BOSC approves student representative proposal

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Dr. Nicole Leapley on Sept. 28, 2020. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, NH – After years of deliberation on the topic, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) voted to approve adding non-voting student members into its ranks.

The motion came after the BOSC Policy Committee voted 4-1 to recommend a new policy that would create eight non-voting student members on the board, also noting that a ballot measure on the subject last fall received more votes than any other candidate or item being voted upon.

Those members would rotate, attending two full BOSC meetings each year, and be seated as a non-voting member on either the Teaching and Learning Committee, the Finance and Facilities Committee or the Policy Committee.

Additionally, those student members would not be paid, would be excluded from discussion on subjects deemed to be confidential under RSA 91-a, and act as a conduit between students, high school principals, student government and the BOSC. While they would not be able to vote on topics, they would be allowed to propose items to the BOSC in accordance with board procedures.

The lone dissenting vote on the Policy Committee came from Arthur Beaudry (Ward 9), with Beaudry also submitting a minority report on the Policy Committee’s decision.

In that minority report, Beaudry referenced concerns provided by Manchester Central High School student representative Kellen Barbee and Lilly Tague-Bleau regarding the length of BOSC meetings, a desire to leave after communications with the BOSC conclude at the beginning of meetings and a fear that it may be difficult to find applicants willing to make the time commitment for the position.

During the meeting, Beaudry also said that the pair of Central student representatives felt intimidated at times during the policy committee hearing and it wasn’t appropriate for adults to tell students how their voices should be heard.

Barbee chastised the BOSC during the public comment period of the board’s meeting on Monday, stating that his main issue with the BOSC was that he and other students were not being listened to in regard to the process of creating the non-voting member. He also asked for the reinstatement of the BOSC’s Ad-Hoc Student Voice Subcommittee.

In response to allegations that students were not being listened to regarding the process creating the non-voting member, Dr. Nicole Leapley (Ward 11) said that the process of creating a non-voting member was spelled out in NH RSA 189:1-c.

She also referenced a letter by Manchester Central junior and youth organizer Nathan Duval stating that the views of Barbee were a minority amongst Manchester high school students, adding that nothing within the proposal prevents student board members from leaving a meeting if needed and adding student board members was vital toward giving students a voice on the board.

Beaudry moved that a subcommittee be formed amongst students, administrators and the BOSC to address concerns raised by Barbee, but that motion failed, 4-10. Beaudry was joined by Joseph Lachance (At-Large), William Shea (Ward 7) and Kathleen Kelly-Arnold (Ward 2). Kelly-Arnold agreed with the concept of student representatives, but believed they needed to be given a more significant presence at the committee level.

The motion to approve the policy committee’s recommendation passed 11-3, with Kelly-Arnold serving as the only change from the first vote.

Dan Bergeron (Ward 6) was absent for both votes.

About this Author

andrewsylvia

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.