By Jerome Reuter
The Londonderry School Board began the search for new board members after their previous meeting in August, and by the Tuesday, Aug. 24 meeting they had over a dozen candidates to choose from, but by the meeting’s end, no decision was made on appointments due to an ubrupt departure by one school board member.
Unfortunately, the board had the unenviable task of serving a school district that’s currently undergoing the reopening process following a global pandemic.
Superintendent Scott Laliberte began the meeting, since the chairman had resigned the following week, and made it clear from the beginning that this will be a reorganizing process. The prior two weeks saw the resignation of board members Jenn Ganem and Michael Saucier. Now operating at a diminished size, new members needed to be chosen by the existing body of three to fill the vacancies.
Amy Finamore nominated herself to become the new chair of the board in a decision that passed 2-1. Sara Loughlin was then voted in as vice chair by another 2-1 vote. Member Bob Slater was the no vote in each case.
The first order of business under Finamore was to officially accept the resignations of Ganem and Saucier, who had previously departed. With their resignations now completely official, the process of electing new members was implemented. While the board will ultimately choose the newest appointees, Member Bob Slater made his position on this process very clear “Those folks out there elected us, and we’re going to elect two people…I disagree with it.” A declaration that received a large applause from those in attendance.
The primary discussion of the evening would be focused on the district’s reopening process and the floor was opened for the public to make any comments regarding business other than that. Londonderry State Representative Al Baldasaro, a man not known for holding back or sugarcoating his position, threw down the gauntlet when it came to choosing new board members. “I’m hoping you do interviews on who you’re going to select so it’s not your boy…I hope you give taxpayers the fair right to interview every one of them who submitted a request before you make your decision.”
There was a brief mention of online harassment from a concerned Londonderry parent. “This community has been far from kind” she began. She then went on to mention that an online group had published the home addresses of school board members and subsequent harassment had followed. “I think Londonderry is better than this…I’m asking that you find someone who has the bravery and the courage to stand up against the bullying we’re seeing… There are many parents who are concerned with the direction that this school district is going.”
Rachel Killian, who hope to become one the boards’ newest acquisitions, addressed the accusations of harassment. She didn’t deny publishing the addresses, but insisted this was to open a window of communication with the board members. She also insisted that were no police records of any incidents. Regarding her application to the school board, Killian described her goal to having a “equitable representation of diverse opinions.” There was more concern from the crowd regarding the process of choosing new board members. “Go slow…take your time… make thoughtful decisions.” Town Council Chairman John Farrell pleaded.
After finalizing the Reopening Plan that evening, the three board members began discussing appointing two candidates from the names of candidates they had received.
Slater thought there should be more time taken to get names of new candidates, since when the search began, they were only looking for one candidate, since then, another member had resigned.
He said in fairness to the community he thought another week or two should be given to gather more names of candidates that may not have put their name in knowing it was just one position.
He also suggested having a special meeting on the appointment.
Loughlin responded by saying she felt comfortable with appointing two candidates that had already served on the board. She felt experience was her biggest criteria. She suggested appointing Dan Lekas and Nancy Hendricks who both sat on the boord previously.
Finamore felt that the sooner they have a full board the better and agreed that the appointments should be made that evening. She also suggested Hendricks be one of the choices and she also suggested Greg DePasse.
At one point, Farrell called a point of order from the audience, saying that they should be interviewing the people who applied and who were attending the meeting.
The school’s attorney didn’t feel any rules were being broken with a vote that evening.
With that, Slater abruptly left the meeting before any vote could be taken, saying that an emergency had come up that he needed to address.
This left the board in its current state of just three members and bare minimum needed to reach a quorum.