Volinsky and Council majority were right in voting down Board of Education nomination

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THE SOAPBOXScreen Shot 2017 03 06 at 6.58.40 PM

Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

Last week, the NH Executive Council voted down the state of New Hampshire Board of Education nomination of Ryan Terrell of Nashua.  Governor Chris Sununu nominated Terrell even though Mr. Terrell lacked any prior experience volunteering with any public school.  The State Board is charged with running the public schools in New Hampshire and must supervise Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut.  Edelblut has taken a number of steps to undermine public education in New Hampshire by transferring public money to private schools.  The State Board must protect local schools from the Commissioner of Education who is aligned with Betsy DeVos.  The State Board must also supervise local school boards and superintendents and conduct hearings on complex topics related to special education and school-related discipline of professionals and students.  The Executive Council rejected Mr. Terrell’s nomination because he has never worked with a school board, has never been on a PTA or volunteered in a school.  In an interview prior to the vote, Terrell told Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky that he had only been paying attention to the State Board of Education for one month.  

During the discussion about Terrell’s nomination, the Governor professed shock that the Executive Council would consider rejecting a “diversity” nomination.  Councilor Pignatelli, who is the Executive Councilor representing Nashua, responded that she had a number of interested and qualified candidates, some of whom are people of color, but Sununu never asked her for suggestions of qualified nominees. 

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Ryan Terrell has announced his intention to run for the NH House of Representatives in Nashua’s Ward 4.

Of course, even though three Executive Councilors voted against the nomination, Sununu’s election team came after Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, accusing him of racism. Volinsky is running for governor to challenge Sununu’s bid for re-election.  Volinsky was also the lead lawyer in the Claremont School Funding Case and has a demonstrated 30-year commitment to protecting public education.  He has also worked hard on other issues of racial and social justice, including working with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in arguing against the death penalty and working with the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union to stop racial profiling by the Manchester Police.   

I am one of many Black people living in New Hampshire, and I know I cannot speak for everyone, but I say the NHGOP and Governor Sununu perpetrated a grievous offense against my community by trying to sensationalize the denied appointment as an attack against Black people and our ability to serve higher office in New Hampshire. Both Volinsky and Pignatelli recommended Terrell for more appropriate business appointments, and Pignatelli offered to refer people of color who she knew from the same district as the nominee who would be highly qualified for the Board of Education appointment. Unsurprisingly, Sununu has not taken them up on their suggestions. 

Chris Sununu’s goal was never been to appoint a qualified POC to the Board of Education; let’s call this what it is. Andru Volinsky and Chris Sununu are both running for the Governor’s Office this November, and despite Volinsky’s time as a lawyer fighting for minority causes, Chris Sununu thought he could damage his opponent in the race by casting him as the opposite of what everyone publicly knows him to be. That effort was made even more transparent through the complete lack of interest by the NHGOP or Sununu himself in going after the other Council members that made up the majority decision. Andru Volinsky is willing to call this what it is, and we should all be willing to do the same; it was a cheap Republican stunt with no genuine interest in diversifying leadership in New Hampshire, and no regard whatsoever for the Black man they dragged through the mud in the process. Releasing a story with the headline “where is Black Lives Matter on this?” was only adding insult to injury and certainly merits an apology to the community and the Black Lives Matter Movement by all of those involved in concocting the scheme.

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? We accept thoughtful prose on timely topics of interest no matter where you stand. All voices are welcome and will be considered for publication. Send submissions to carolrobidoux@gmail.com, subject line: The Soapbox

MarcusMarcus Ponce de Leon is a Candidate for State Representative in Hillsborough District 12 in Manchester (Ward 5), and a Community Advocate working with local organizations Progressive Manchester and the Manchester Housing Alliance on advancing  issues surrounding safe, stable and adequate housing in the Queen City.

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