MANCHESTER, N.H. – Will there be a student member of the Board of School Committee? That question now heads to committee following deliberation by the Board of School Committee on Monday night.
Initially, the motion on the floor was to receive and file the results of Question 3 from November’s election, a non-binding question asking if there should be a non-voting student member of Board of School Committee.
Just under 70 percent of all ballots cast in the election said the answer to that question was “yes,” with approximately 25 percent opposed and five percent of voters not casting a vote on that particular part of their ballots.
However, several members of the board opposed adding a non-voting member.
Ward 10 Board of School Committee Member John Avard believed the current system that included student representatives communicating school updates as an item on the board’s agendas was adequate, and that adding a non-voting member would require a change to Section 4.02 of the City Charter, which delineates how many members there are on the Board of School Committee.
Ward 9 Board of School Committee Member and Board Vice Chair Arthur Beaudry went a step further, saying the ballot question was ambiguous and that students did not want to stay for the entirety of board meetings.
He also noted that the primary purpose of a full non-voting member would revolve around subcommittee work, stating that he has never seen a student at a subcommittee hearing.
A back-and-forth later in the hearing between Ward 6 Board of School Committee Member Dan Bergeron and Beaudry on the subject later ended when Mayor Joyce Craig asked the two to move on while the motion to receive and file was on the floor.
Ward 4 Board of School Committee Member Leslie Want thought any ambiguity was the fault of the board, and that if a non-voting member had already been in place, 80 percent of the discussion over the Wi-Fi agenda item could have been avoided.
A motion to receive and file the ballot question, which would have effectively ended discussion on a non-voting student member of the board without any direct action, failed by a vote of 5-6.
Avard and Beaudry joined Ward 12’s Kelly Thomas, Ward 7’s Ross Terrio, and Ward 2’s Kathleen Kelly Arnold in supporting the motion. Mayor Craig, Want and Bergeron were joined by Ward 1’s Sarah Ambrogi, At-Large Member Pat Long and Ward 11’s Katie Derochers.
Ward 8 member Jimmy Lehoux abstained, citing his election to the School Charter Commission. Ward 3 member Mary Ngwanda Georges abstained without an explanation.
Ward 5 member Lisa Freeman was absent and at-large member Rich Girard had left earlier in the meeting.
If the board decides to add a non-voting member, the board can rotate that member between each of the city’s public high schools.
A non-voting student member would need to be elected directly by the student body of the city’s high schools and would have several responsibilities as a liaison between the board and Manchester’s student population.