School Board Votes in New Members and Then Adjourns

By Jerome Reuter and Chris Paul

To say that the COVID 19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on the Londonderry School Board can be easily seen as an understatement, considering what has happened over the recent summer months.
Last week the saga continued when the Tuesday, Sept. 21, meeting abruptly ended after a vote was taken to appoint two new members to fill the vacant seats left by Jenn Ganem and Michael Saucier.
Before the vote, chair Amy Finamore made a few announcements.
She started by saying that the board needed to get back to managing the school districts without the distractions brought on by COVID-19.
Finamore said, “It is time to get back to the business of the School Board, and insuring that we meet the needs of our students, staff members and our teachers.”
She added that the disruptions they have been experiences in past meetings will no longer be tolerated.
Finamore also said that although the public can attend meetings they have no right to speak outside of public comment and if people attending the meeting are disruptive they will be escorted out after having one warning.
A previous meeting, held on Sept. 13, featured five applicants interviewed by the three members of the board, on their own personal experience and how they would react to various hypothetical situations. While the board was advised on appointing replacements as quickly as possible, the first order of business during the next meeting would be a discussion of which candidates were most qualified.
At last week’s meeting Finamore motioned to appoint Nancy Hendricks and Greg DePasse to the vacant School Board seats. Both will hold the positions until March of 2022.
However, not everyone was happy with this decision. Board member Bob Slater immediately voiced his discontent on the matter arguing that the district had received a letter from the residents asking that a special meeting be held in order to make a fair and balanced decision regarding new members.
The board had previously discussed this course of action, and Slater pushed for a citizen’s petition to be voted upon. This would confirm a special meeting to take place.
Slaters request was quickly dismissed by the two other members and the crowd in attendance didn’t hold back the anger they shared with Slater as the rest of the board appointed the new members in a motion that carried 2-1.
After the vote, the board welcomed the new members and recessed from the room.
After a lengthy break, the meeting resumed with the two new members being sworn in and then after a number of citizens voiced their concerns from the audience, shutting things down briefly.
The school’s attorney, Gordon Graham tried to explain the process, but with too many disruptions from the public the meeting was quickly adjurned.
After the meeting, Slater described this action as “throwing gas on the fire” in relation to the crowd angrily voicing their outrage.
“It’s unethical” Slater stated. “We work for the community, the superintendent works for the school board, we have to show the community that we’re doing things in the right manner. I was stunned…I would have never dreamed that they would shut me out…I wished the process that we discussed the week before happened.” While Slater is unhappy with the outcome of recent events, he insists that this will not affect the school board functioning as a cohesive unit. “Everyone deserves to have a voice, whether we agree or disagree.”
Finamore explained her selection process and what determined the final decision. “All of the candidates gave very good interviews; I was impressed with all of them. I made the motion to elect Nancy and Greg. These were two applicants who had schoolboard experience This is what I wanted in someone who would be coming in to serve an interim role. “
The appointing of new board members wasn’t the only topic addressed. While Finamore expressed her gratitude to many parents for being involved with the school district, she was also very adamant that the board would be stricter in enforcing rules of decorum.
Finamore referenced RSA 91A, which sites the public’s access to discussions, actions, and records of all public bodies and their accountability.
While this grants access to the public, Finamore also cited its guidelines regarding public behavior. “It specifically states that the public do not have the right to disrupt meetings”
While Finamore was very open about the need to conduct business in a safe and welcoming environment, she also reiterated that the school board is a collective body of people, each of whom have their own individual viewpoints and objectives for Londonderry. “No single member speaks for the entire board…I’m looking to resuming productive board meetings and making sure that we’re serving the district.”
The Londonderry School District will conduct a public hearing on the acceptance of the Federal ESSER III Grant funds at their next meeting. The School District is scheduled to receive $1,564,487.94 to defray the costs associated with the COVID pandemic. Such funds shall be received under RSA198:20-b, appropriations for Unanticipated Funds. It will take place at the Londonderry High School on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

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