Voters Guide 2019: Board of School Committee At-Large

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Board of School Committee At-Large (2 Seats)

Vote for two candidates on your ward ballot.


Joseph Lachance

Joseph Lachance, 49, earned master’s degrees in business education and organizational management and works for Easter Seals as a Family and Consumer Science Teacher.

Qualifications

I am a former NH State Representative, Ward Moderator, and manager with the United States Postal Service. I have a proven track record of constituent service as an elected state representative.

Manchester School District’s greatest strength

Diverse population and educators that truly care about the success of our students.

Priorities

Improved technology access for students and teachers, improved reputation of our schools so outside communities will want to send their students to MSD once again, and continued consolidation of facilities and classrooms as needed to use our scarce resources wisely.

What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?

Negotiate a fair but affordable contract for the taxpayer. I would hope that all sides come to the table and are willing to negotiate honestly.

The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?

Books, update computers and pay down any debt related items.

A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?

I would be telling a lie if I recommended Manchester to a young family. Until we fix many of our problems at all levels, I would not recommend this city to anyone.

What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools.

Transparency.

How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for 2032 economy?

We need to concentrate on our problems right now and not in 2032. Once we fix the problems at hand then we can look to the future. Do not put the cart before the horse.


Gene Martin

Gene Martin, 32,  received a Bachelor’s Degree from Plymouth State University and expects to complete a master of public administration degree from UNH in 2020. With a background in project management and organizational operations, he works at a state university in the Alumni Relations and Development Office.

His website is www.genemartinnh.com.

Qualifications

As a father, proud graduate of Manchester public schools, and homeowner, I care deeply about the success of our children and school district. As a child, I lived in a homeless shelter and went on to be the first person in my family to graduate from college.  I am grateful for what Manchester’s schools gave me, and now I want to give back.

I believe the School Board needs members who can focus on improving student achievement by creating and implementing strategic short and long-term action plans. My wife Erin and I want our daughter and all children to have the best possible education. With my work experience and skill set, I would bring a new voice and perspective to our school board.

Manchester School District’s greatest strength

The greatest strength of the Manchester School District is the community that contributes to the success of our students. From families and community leaders to paraprofessionals, teachers, and administrators, collaboratively they give so much of themselves to promote the academic gains for our city’s youth.

Improvements

The first improvement I would like to see is to make sure that every child has the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they live in the city. That means we must take meaningful and measurable action to address the achievement gap. We have a moral obligation to provide a quality education that gives every child the best possible chance to reach their full potential.

The second improvement I would like to see is to provide our students and educators with the essential resources to succeed in the classroom, like books and access to technology to improve student achievement.

The third improvement I’d like to see is a change in the perception of the school system in and outside our district. Our goal should be enacting policies and plans with the outcome being attracting families to move to or stay in Manchester because we have the best school district in the state.

Click here to watch Gene Martin’s campaign video via MPTV.

What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?

I hope that all of our employee contracts are settled by the time the next School Board is sworn into office in January 2020, because every day that passes is a missed opportunity for our teachers and the students they serve. If elected, I believe we need a new approach with a new brand new negotiations committee to work with the unions to find common ground. I think personalities and the upcoming elections have pushed this decision off long enough, we have to pass a fair contract for the teachers and taxpayers.

The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?

I believe we should make smart investments with the end goal of improving student growth and academic achievement. In my conversations with voters and families across the city, I have heard the need to provide our students and educators with up-to-date resources such as access to technology and new books. I believe that must be a top priority. I would listen to our parents, educators, and community members and support pilot programs that have data-driven components to help our students. I believe the Superintendent’s recent request to set up a comprehensive reading intervention program in our elementary schools would be a worthwhile investment of these dollars. These are the types of smart investments that will pay dividends for our city’s children.

A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?

As someone who grew up in Manchester and now has a young family, I would talk about all the reasons why my wife, Erin, and I decided to raise our daughter here. Manchester is a vibrant and thriving diverse community with a vast amount of activities for a young family to enjoy from a civic arena, the Fisher Cats, museums, music venues, theaters, parks and playgrounds, and rail trail systems just to name a few. I would also talk about while Manchester is excellent, our location is perfect, and you would be less than an hour away from mountains, lakes, beaches, and Boston. And lastly, I would share what an incredibly friendly community we have, whether it is on a dog walk in your neighborhood or having dinner outside on Hanover Street, people wave and say hello. Manchester is a desirable city that is on the move.

What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools.

To improve our schools, we need to create a unified vision and work toward how we will accomplish our goals. The most important step this school board can take is to collaborate with the community. We need to listen to parents, educators, and business leaders to develop strategic short and long term plans to improve student growth and achievement. Any private business has short and long term plans and as a school district, we need the same thing. By setting a specific, measurable strategic and action plan we will ensure we work our way toward a shared vision of creating the strongest school district possible, and that means people want to move to Manchester specifically for the quality of education their child would receive.

How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for 2032 economy?

I believe we need to work with our community and business leaders to help modernize our curriculum, so we prepare our 2032 graduates as well as today’s graduates. This must be an ongoing process because our children only get one shot at a K-12 education, and we have to do our part to make it best possible. I want to make sure every child has the opportunity to succeed. To me, that means that we have to prepare our high school graduates for college, a trade or technical school, or be workforce ready right out of high school. There is much work to be done, but as a parent of a future high school graduate in 2030s, I want to do everything I can to make sure she and her classmates’ future is bright and full of opportunities.


Jim O’Connell

Jim O’Connell, age 61, attended Southend Polytechnic for Business Administration and is the president at Consul Holdings where he is a business management consultant. He also works with Safe Passage, a company that works with children who are in state care.

His website is www.oconnellatlarge.com.

Qualifications

I have four children, three of whom are graduates of Manchester public schools, and one who is a senior at Central High School. As founder and President of Citizens for Manchester Schools I fought against the elimination of teachers and programs from our schools. I drew attention to class sizes over what the state allowed. As PTO president at Hillside Middle School for six years, I successfully fought for additional programs and funding. My time on the Parent Council at Central has given me keen insight into the challenges facing our students and teachers. I have been an advocate for the children, parents and staff of our schools for more than a decade. I have also served on many boards including Manchester North Soccer, Manchester North Little League, The Acting Loft, and most recently I was on Manchester Proud’s community planning group. I have also been a CEO of a couple of companies with deep experience of managing complex budgets and organizations.

Manchester School District’s greatest strength

Our diversity is our strength, our students and our teachers are incredible, and the community is ready for dramatic change. Manchester is a dynamic and exciting place to live today. We need to have a public school system that reflects that new reality and not the current throwback to the mill city of the ’70s whose best days seemed to be behind it. A great Manchester needs great schools. I will fight for that every day I am a school board member.

Priorities

  1. Get the teachers, staff and principals the contracts they deserve and do it now! Let them know that contrary to the opinions of a small cabal of anti-public school blowhards, the people of Manchester love their schools and teachers and want them to have what they need to educate our children.
  2. Get the BoSC to start acting in a more businesslike manner. They need to act as an oversight board and not as mini superintendents. We pay an executive director to manage our large and diverse school system. Get out of the way and let them do their jobs.
  3. Stop the downshifting of costs from the state to Manchester’s taxpayers. If the downshifting of costs from recent years was reversed Manchester could hire additional teachers, give relief to local taxpayers and put a plan in place to revolutionize Manchester education to make it the envy of the state. Let’s get this done!

What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?

The biggest issue right now is the lack of trust between the parties. I will sit down with all our staff and tell them that they are valued and that we want to work together to make sure that we get them a contract that will allow them to concentrate on the work of educating our children and not have to worry about putting food on the table or working two or more jobs. I will tell them that the city of Manchester wants highly qualified and motivated teachers in its classrooms and that we are willing to pay to get them.

The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?

This is a great pity. There was bilateral agreement in the statehouse to fund this amount in future years but sadly the compromise with the Governor reduced it to a once-off. I am hopeful that this funding will be reallocated by the state in the next biennium and then we can use it to properly compensate our staff and to improve programs and outcomes for our students. For the current year, I would use this money to fund curriculum improvement at our schools, especially in reading and math. I will add technology to our classrooms so that we can derive the benefits of time and resources that will flow it. I will also propose an increase in the per diem rate for substitute teachers so that we can alleviate to the problem of getting people and compete with surrounding towns for highly qualified people.

A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?

Manchester is a happening place! This city is on the march! Number one is that we have a thriving business community in a collaborative and entrepreneurial environment. Number two is that we have a tremendous location in close proximity to all that Boston has to offer while still being close to nature with easy access to lakes, skiing, beaches, mountains and rural New Hampshire. Number three is that we have a vibrant and exciting cultural, sports and social life with destinations as diverse as the Currier Museum, The Palace Theatre, multiple parks, a ballpark, the SNHU Centre, the new Rex! and a million bars and restaurants. I would say come live in Manchester and enjoy living in a growing and fascinating old but renewed New England city!

What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools?

Stop the internal bickering and get on with the work of providing a policy framework for our superintendent, administrators, teachers and staff to make our schools the best in the state. Too many of our current board see themselves as mini- experts in education where their job is to second guess our staff and place obstacles in the way of their success. I say get out of the way and let students be students, teachers be teachers and parents be parents. I hope the new board will concentrate on developing responsive policies. I hope they bring fiscal and financial sanity to their decision making so that we can have the wonderful school system that our great students and families deserve.

How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for 2032 economy?

The great news is that the community has at last woken up to the fact that we need to work together to deliver a great school system. The business and academic community in our city is awakening to this reality and I am confident that the partnerships that have recently begun are only the initial steps to an exciting future where the community shows its pride in, and support of, our schools. The MSD needs to set a clear vision and expectation for itself and the school system and then work diligently and single-mindedly in pursuing that vision. I am confident that Manchester’s best days lie ahead and not in the past. I am sure that given all the advantages that we have as a great city with great people and great ambition we can deliver financially sound and educationally exceptional public schools to the next generation of Manchester families.


Lara Quiroga 

Lara Quiroga,  42, earned a master’s degree in education and is Director of Strategic Initiatives for Children at Amoskeag Health (formerly known as Manchester Community Health Center).

www.lara4manchester.com.


Qualifications

In addition to being a mom of a 15-year-old who just began his sophomore year of high school at Memorial after attending Jewett Elementary and Southside Middle School, I have the education and professional and volunteer experience to serve as a committee-person at-large. I have a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education Administration from Granite State College and a master’s degree in child development with an administration concentration from Southern NH University.

My career has been entirely focused on children, their families, and education. I started my career as an early childhood education teacher in Manchester’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs. I moved into administration serving as a childcare Center Director for Early Head Start and a large nonprofit child development program for more than 200 children and families. I worked at Southern NH University as its School of Education Community Outreach Coordinator, setting up professional development for teachers in local schools, advising students, and helping the School of Education through its teacher certification programs reaccreditation process through the NH Department of Education. I then worked at Tufts University as its Coordinator for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges reaccreditation and then as a Project Administrator for the University’s President working on its strategic issues such as diversity and inclusion, innovation, sustainability, and transformative experiences.

For the last six years, I’ve been working at Amoskeag Health (formerly Manchester Community Health Center) running initiatives to help children and families flourish and enter school ready to learn and able to succeed – LAUNCH Manchester and the Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team (ACERT). I serve on the Board of the NH Children’s Trust, the only statewide non-profit leading the drive to end child abuse and neglect in NH. I’ve been part of its healthy governing board of directors for the last almost nine years and its chair for the past 3½ years. I am also the vice-chair of the Board of the Manchester Community Resource Center. The initiatives of my professional and volunteer work would not have been as successful as they were without my efforts to collaborate with community partners, focus on high-quality programming, and build relationships with policymakers to ensure funding and policies exist to support the continued work.

Manchester School District’s greatest strength

The greatest strength of the Manchester School District is its people – the children, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents. As a collective, they have amazing diversity, interest in student achievement, and the power to make change.

Improvements

I’d like the board to focus its work on student learning and achievement so that all students have the opportunity to succeed. Teachers and other school personnel need fair contracts and the resources and tools required to ensure that student success. Finally, the school board needs to engage in an appropriate level of governance with a return to civil interactions and the use of common sense problem-solving.

Click here to see Lara Quiroga’s candidate statement on MPTV.

What will you do to get an agreement on a teachers’ contract?

I will enter negotiations with an open mind and listen to the teachers’ requests without judgment or preconceived notions about what I personally think they deserve or what the school district can afford. Understanding their perspectives, building trust, and assuming everyone is entering negotiations with good intent is key to success. And I will share my hope that both the BOSC and the teachers walk away from the table feeling satisfied with what was agreed to.

The state has sent $20.8M in one-time funding to the city. How would you propose spending that money?

The one-time funding should generally be spent on one-time expenses. Our district has significant investments it needs to make in curriculum and deferred maintenance, but some funds should also be placed in the District’s expendable trusts.

A young family is considering a move to Manchester, what would be your top three selling points?

Manchester is a great place to live because of the diversity of the community, schools with staff who are committed to helping students succeed, and an increasing variety of activities and events the City offers to families.

What is the most important step the Board of School Committee can take to immediately improve all schools?

The most important step the Board can take is to really listen to each other and treat each other with respect. A positive culture shift on the Board would have a ripple effect through the district.

How can MSD and the community work together to prepare today’s first-graders for 2032 economy?

The School District and community can work together by creating and affirming a shared vision and plan for our students and schools – a vision that is innovative and ambitious – that will be a guide for preparing our youngest residents to be productive citizens.