MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Thursday, Manchester Mayoral Candidate Victoria Sullivan held a press conference outside of Beech Street Elementary School to criticize Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig’s record on education.
Sullivan stood outside the elementary school with supporters in particular to highlight poor test scores at the city’s elementary and middle schools that have seen older students reading well below their grade levels.
“Nowhere in business and nowhere in government should every accept these results. These people are professionals and these are the results you get? There’s no accountability,” said Board of School Committee At-Large Candidate and Sullivan supporter Will Infantine. “Everyone should be fired. How can they look themselves in the mirror and say they’re good at their job?
As a state legislator, Sullivan introduced legislation around play-based learning in early-age development settings and urged a greater focus on allowing teacher innovation in classrooms and transferring focus from social justice topics toward reading and math as well as shifting funding in the Manchester School District from administrators toward classroom-based staff.
When asked whether she would support state aid earmarked for schools that drew division recently at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen as well as state aid offered to Manchester schools last year that was used instead for tax relief, Sullivan referenced millions of dollars already provided from Concord as well as a need to reorganize the Manchester School District organizationally as well as declining enrollment that has resulted in less aid coming to the district.
Sullivan also voiced support for school choice funding, coming from new state initiatives that give parents stipends to place their children in private schools. She said that decision for any parent to transfer their child out of a school away from teachers and fellow students that they are familiar with, but said that decision should be available to parents when needed, noting when she transferred her own children into private education when she felt her concerns were not being heard in public schools.
“No child should be forced to stay in a school due to their zip code,” she said.
When asked about Craig being endorsed by the Manchester Education Association or MEA, the largest union of public school teachers in Manchester, Sullivan said that the MEA’s focus is not geared toward improving educational outcomes in the classroom, stating that educators in MEA shirts only appear at Board of School Committee meetings during contract renegotiations.
Sullivan also criticized Craig regarding the recent need to shift football games at public schools in Manchester to daytime starts due to a recent fight that ended in an arrest.
The Sullivan campaign did not coordinate with the Manchester School District regarding the press conference, leading to a “reverse evacuation” of students at recess to avoid any still or video images being taken of students without parental consent.
Former Beech Street School Principal Ellie Murphy also criticized Sullivan’s criticisms.
“Victoria Sullivan’s comments demonizing the Beech Street School are horrible and detrimental to the success of its students. Beech Street serves some of Manchester’s most vulnerable families, as it has the greatest number of kids receiving free or reduced lunches in the state,” said Murphy. “Many of these students struggled to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic because of limited internet access. To single out the most diverse school in Manchester for political points is unfair to the students and teachers and morally reprehensible.”
Later in the evening at a downtown campaign event, Sullivan reiterated her criticisms of Craig on education as well as other topics such as public safety, referencing a recent stabbing that occurred near a recreational area behind Home Depot.
At the event, Hillsborough County GOP Chairman Chris Ager stated the importance of the Manchester mayoral race on a regional level, referring to Manchester’s mayor as “New Hampshire’s mayor” and stating that if the problems he sees in Manchester continue if Craig were re-elected, it could endanger the New Hampshire Primary, also reiterating Sullivan statements on Craig’s record on crime.
“This city used to be called ‘Manch Vegas,’ we’ve lived in the area for 30 years and it used to be the hub for this region. Now people are calling it ‘Manch-ganistan’ and if we let the shootings continue, pretty soon people will call it ‘Manch-cago,” and we can’t afford to let that happen,” he said.
Ager also stated that funding would be made available for a recount if any “irregularities” were found in the election, believing that the Craig campaign would do the same.