Two spots on the Londonderry School Board are up for grabs this year with five fresh faces vying for the positions currently being held by Leitha Reilly and Steve Young. Young is running for reelection while Reilly is not. The backgrounds of those running for the board are diverse but the main reason is the same- to make the school system even better than it is now.
Michael Saucier is a 39-year old high school history teacher who has been in town for 12 years.
His two daughters are currently enrolled in local schools and said being on the school board is “something I’ve always wanted to do.” He feels he’s qualified to serve on the board because he’s been all sides of education as a parent, a teacher, a coach and a department head.
“I think the key is to have a long-term plan in place,” said Saucier, referencing the projected growth in town. He feels making sure the schools are properly staffed and supported is the best way to “be forward thinking.”
“We need to sit down with everybody and make a 5 to 10-year plan to cut budget costs,” said Saucier.
He supports the proposed budget because he feels it gives the schools “the increases we need right now.” He was disappointed with the board’s previous decision to cut educational assistants after the money was already allocated for them. He believes “anytime we can keep educators in the classroom, we should do it.”
Another educator running for the school board is 23-year old Katlyn Brutus-McKenzie. She is the owner of The Learning Tree where she also teaches kindergarten. She was raised in Londonderry and considers herself a “townie.” She’s running for the school board because she feels an educator should be part of the decision making.
“How else will people on the school board know what [teachers] need” if they are not represented on the board, said Brutus-McKenzie. “If we’re giving teachers what they need… that will help overall.”
She supports the proposed budget because “I feel the kids are worth the 11 cents.”
Brutus-McKenzie said she is qualified for the job because she is both an educator and a business owner. She has the experience and the education to serve the board, despite her age.
Greg Depasse also has experience with the Londonderry school system. The 45-year old architect has lived in town for 15-years and has three kids in the school system.
He said he ran for the school board because he “wanted to bring another voice to the table.” He was inspired to run for office after seeing the district reallocate funds that were originally supposed to go to hiring classroom aides.
“It didn’t sit well,” said Depasse. “It really seemed to go against all the organized efforts of a lot of people.”
He wants to increase communication between the board, parents and the community. If elected to the board, he said he wants to create a 5 to 10-year plan “with involvement from across the town.”
“I’ve been pretty involved in the schools, in the community,” said Depasse. “I love it here!”
Jeffrey Katz has been in town since 2010, where he currently works with natural food companies to develop their brands, as well as working on becoming a real estate agent. The 57-year old has two children in the school system. He is very much a part of his kids’ lives, getting them ready for school and helping with school parties. He decided to run for the school board when he noticed the space issues going on at Moose Hill School.
“I saw that there was a lot of miscommunication,” said Katz, regarding the new district office and he wanted to get the full story of what was going on. He felt being on the school board was the best way to get all the information and help take the district “into the future.”
Katz is passionate about the programs at Moose Hill, since his youngest son participated in the LEAP program when he was there. Katz said he also wants to keep promoting STEM education through the district and was upset when the 2015 budget did not allow for new technologies in the classroom.
One thing he would like to see, if elected, is having an auditorium built at the high school.
“I don’t believe in the Band-Aid approach,” said Katz, who is a firm believer in “long term solutions.”
“I thought the school board would be a truly excellent way to give back,” Katz said.
With all of the newcomers coming to test their merit, Young is looking “to continue what I’ve been doing for the last 15-years.” He said he has been trying to advocate for “right-sizing” in the classroom, which is giving the schools and teachers what they need for appropriate staffing and support, while being what he calls, “yankee frugal.”
Young voted against this year’s proposed budget, saying, “my issue with the budget was that is was the superintendent’s budget and not the board’s budget.” He felt the board should have examined it more closely and found ways to cut it down. He also dislikes that the district office ia on both the proposed and the default budgets, while the extra space for Moose Hill is not. No matter what, the district gets a new office, but the kids will only get the portable classrooms if the proposed budget is passed.
“I think that’s wrong,” said Young.
He felt his greatest achievement while serving on the board was successfully suing the state government to equally fund students, regardless of what district they live in.
Young said he likes having others run against him because it promotes more voices and brings more opinions to the board.
He said being a member of the school board “makes you a sharper, stronger person.”
The final person running for the school board, Owen McAlister, could not be reached for comment.