Pinkerton Trustees Remove 75-Student Minimum for Hooksett

The Pinkerton Academy Board of Trustees has voted to remove the minimum student requirement for Hooksett for 2014-15.

The board met Thursday, Jan. 9, and voted to waive the requirement of a 75-student minimum for both the “enrollment agreement” currently in place and the tuition agreement to be voted on in March.

Charles “Phil” Littlefield, superintendent for School Administrative Unit (SAU) 15, of which Hooksett is a member, said the requirement has been waived for the first year, regardless of which document is being referred to.

Littlefield explained that if the contract is approved in March, the “enrollment agreement” will be moot.

“The enrollment agreement is a safety valve for the current eighth-graders,” he explained. “It provides that if the contract is not approved by voters, those students who have already selected Pinkerton will be able to stay the four years and graduate.”

It’s a matter of timing, according to Littlefield. “We are in the school selection process now, and eighth-graders will have their high schools chosen by Feb. 1,” he said. If the 10-year contract with Pinkerton is not approved in March, that would leave those students without a high school, he pointed out. If the contract is approved, the students will begin going to the Derry semi-private high school in fall 2014 and the enrollment agreement will be nullified.

“The enrollment agreement will not kick in unless the tuition agreement fails,” Littlefield said. “We don’t want 20, 50, 100 youngsters to choose Pinkerton and then this not pass.”

The 75-student minimum, as well as the eventual goal of 90 percent of Hooksett students, has been a sticking point with the Hooksett School Board. In particular, board members John Lyscars and David Pearl have warned that a contract with a “minimum” will not pass as a warrant article in March.

The previous Tuesday, the Hooksett board had voted 3-2 to ask Pinkerton to waive the requirement. Chairman Trisha Korkosz and member Phil Denbow voted against the request. The Hooksett board also voted to create a lottery system to provide 75 freshmen to Pinkerton. The vote was 4-1, with Lyscars voting in the negative.

The lottery system has the provision that if fewer than 75 students want to attend Pinkerton, all remaining students would be placed in a lottery and students chosen to make up the difference. With the Pinkerton waiver, “the lottery will not be necessary in 2014-15,” Littlefield said. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be needed at some future date, he added.

Pinkerton spokesperson Chip Underhill said, “ The Hooksett School Board asked Pinkerton to waive the 75 students, and the Board of Trustees agreed the request was reasonable. We’re sensitive to the tight timing of the transition for Hooksett to sending some students to Pinkerton, and waiving the requirement will help make the transition easier.”

The whole process is a learning curve, Littlefield said.

This is Hooksett’s first year without Manchester as its “school of record.” The Hooksett School District reached an agreement with Manchester this past June to terminate its contract with the city four years ahead of schedule. On Dec. 17, the board voted 3-2 to approve the proposed 10-year Pinkerton contract, and to put it before voters this March. They also approved the enrollment agreement.

“Hopefully, once we have a year’s experience, we will be able to more accurately predict where the students will want to go,” Littlefield said.