Student election fuels Nashua school feud

Hohensee

NASHUA – The process of electing two new student representatives to the Nashua Board of Education is fueling a feud between Superintendent Jahmal Mosley and board member Doris Hohensee.

“Ms. Hohensee, we are here to stay and you will not deter us or bring chaos to this school system anymore,” Mosley stated to Hohensee via a Jan. 16 email.

This part of a response in which Hohensee had requested to see “a copy of the election results, specifically the total number of votes cast by students at each high school and the number of votes cast for each candidate on the respective ballots at Nashua High North and Nashua High South, including any write-in votes.”

New Hampshire, known nationally for its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, indeed now appears to have a case featuring allegations of intimidation and other irregularities in an election involving high school students.

The new calendar year brought along two new student representatives to Nashua’s Board of Education: Jamila-Ashanti Scales, who serves as a representative for Nashua High School North, and George Eid, who serves as a representative for Nashua High School South.

Mosley

On Jan. 6, the day before the board’s 2019 organizational meeting, Hohensee emailed Mosley to request information on the election process. Hohensee said a parent complained about irregularities in the election, including allegations that the election was not properly publicized and that the school’s intercom system was not fully functioning.

Two days later, another parent emailed Mosley and board members, alleging she was informed there was a statement made during the elections to the effect of, if students did not vote for a certain candidate, they would be labeled as racists.

The parent stated in her email that she was annoyed at this.

“I am aware that many students and adults are very ignorant to what racism actually is and what it looks like in their own behavior and thought processes,” the parent stated.

In the Jan. 6 email to Mosley, Hohensee asked for a copy of the procedures established by the student governments of each high school for students to serve as board members, a copy of the ballots used during this year’s elections at the high schools and a copy of the results.

“In recent years, complaints were made when student representatives to the board were inappropriately appointed by the student council — without benefit of election procedures or student elections — as required by state law,” Hohensee stated in her email to Mosley.

She said it is important to ensure transparent and fair elections for students. In response, Mosley asked her for clarification, whether she was making a Right to Know request or suggesting to add another agenda item the board’s Jan. 7 meeting.

Hohensee then issued a Right to Know request via email to obtain the information on Jan. 7. On Jan. 15, she reissued her request via email, stating that it had been seven business days since she filed her request.

“If necessary, I will petition the appropriate court of jurisdiction for a Writ of Mandamus to obtain this information,” Hohensee stated via email.

On Jan.16, Mosley responded to each of Hohensee’s points in her email. He sent an attachment of procedural information, a copy of the ballots used during the election — and he stated the student representatives who she met at the Jan. 7 BOE organizational meeting are in office because of the election.

In the same email, Mosley also stated, “Ms. Hohensee, what you are doing under the cloak of Right to Know implicitly/crudely attacks the credibility of the current student representatives, school administrators, student government participants, and student advisors. Attacking our students’ desire to serve, to share their thoughts willingly, and by undermining high school children willing to put themselves out there to represent their fellow students is unconscionable. In essence, you have now weaponized the Right to Know law against children. This is where I as superintendent say, ‘NO MORE!'”

Mosley added, “There is no credible evidence to indicate any impropriety occurred; furthermore, it is inappropriate for a BOE member, to attempt to micromanage or influence school-based student elections,” and “the student senators in our high schools, their advisors and school administrators have done an excellent job working with our students and keeping them focused while facilitating a school-based election. If there was election impropriety, I am confident Principal Nate Burns and Principal Keith Richard would have investigated and addressed it because that is their responsibility. If anyone contacted you with credible information about the election, please supply me with the full name of the complainant and contact information and we will investigate the matter.”

He also asked Hohensee to share with him the name of the individual who informed her of the statement made that not voting for a particular candidate would be racist. Mosley stated the school district needs to investigate Hohensee’s claims. In her email response dated Jan. 17, Hohensee said she would not share the names of parents “who confidentially reached out to (her) in frustration after this election.”

In the same email, she added, “This was clearly not an open and transparent election. Procedures would be useful to prevent instances such as when a student is denied a ballot, when ballots contain the wrong name, when teachers lobby students in the classroom, when students are not given the numeric voting results, etc.”

In response to Hohensee’s email, on Jan. 18 Mosley sent the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of frustration, stating the anonymous parents’ claim: “by voting for a certain student candidate it would be considered racist” should not be classified as frustration.

Mosley added, “Again, I want to be clear, an adult, your anonymous parent, made a horrible and offensive statement against a Nashua high school child. This is not frustration. It was wrong and has no place here in the Nashua Public Schools. Your anonymous parent(s), who made the insensitive racial comment/accusation, injected race into our high school student government arena, which is so vile on a multitude of levels. Your anonymous parent(s) made an abhorrent conclusion about an election without any viable evidence.”

Grace Pecci may be contacted at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.