Nashua student tells BOE to get in order

Adam Urquhart

NASHUA – “It’s time for the board to change. I hope to see a different side of the board next year.”

Nashua High School South senior Hailey Sweeney, who serves as her school’s representative on the Nashua Board of Education, made these comments during the lengthy and muddled Monday meeting.

“I would like to remind the board that they are elected by their constituents. We all want to see our students succeed,” Sweeney added.

The Argument

Monday, Board member Elizabeth Van Twuyver told colleagues she was glad she wasn’t running for re-election after expressing frustration of not being able to bring items to the agenda. The rules of bringing new matters to the board seems to be confusion among board members.

Board member Howard Coffman alleges he has also tried to bring up items to board President Dotty Oden to be put on the agenda, but has been denied time and time again.

Van Twuyver, who also said she had brought up items in the past that were never addressed, asked why some members have to abide by the rules, while others don’t. She also said she believes she has not been treated fairly.

Oden and multiple other board members including, Heather Raymond and Raymond Guarino, expressed the opposite view.

Oden said about two months ago, a board member (whom she did not name) requested to add 12 new items to the agenda. Oden said voting on these items by roll call would place a burden on board members.

“After that, I received a request for 14 items to be added to the agenda. I sent the person an email saying what each one should fall in for committee assignments… that’s where the discussion should go,” Oden said.

Raymond said adding new business violates the Right to Know law and leaves the board unprepared, which she said was not efficient.

“The public is not here to watch theatrics. We need to be calm, clear, concise and efficient and that means doing the work for the school district – not for a personal agenda,” Raymond added.

Guarino told Coffman the way to communicate is to call him or email him.

Board member Doris Hohensee asked what alternative a member has when he or she has been censored.

Guarino responded that no member is censored.

“Count how many times board members speak,” Guarino said. “Count how much time they have on the floor. No one is censored.”

Board members were unable to finish the argument in the time left for public session.

Other Matters

Sweeney presented research and urged the board to consider eliminating class rank.

“I’ve witnessed top students become fixated on class rank,” Sweeney said. “We see students doing whatever they can do to get to the top of their classes. Students receive a grade in the course but that does not reflect learning. I’ve discovered that schools across the state have been seeing similar issues.”

Sweeney argued that class rank does nothing to enhance the worth of students – that it, in fact, encourages them to avoid classes in art and music for fear of a lower GPA with classes that are not weighted as heavily. Sweeney said she called some of the top schools around the country and found that overall, class rank does not play an influence in selecting applications.

Locally, Sweeney said, “Schools around us have moved away from the traditional ranking system after realizing ranking hurts, not helps.”

Student representative for Nashua High School North senior Patrick Gillis, who represents his school on the board, said he wasn’t sure if the competitiveness comes out of class rank or stems from parental pressure.

Raymond asked for Sweeney’s research so officials could look into it further.

Sweeney and Gillis were also honored, as it was their final board meeting. Board members and Superintendent Jahmal Mosley took turns acknowledging them.

Board members also discussed several changes in schools throughout the district. Last month, Mosley notified the board that Ledge Street Elementary School was ranked in the lowest 5 percent of Title 1 schools across the state and was recognized as a Comprehensive Support and Improvement School. Five more elementary schools were recognized for needing additional targeted support. Those schools are Amherst Street Elementary School, Birch Hill Elementary School, Broad Street Elementary School, Main Dunstable Elementary School and Mount Pleasant Elementary School.

Mosley said he will develop some strategies to make sure they take a closer look at the identified problem areas.

In other business, board member Gloria Timmons received recognition from Gov. Chris Sununu for her commitment to her community.