High school students host BOE candidates forum

NASHUA – The Nashua Board of Education candidates had just over an hour to answer pointed questions and impress the people they would ultimately end up serving if elected:

Nashua students.

Nashua High School South hosted a candidate forum for the Board of

Education Tuesday. Students from North and South in all grade levels and several different classes participated.

Running for four open seats are Raymond Guarino, Burton Janz, Heather Raymond, Jamila Scales, Gloria Timmons, incumbent President George Farrington and incumbents Dorothy ODen and Sandra Ziehm. Former candidate Haley Goodspeed sent an announcement stating that due to the heavy competition, she is withdrawing from the race.

Nashua South student Adyant Shankar acted as moderator, allowing the candidates one minute to introduce themselves, directing student-posed questions for specific candidates, one general question for all and 30 seconds for closing

remarks.

Whether the candidates had served on the board previously, each of them presented a variety of experience and the ability to answer their directed questions clearly – possibly because the questions were developed by students either in Katherine Johnson’s AP government class or Robert Greene’s journalism class, the former group having worked in small groups to compile extensive research on the candidates.

Questions concerned a wide variety of topics, including later high school start times (directed toward Guarino), integrated technology

in the classroom (for Janz)

and transgender bathrooms (for Raymond).

Each candidate also was asked how they would help make sure Nashua schools were ranked higher and were “academically stronger” than they currently are.

The answers ran the gamut, with Guarino focusing on teacher job satisfaction, Raymond mentioning the importance of catering to English language learners and Farrington suggesting making sure students were at the proper levels for reading and math by third grade.

It provided students the opportunity to ask questions about issues they felt mattered, to the people who would be in charge of handling them.

“It showed me there are people looking out for us students, I’m glad they want to be involved,” Lili Senecal, a senior at South and the director of the forum said. “I was oblivious to all this before, so this gives a clearer picture,” she said, adding that she thinks “good things will come” from the forum.

Hannah Dumaine, also a senior and one who will be able to vote in the Nov. 7 election, said the forum allowed her to get a good feel for the candidates and that while some of the answers were perhaps a little vague, she liked Raymond’s points about the ELL students. “We should have asked more about that,” she said.

Candidates lingered after the forum to socialize with the students and talk more in depth about the issues they could not get to within their minute-long answer times.

“It was great to see the kids step up outside of their comfort zones,” Mike McQuilkin, Nashua South social studies head teacher said. “Any time we can do interactive programs with the other (departments) and provide authentic learning experiences” is a good thing, he said.

He added that it was “amazing” how quickly Johnson put the event together, which she did within a matter of weeks.

The timing, Johnson said, could not have been better, as it tied in with the curriculum for her AP government and politics students.

She also lauded it as a great civic engagement opportunity for the kids.

“Engaging with the people who will be the decision makers” was a great way to show them “they can effect change even as non-voters,” she said of the younger students, and added that the students asked the important questions.

“It shows them that at this age and older, you can be a part of it and you can make a difference,” she said.

The candidates seemed to be impressed by the students’

performance.

As Ziehm put it, “This is the third time I’ve sat at one of these (forums), and I’ve been really impressed by the research put into the questions.” She noted that she felt the questions were even better than most of the questions asked by adults.

“That’s why I’m on this board,” she said.

The candidates will sit for another forum, this time open to the public, at 6:30 Thursday night at the Nashua Public Library.