Hooksett Board OKs Enrollment Agreement with Pinkerton

While emotions ran high at a Hooksett School Board meeting last week, the majority of the board voted both to pursue a short-term enrollment agreement with Pinkerton Academy and to put a 10-year tuition agreement before the voters in March.

Pinkerton prepared two documents for the Hooksett board, according to Chip Underhill, the semi-private high school’s director of public relations and external affairs. One was a one-year enrollment agreement, similar to a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU, which allows Hooksett to send a minimum of 75 students to Pinkerton in fall 2014.
“This allows eighth graders to start planning,” Underhill said.
The other document is a 10-year contract requiring Hooksett to send a minimum of 75 students to Pinkerton for the first five years of the contract, and 90 percent of its high school students for the remaining four years.
The 10-year contract still needs to be formally ratified by the Pinkerton Board of Trustees, which will not meet again until after the New Year, Underhill said.
The Hooksett School Board meeting took place during the snowstorm of Dec. 17, and chairman Trisha Korkosz called for a strict enforcement of Robert’s Rules. When she said each board member could only speak twice to the motion on the floor, John Lyscars, who has criticized the potential agreement with Pinkerton, objected.
“I need to preserve the integrity of myself on the board as well as this board,” he said. “I will not vote on the Londonderry Memorandum of Understanding unless it is separated out, and I request that all the MOUs be separated out.”
Korkosz pointed out to him that it wasn’t the Londonderry MOU he was voting on, but the agreement with Pinkerton.
Lyscars took back his statement about Londonderry. But he insisted on speaking against a contract with Pinkerton. When Korkosz tried to restore order, Lyscars said, “You’re trying to shove this contract down our throats, and you invoke Robert’s Rules? Take your gavel and swing it at someone else.”
“Are you threatening me?” Korkosz shot back.
Lyscars said using the gavel was “rude.”
The motion, presented by member Phil Denbow, had four components: the enrollment agreement, the tuition agreement, the establishment of Pinkerton as a “school of record,” and having Charles Littlefield, the superintendent, assign students to Pinkerton. The motion also established a tuition rate of $10,792.83.
Board member David Pearl said he also could not support the contract as drafted. “This issue is a major issue,” he said. “There are four things in the same motion. I may support one, but not the rest of them.”
In particular, he said, he wondered about the mechanism by which Littlefield would determine the assignment of students.
“The motion was brought forward to the board as a whole,” Korkosz responded.
Pearl also wanted more time, saying, “It’s ironic that we can sit here for an hour debating whether or not we should buy a projector. We should have started this earlier. We should have better informed the public.”
Denbow said the board and town had been “spinning our wheels” for a while. “Is the Pinkerton agreement perfect? No,” he said. “But at the end of the day, anyone who goes to negotiate doesn’t get everything they want.”
When Korkosz called for the vote, Lyscars had a Norma Rae moment, standing with his hands in the air. Though Korkosz said he was violating Robert’s Rules, Lyscars said, “I speak for the children of Hooksett and I will stand here until I am allowed to speak.”
And when Korkosz attempted to proceed with the vote, Lyscars shouted, “I need to be recognized by the chair!”
Korkosz, Denbow and Cheryl Akstin voted for the agreement. After repeated directives from Korkosz, Lyscars sat down, and he and Pearl voted against the motion.
The split vote mirrored one taken Monday, Dec. 9, in a joint meeting with the Pinkerton Board of Trustees. At that time, Hooksett board members voted 3-2 to continue negotiations with Pinkerton.
The sticking point for most Hooksett board members has been Pinkerton’s requirement that Hooksett send a minimum of 75 students from each class to Pinkerton for the first five years of the contract, and increase that to 90 percent in the last four years. Hooksett members said repeatedly that restricting the number of students to go to other schools would cause any warrant article to fail at the polls.
But Pinkerton trustees and Headmaster Mary Anderson countered that the guaranteed number of students is necessary for Pinkerton to plan and to stabilize programs.
Pinkerton’s concessions in that meeting included allowing the 10 percent to begin in the sixth year, clarifying language as to what the 10 percent would include, and allowing students currently under an MOU at other schools to finish high school there.
At last week’s meeting, the Hooksett board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Londonderry School District, which would allow up to 40 students to attend Londonderry schools each year.
Underhill summarized the Hooksett board’s actions in a statement:
“The Hooksett School Board approved a 10-year Tuition Agreement,” he said. “This contract will go to the Hooksett residents for a vote at their March town meeting. The terms of this agreement are very, very similar to the agreements that are currently in place with our other sending school districts. If approved by the Hooksett voters, the agreement would allow for a minimum of 75 students in the freshman class to attend Pinkerton in the first five years of the Tuition Agreement, and any number of upperclass students could attend in the first five years. From year 6 on, all but 10 percent of Hooksett students (counting all class years) would attend Pinkerton.