MANCHESTER, N.H. – In a 4-1 vote, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) Policy Committee recommended a proposal that would add student representatives from each Manchester High School to the BOSC as full non-voting members.
The proposal was taken off the table by Dr. Nicole Leapley (Ward 11) and aimed to emulate New Hampshire state statute regarding student members of school boards and also embrace Manchester School District policy regarding student involvement in decision making.
The non-voting student members would come before the full board twice a year, be elected by students in each school not graduating before the end of the upcoming student board member’s term and participate in a specific BOSC committee.
Leapley added that the position would also provide Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) credits that could be used toward high school graduation and that college students from Saint Anselm College would aid the student members.
Current Manchester Central High School student representatives Kellen Barbee and Lilly Tague-Bleau opposed the proposal, feeling that the proposal was being forced upon students without their consent. In particular, they voiced concerns about student board members serving in meetings of the entire BOSC, stating that their length has scared away prospective candidates for the role at other high schools in the city.
Arthur Beaudry (Ward 9) echoed that sentiment, stating that the new proposal was unnecessary and mandating students attend full board meetings would impact their academic studies, adding that he felt the measure should “go down in flames” since the students were opposed to it.
Barbee also criticized members of the board who say they look to serve students but then ignored his input several months earlier regarding a request to make homework more manageable.
Leslie Want (Ward 4), the chair of the committee, told Barbee that not all proposals are approved but that did not mean the points made in favor of those proposals are ignored and that the students’ input was appreciated.
James O’Connell (At-Large) also expressed concern over the representatives not fully representing certain parts of the student population such as minorities, ESL students, disabled students and others.
Ultimately, Leapley convinced the board that the proposal could be amended later if needed, with input from the students, and that a lack of action would only continue to delay action on the topic, which voters overwhelmingly wanted in a ballot question last fall.
Peter Perich (Ward 7) voted alongside O’Connell, Want and Leapley in supporting the motion, with Beaudry opposing.
During voting for the measure, technical difficulties arose, with Beaudry reporting a 10-second delay making it difficult to understand what was going on from his home.
After the technical difficulties created a back and forth between BOSC Clerk Angela Carey and Beaudry , he eventually recorded his vote as “absolutely not” and vowed to file a minority report to the full board.
Earlier, he voiced frustration with Want over the 10-second delay, telling Want that he could not watch the meeting on television and speak at the same time.
Beaudry called the technological issues unacceptable and said that it deprived citizens of certain wards in the city from proper representation.