More to a School Board member than "fiscal conservatism

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More to a School Board member than "fiscal conservatism

Postby andysinnh » Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:45 am

So as we approach the April 10 elections for town/school offices, I'd like to discuss the qualifications and intentions of the candidates for school board. And I'm posting this not so much for the standard posters to this forum, but rather to those who may be reading as a guest or just not typically visible by the rest of the forum membership.

The election for School Board is shaping up as a 2 vs 2 race, at least in terms of how the campaigns seem to be running so far. The two incumbents, Rose Robertson-Smith and Emily Coburn, are running on their proven track-record within the existing School Board , made up of a mix of fiscal responsibility and their proven accomplishments in the educational aspects our schools. The 2 newcomers, Dan Dwyer and Jennifer Twadowsky, seem to be running on a platform of agressive fiscal conservatism, without a lot of information as to what experience they bring to the table, nor their approach to how they'd address the educational aspect of School Board responsibilities.

I understand as well as anyone in town that tax rates and spending are very important, and lower taxes are certainly a goal that we all share, sometimes to varying extents. But one thing that is CRITICAL as we move forward is that we have a School Board made up of members who have the knowledge, work ethic, and drive to continue the high quality education in Merrimack, and look at ways to continually improve what we offer to the children of Merrimack. A platform that is driven by a single dimension leads to a HUGE unknown as to how a candidate will be able to react and perform in the varying tasks the School Board is responsible for handling. This is where a proven track record and a clear statement of desire and intent is critical.

I believe that the vast majority of town residents were comfortable with the actions of the School Board and Budget Committee in terms of the budget as presented. And while there was a successful amendment at the school DS to add funds back into the budget, I feel confident that none of the SB candidates support adding all of those positions back into the schools for 2007-2008. So do not let this amendment impact your view for the successful work done by those committees during the past year - their intent for cost control with excellent education is clearly proven.

My support here is for Rose Robertson-Smith and Emily Coburn, who have shown both a significant level of fiscal responsibility as well as an excellent track record for their success in the other aspects presented to the school board. And what we NEED to insure is that we allow them to continue much of the work they began, including laying the groundwork for healthcare cost controls for the upcoming teacher contract negotiations. In my opinion, changing the membership of the school board by replacing 2 experienced board members with 2 residents without proven track records in education is VERY risky, and I'm not willing to add that level of uncertainty in to the educational decision makers for my chldren, and those of Merrimack in general.

regards,
andy
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Postby uscitizen03054 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:43 am

Andy you raise a good point however, I am very concerned about the academic performance of the Merrimack school district; it is not where it should be. Are the two incumbents doing anything to bring accountability to our schools? I have not seen it so this leads be to lean towards supporting putting new blood on the school board.
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Postby andysinnh » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:10 am

uscitizen03054 wrote:Andy you raise a good point however, I am very concerned about the academic performance of the Merrimack school district; it is not where it should be. Are the two incumbents doing anything to bring accountability to our schools? I have not seen it so this leads be to lean towards supporting putting new blood on the school board.

To me, this really begs the question of what the RIGHT "new blood" would be, based on your "accountability" question. Obviously, you believe that Emily and Rose aren't meeting your expectations, and you should quiz them on how they'd address that. But I'm not sure that the two people running against them this time would have the ability (nor focus, from what I've seen of their platforms) to do what you're looking at achieving. In order to make any progress in this area, the people on the board (or at least a significant number therein) need to have educational knowledge and background that would allow them to work those issues with the administration. I just don't see that skill set with non-incumbants in this race....

andy
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Postby Confucius » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:12 am

uscitizen03054 wrote:Andy you raise a good point however, I am very concerned about the academic performance of the Merrimack school district; it is not where it should be. Are the two incumbents doing anything to bring accountability to our schools? I have not seen it so this leads be to lean towards supporting putting new blood on the school board.


I take it that the new candidates for the school board have intrigued you with their insightful, carefully reasoned, well thought out plans to improve educational performance here in Merrimack? I can hardly wait to hear them.
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Postby Jeannine Stergios » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:51 am

andysinnh

educational knowledge and background that would allow them to work those issues with the administration


Why? Don't you think we would be capable of knowing what's best for our own kids even without a degree in education?

That's elitist thinking. Did Ken Coleman have educational experience? Rosemarie Rung? Tell me what type of teaching experience they had. This is not intended to disparage these two people, but simply to point out the fallacy of this statement.
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Postby uscitizen03054 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:08 pm

andysinnh wrote:
uscitizen03054 wrote:Andy you raise a good point however, I am very concerned about the academic performance of the Merrimack school district; it is not where it should be. Are the two incumbents doing anything to bring accountability to our schools? I have not seen it so this leads be to lean towards supporting putting new blood on the school board.

To me, this really begs the question of what the RIGHT "new blood" would be, based on your "accountability" question. Obviously, you believe that Emily and Rose aren't meeting your expectations, and you should quiz them on how they'd address that. But I'm not sure that the two people running against them this time would have the ability (nor focus, from what I've seen of their platforms) to do what you're looking at achieving. In order to make any progress in this area, the people on the board (or at least a significant number therein) need to have educational knowledge and background that would allow them to work those issues with the administration. I just don't see that skill set with non-incumbants in this race....

andy


Andy I am not completely sure the challengers have the skill set you refer to but our test scores speak for themselves. What we are doing now with the current SB is not bringing us to the pinnacle of academic excellence among our NH peers. Could change be worse for Merrimack students, yes but it could also be better them if the new blood would be willing to do the difficult things needed to drive higher test scores.
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Postby RD » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:18 pm

uscitizen03054 wrote:Could change be worse for Merrimack students, yes but it could also be better them if the new blood would be willing to do the difficult things needed to drive higher test scores.

And we don't know the answers to those questions because thus far the non-incumbent candidates have not told us what their plans and agenda are. Unless they satisfactorily address your concerns on Candidates' Night, it would be irresponsible to vote for them.
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Postby Loweresttaxes » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:25 pm

zzzz.

Vote with your wallets people.

Smart kids wil graduate smart.

Average kids will graduate average.

Dumb kids will barely graduate.

Some kids will drop out...

REGARDLESS of how much or how little is spent.

You could TRIPLE the entire budget and the statistics will remain the same. You can slash the budget in half and the numbers will be the same.

I ask the parents of children in school to consider your neighbor...Stop being so selfish and think about how much money you're demanding other people to pay for your children.

Have some decency.
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Postby andysinnh » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:35 pm

Jeannine Stergios wrote:andysinnh

educational knowledge and background that would allow them to work those issues with the administration


Why? Don't you think we would be capable of knowing what's best for our own kids even without a degree in education?

That's elitist thinking. Did Ken Coleman have educational experience? Rosemarie Rung? Tell me what type of teaching experience they had. This is not intended to disparage these two people, but simply to point out the fallacy of this statement.

Jeannine - the skills are "educational knowledge" and "background that would allow them to work issues". This doesn't mean they have to be teachers by ANY stretch. But what it DOES mean is that they have to understand the educational environment sufficiently to "get" the big picture of how education works, how we fund it, how we have requirements for certain things, as well as the skills to represent the town as we deal with teachers contracts, legislation that impacts programs (like the kindergarten issue currently working in Concord), etc. It's a strong skill set that I'm very uncertain about when it comes to either Jennifer or Dan. And perhaps the biggest reason is that they haven't shown ANYTHING that indicates how they would handle situations other than budgetary. As an example, what's their philosophy in backing up what USC would like to see in the schools in terms of accountability? It's up to the voter to "guess" what their policies may be and how the board would move forward.

It's not elitist - not at all. Not being a teacher or former educator should NOT impact someone's ability to serve in such a post. But the skills they DO bring to the post are what we just don't know nor have a clear picture of in this case.

andy
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Postby Jeannine Stergios » Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:35 pm

andysinnh

You do know that Twardowski and Dwyer are business owners right?

Do you have any idea what business owners deal with on a daily basis? the people they come in contact with? The decisions that need to be made on a daily basis, the budgets, accounting, tax issues, employee issues, benefits, customers.

For the life of me I cannot understand what is so wrong about business owners being on the SB. We need more of a business mentality and less of a "I read it in a book so it must be true" mentality.
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Postby uscitizen03054 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:47 pm

RD wrote:
uscitizen03054 wrote:Could change be worse for Merrimack students, yes but it could also be better them if the new blood would be willing to do the difficult things needed to drive higher test scores.

And we don't know the answers to those questions because thus far the non-incumbent candidates have not told us what their plans and agenda are. Unless they satisfactorily address your concerns on Candidates' Night, it would be irresponsible to vote for them.


RD good point but it is also very risky to keep on the current path.
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Postby andysinnh » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:06 pm

Jeannine Stergios wrote:andysinnh

You do know that Twardowski and Dwyer are business owners right?

Do you have any idea what business owners deal with on a daily basis? the people they come in contact with? The decisions that need to be made on a daily basis, the budgets, accounting, tax issues, employee issues, benefits, customers.

For the life of me I cannot understand what is so wrong about business owners being on the SB. We need more of a business mentality and less of a "I read it in a book so it must be true" mentality.

Yep - I certainly know what they do, and this is by no means a statement that discriminates against anyone who wants to be on the board. It's just my personal belief that the qualities that I feel are appropriate for a board member go beyond the skills you identify here. Remember that you have to look at the whole product of education - which is the fiscal aspect as well as the educational one.

Look - I'm not going to change the mind of people who are already aligned on this forum - and that was never my intent. But I see qualities in Rose and Emily that I think need to be continued on the board, and many here are ignoring much of what they've accomplished.

And, finally, one observation. In looking back and reading articles on statements Jennifer Tw has made over the past few weeks, I see two very contradictory statements. One is that she would not have cut the teachers from the budget, but rather found ways to cut the money from other aspects, including support staff, infrastructure, outsourcing, etc. However, she also states that the enrollment rate will be dropping and we won't need one of the schools in a few years. Now, to get to the point that many of you have made on this forum, you believe that reduced enrollment means reduced teachers, so the class sizes are in line. So if Jennifer believes the enrollment is dropping but doesn't want to remove teachers - how can those two philosophies match up? It's this level of "lack of connection" that concerns me.....

andy
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Postby RFTO1111 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:23 pm

I will vote with my wallet like LT says, because he is right, bright kids will succeed, dumb kids won't no matter how much money the tax and spenders spend. Its been that way since the begining of time.
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Postby GregRS » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:26 pm

Jeannine Stergios wrote:andysinnh

You do know that Twardowski and Dwyer are business owners right?

Do you have any idea what business owners deal with on a daily basis? the people they come in contact with? The decisions that need to be made on a daily basis, the budgets, accounting, tax issues, employee issues, benefits, customers.

For the life of me I cannot understand what is so wrong about business owners being on the SB. We need more of a business mentality and less of a "I read it in a book so it must be true" mentality.


It is true that basic knowledge can be useful, and it's not a bad thing to have business sense as a member. However, would you hire a shoe company owner to run your deli unless he had some wonderful culinary skill? Would you hire a steel worker with 20 years experience to run your accounting firm unless he had some special understanding of basic book keeping? I don't think you would, Jeannine. You would hire the person with the best skill set for your needs. How can you say that the two candidates with absolutely "NO" educational experience, having never attended ANY school board meetings will be effective at anything other than cutting programs to save money? Do they even care about the daily business of running a school district? Have they ever had to deal with federal mandates that force policy without having the funds to implement them? It's not only about saving money. Don't you want a school board that promotes quality education and has the skills to identify and implement those programs, but at the same time, be sensitive to spiraling costs?

[My candidate endorsement] :)

Rose and I talk about fiscal responsibility quite often. She's very sensitive to that ever-increasing costs, and she's fighting it from all angles. She's the one who went to Concord and pushed for the current kindergarten legislation. Rose was a key member of the NH-Cafe which is responsible for forcing a favorable ruling regarding state funding. Locally, she's very critical of waste and works feverishly to find alternatives to expensive programs. She was a key negotiator in the last round of contract talks in which she raised the employee contribution and reduced the district's contribution for healthcare. She's a hard-line negotiator, but does it with respect and professionalism. She does all this and still has time to focus on the quality of education. I think you want a person like Rose to fight for our town and district. She has the knowledge, the energy and the passion to succeed. Let her finish what she has started.

[End of candidate endorsement]
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Postby andysinnh » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:26 pm

RFTO1111 wrote:I will vote with my wallet like LT says, because he is right, bright kids will succeed, dumb kids won't no matter how much money the tax and spenders spend. Its been that way since the begining of time.

RFT - so can you tell me how your wallet will be fatter with JT and DD in place? Given the budget cuts the SB and BC did this time around, what level beyond that are you expecting? And this is a serious question, btw...
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