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October 18. 2014 8:39PM

Ted Siefer's City Hall: Levasseur back on MPD's case, but this time with numbers


 

THE HEAT could be turned up on a long-simmering issue this week: the fact that a solid majority of police officers and supervisors choose to make their homes outside the city, contrary to union contracts that stipulate at least 50 percent of the rank-and-file and 60 percent of the brass reside in Manchester.

It may come as no surprise that the matter is being raised by Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur, who has made sport of critiquing the MPD.

In this case, he has some pretty solid numbers in hand. Data he requested from the city's Human Resources Department show that only around 30 percent of city police officers and supervisors live in the city.

Levasseur has proposed that the issue be referred to the Human Resources Committee, and the board is to consider the request at its meeting Tuesday.

Pity the poor assistant superintendents. Their colleagues, Superintendent Debra Livingston and Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis, were given 1 percent raises in time for the start of current fiscal year on July 1, but not them. On Monday, when the school board was supposed to finally consider their contracts, along with the 1 percent raises (rumor has it), the matter was tabled. They didn't even get free T-shirts.

The raises would bring the salaries of assistant superintendents Dave Ryan and Karen Burkush to about $112,100 and $112,600, respectively (although it's not clear it would apply retroactive to July 1). All other provisions of their contracts would remain intact, and future raises would be determined at later dates, according to sources. (The documents have not been made publicly available.)

While the school board is likely to approve the contracts sooner rather than later, the protracted process reflects some deep-seated misgivings about the positions. A faction on the school board has questioned why the district needs two assistant superintendents. Burkush was promoted to the newly created job 10 years ago, which came with a $12,000 raise, a move that was assailed at the time by some school board members and union representatives. Then there's that stubborn provision in her contract that she get a doctorate; that has yet to happen. Burkush, for unexplained reasons, was not present at Tuesday's meeting.

Part of the reason the contracts were tabled was that most school board members had only seen them earlier that night. It's probably not a coincidence that the matter came up almost as soon as the teachers union rejected the latest contract proposal. If larger raises were being considered for the deputies - and Ryan, for one, has shown himself something of a taskmaster - it's unlikely this would happen before the teachers got theirs; otherwise the teachers could point to the discrepancy between their pay and that of their bosses. Now that a new contract is again off the table and the teachers' salaries are frozen, it would not look very good if Burkush and Ryan got raises of anything beyond 1 percent.

For Ward 2's Deb Gagnon Langton, who has often criticized the district's top-heavy administrative layer, this was all the more reason to again consider the value of the posts.

"The teachers ... they haven't had any pay raise," she told me. "They just keep getting bigger class sizes, and they're having to collect more data and do more testing, which creates the need for more administration."

.

By now, you've probably heard that the principal at Parkside Middle School has been placed on paid leave while police investigate allegations that he unlawfully restrained an unruly child. (The child's mother told the Union Leader last week that the principal put him in a chokehold.)

You're also probably aware of the black hole that tends to form around such cases; school officials immediately invoke laws protecting the confidentiality of employees and students. Even school board members aren't privy to much information. (Consider that lingering mystery around the departure of MaryEllen McGorry, the former West High principal, in 2013.)

The administration is particularly cautious about such matters, as was demonstrated by an exchange between Livingston and Ward 3 school board member Chris Stewart on Tuesday.

He asked Livingston to explain the district's policy on informing the board about employees placed on paid administrative leave, presumably in light of the situation involving the Parkside principal.

"I'm prepared to discuss that in nonpublic," she said.

"I just want to know the policy," Stewart said.

"There in no policy," Livingston replied.

Later in the week, Stewart told me that he intended to make a motion that would require the administration to inform the board when employees were placed on leave. He added that he believed such inquires should be resolved much more quickly.

"I believe any investigation into allegations of employee wrongdoing should be completed in weeks, not months. To have these investigations drag on and on is not fair to the employee, the students or the taxpayer," he said in an email.


Ted Siefer is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com and followed on Twitter @tbsreporter.


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