintendent) Doctor (Jenn) Gillis,” said Long. “It’s difficult for her to persuade not just her board but also the Aldermen. I don’t think that’s the right way to run the district and the voters can hold the Board of School Committee accountable each election if they don’t agree with their actions.”

Critics of similar past proposals have argued to give the Manchester School District less autonomy, instead making it a city department. Long says the idea of making the district a department of the city would be inappropriate.

“Every year we have to put on our school board hat to figure out what they need for money, but what do we know? We’re not at those meetings,” he said. “Unless aldermen are required to go to school board meetings, I’d say no to the idea. It’d be like me overseeing Ward 1 and Ward 2 along with Ward 3 even though they already have their own leaders. Our city’s school board and administration know what they’re doing, we weigh in on what we believe rather than what the issues are.”