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Concord Elections: School Board


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Editor’s note: Candidates were asked to fill out a questionnaire for inclusion in the Oct. 22 Sunday Monitor. Candidates were asked to answer questions 1-3 with short remarks no longer than a sentence in length. They were asked to keep answers to questions 4 and 5 to fewer than 100 words each. Submissions were edited for print publication, but are published in full at concordmonitor.com.  Their answers are below.

District A

District B represents wards 1, 2, 3, 4 

Tom Croteau


Address: 16 First Street

Age: 64

Occupation: Sheriff Department/Court Security, Retired teacher/school administrator

Family: Wife of 43 years, Pat; 3 children, Sarah, Abby, and Jon; and 5 grandchildren

Public office held: School Board member for 5 year

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building? Based on the information we currently have, I favor building a new middle school for many reasons, not the least of which includes avoiding a 3-4-year disruption to student learning while trying to rebuild an existing structure that is approximately 60 years old, making a new building the most cost effective solution.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord? I support full-day kindergarten because research is clear that most students benefit greatly from the social and academic benefits of being at school all day versus a half day.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts? I truly believe that the use and expenditure of public funds should be transparent and built upon trust. However, the idea of having many months of private negotiations thrust into the public arena could undo that trust and hard work. This is not in anyone’s best interest.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools? Our city’s schools face many issues around achieving high standards, providing equal opportunities to all learners, especially those experiencing special needs, school safety and bullying/harassment as well as providing the very best teachers, buildings and curriculum. What drives all of this is one of the school district’s most important, difficult issues; the balancing act of finding appropriate funding for the very best education for our students while being ever mindful of the need to carefully spend taxpayer money.

Why should voters choose you on election day? My experience and dedication. I have spent the past 40 years in education. In that time, I have taught elementary students and coached high school students. I have continued my learning through graduate school so that I know a tremendous amount about students and how they learn, teachers and how they can become more effective teachers, proper school finance and its effectiveness, and the need to protect the assets we have in our buildings. When I finished my formal career in education as a middle school principal, my desire to stay in the field of education steered me in the direction of the Concord School Board. In my five years on the board, I have attend virtually every meeting, even though I am not on every subcommittee so that I am always informed of the board’s direction. I continue to work in educational arenas as the chairperson of the New Hampshire Partners in Education committee and a member of Concord’s childhood hunger task force and I am looking forward with my work to continue in these areas.

Liza Dube


Address: 49 Bradley Street

Age: 39

Occupation: VP, Communications, Housing Partnership Network

Family: Husband, Dr. Jack Harden; children, Quinn, 7, and Milo, 4

Website: LizaDube.com

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

I support building a new school, but there’s a lot of work to be done before that happens, including demographic and site studies to ensure it’s built in the right location, consultation with the city to ensure we’re planning in line with economic revitalization efforts, and a clearer understanding of how much we’d need to spend to keep the current school a safe place for students during the inevitably long planning and building process in order to have a full view of the true cost for this critical project.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

I absolutely support full day kindergarten in Concord for two key reasons – growing evidence shows early childhood education improves the chances of success for students, and also shows a significant return on investment back to the community as those students become adults, in particular in reduced costs related to crime.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

There’s nearly always room for improvement, and I’d be open to suggestions for greater transparency at appropriate times in future contract processes.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools?

Concord is lucky to have great schools, teachers and administrators. I believe the biggest issues facing our schools come from outside their walls – the current climate of polarization, ongoing discrimination, understanding the school’s role in immigration, and attacks on public education as an institution. It’s critical for our school district to recognize the world our students live in today and will be graduating into tomorrow in order to prepare them not just for future college or careers, but also to be compassionate, informed decision makers in our society.

Why should voters choose you on election day?

I have two boys just entering the school system and understand the challenges parents face today. As an experienced corporate and nonprofit leader, I also have the business acumen to bring measurable, research-driven decision making to the board. In my current role as Vice President, Communications for a national affordable housing nonprofit, I understand the interconnection between where you live, the quality of your school, the connectedness of your community, and your chances for lifelong success. Decisions about our schools impact all of us – our safety, economy, and health. If elected, that’s the perspective I’ll bring to the board.

Danielle Smith


Address: 3 Richmond Drive, Concord

Age: 34

Occupation: Owner of Rosy Hue Photography, LLC

Family: Husband, Justin Smith; son, Houston, 8, daughter Leah, 5

Website: smith4schoolboard.com

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

Based on the information provided by architects at the public hearing, I am currently in favor of building a new school as renovating would be very difficult while school is in session, and many existing systems are already out of code.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

As a former full-day kindergarten teacher, I support full-day kindergarten for its many benefits; early access to academic supports can help children succeed early on in their educational career, and it attracts young families to the community, keeping Concord competitive.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

As we begin any process in the school system, I believe it is extremely important to hold informational meetings to keep the public informed and identify questions and concerns, but I understand that the actual contract negotiations between the board and the unions are not public.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools? One of the most pressing issues the district faces is understanding and adequately supporting children who have experienced trauma. Whether they were born to drug-addicted parents, suffer from homelessness, or are refugees from a war-torn nation, the children in our classrooms need critical support services above and beyond the day-to-day curriculum and our district is called upon to provide them. Trauma impacts students’ ability to learn, but may also contribute to vicarious trauma for teachers and school staff supporting those students every day. This is one of the biggest issues facing the schools, but also one of the best opportunities for whole-community impact; a trauma-informed educational system is part of a larger trauma-informed community.

Why should voters choose you on election day? I have the unique perspective of an educational professional and a small business conservative with an entrepreneurial, creative skill set. My greatest strength is in my ability to listen — and to bring the voices of those who feel unheard to the board.

District B

District B represents wards 5, 6 and 7 

Barb Higgins


Address: 133 Liberty St.

Age: 54

Occupation: Teacher at Parker Academy; Cross country and track coach at Bow High School

Offices held: School Board

Family: Husband Kenny Banzhoff; Daughters Gracie, a junior at CHS, and Molly forever 13 in heaven

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

I do not yet have a firm stand on this issue. There are several proposals covering the aforementioned options. I support using our tax dollars wisely to create the best possible learning environment for our students. As the board continues to research the condition of the current building and the many ways to address improving it I believe we will come up with the best solution.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

I do. Having said that, I want to be sure that we use our citizen’s tax dollars wisely. Full-day kindergarten is more than a yes/no issue. Putting together a quality program in a fiscally responsible way will take meticulous care. Taking the time to do it well is just as important as doing it.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

I do not feel that the public should be able to weigh in on decisions regarding labor contracts. First of foremost we are an autonomous board. We are elected to make these decisions for those who recognize. You must know by covering other cities that school districts can spend months negotiating contracts to have it all unraveled when the public says no. This does not mean the public’s voice is not valid. We offer the citizens of Concord ample opportunity to weigh in on the decisions that we make. Sadly, most of our meetings happen in an empty boardroom. The contracts come before the finance committee and I believe the public have a chance to view these documents before they are voted upon. I very much value your feelings and opinions of the members of our community. I think it is one of my best assets as a board member. It really is not about me. Having said that, I do feel that the hard work and back-and-forth that goes into labor negotiations is best left to those at the table.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools? Honestly I do not think there is one “biggest issue” facing our city’s schools. Each school has its own unique challenges. I have been amazed in my six years on the board how many things we work on, hard work, that never mention the word student. A former board member once said to me that being a board member was like running an $80 million dollar business. He is right. We spend hours discussing policy, maintenance, curriculum, insurance, legal issues, city issues, etc. My time on the board has been like a college course in law, business, social work, and policy writing. If I had to choose one thing that is a struggle in every building, I would say special education. Each school community in Concord works hard to meet the needs of our most tender students. A great deal of our budget goes into special education. I know that as a board we want to look into how we can improve our services and make sure we are being cost effective in how we meet the needs of our students.

Why should voters choose you on election day?

First and foremost voters should choose me because they feel I represent them and their thoughts and beliefs. They should vote for me because they feel that I will remember them during meetings. Next I would say that I have six years of board experience. During that time I have consistently looked out for the needs of both the students and the taxpayers. With the upcoming work on full-day kindergarten, my 21 years of teaching experience in the Concord School District will be very helpful. I currently teach in a private special education day school here in Concord. As we look into our own special education programs, my 15 years of teaching special education at Walker School, as well as my current job, will prove helpful in our work. I have children in the district. I am invested on many levels. We have several terrific candidates from which to choose. Voters should choose me because they feel I will represent them on the board.

Liza Poinier


Address: 6 Morton Street

Age: 48

Occupation: publicity manager at Concord Community Music School (part-time)

Family: Bruce Clendenning, spouse; children, Audrey, 7, and Elliot, 9

Website: www.facebook.com/liza.p.for.school.board/

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

We’re still at the very beginning of considering various options; I’m intrigued by the possibilities for a new facility that would make it easier for kids to learn and teachers to teach, as well as serving the whole community.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

Yes. Full-day kindergarten is a great investment for the community, and it’s one way to ensure that every young student has an equal chance at a good start.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

As an independent school district, Concord has done very well for its schools and residents; the current procedure — labor contract information being made available for public comment once the negotiations are complete — seems appropriate.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools?

Every school issue fits into the overarching goal of the school board, which is to ensure that every student, from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as special needs students to age 21, has equal access to a quality educational experience that gets them ready to face the world.

Why should voters choose you on election day?

I plan to work with the board and staff to establish better communications channels, and improve the flow of information between the school board and the residents of Concord. I’ll attend board meetings and committee meetings, listen well, learn as much as I can, and work hard to make good decisions for the community. Outstanding schools are good for our society and our economy, and I want to be a part of constantly maintaining and improving Concord’s educational system for the benefit of all.

District C

District C represents Wards 8, 9 and 10

Rusty Cofrin


Address: 3 Groton Drive

Age: 59

Occupation: Retired mathematics teacher, cross country and track and field coach

Offices held: Three-year term on the Concord School Board, 2014-2016

Personal: Married for 37 years, a parent of 3 young adults ages 31, 30, and 28. All of which attended school in the district as students in elementary, middle school and high school. I am a 10-year cancer survivor.

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

I believe we should build a new school for grades 6-8.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

I do support FDK, but I do not support the funding of this if it means increasing property taxes.

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

Currently, RSA 91-A:2, mandates this information and any meetings are closed to the public.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city’s schools?

The biggest issue for any school board is their budget and keeping the tax rate under control, this will include funding FDK and Rundlett Middle School. The budget touches on every issue facing the school district, from state testing, sports, contract negotiations, facilities, school calendars and student and teacher rights.

I truly believe that experience counts when being elected to the school board. Having already served three years on the board, I’ve been through budget negotiations, converting schools from steam to gas heat, formulating plans for Rundlett Middle School and hiring new administrations. There are several important issues currently facing the district and I have been a part of the committees that studied and worked on solutions such as how to move forward with Rundlett Middle School, the possibility of full day kindergarten, and keeping an eye on the effect our decisions have on our local taxes.

Chuck Crush


Address: 22 North Curtisville Road

Age: 53

Occupation: Executive Director the Birches at Concord

Family: Wife, Amy; stepson, Joshua; stepdaughter, Ally; Son Matt resides in Alexandria, Va.

Do you favor a complete renovation of Rundlett, building a new school, or trying to get as much life as possible out of the old building?

I have served on the Rundlett visioning task force for about a year and I have a good understanding of the options. Rundlett has some challenges in the upcoming years as the building is approximately 60 years old. In the past few years, the building has required a major resource investment such as the new HVAC system.  The classroom sizes do not meet present minimum standards and the layout is not conducive to current safety and educational requirements.  We need to plan for a new middle school and we are in the infancy of this process. We need demographic studies regarding enrollment trends both present and future. We need to look at other land/site options and hold public hearings. More information is needed in order to make a sound decision.  My pledge is to listen to the citizens of Concord and make a well thought out educational and economic decision.

Do you support full day kindergarten in Concord?

Yes, I support full-day kindergarten in Concord. The educational benefits are numerous. According the National Education Association, reading and math scores are higher for those students in full-day kindergarten. Full-day kindergarten also allows teachers more time to get to know students and learning styles. Another benefit of full-day kindergarten is economic growth as Concord will be a more attractive place to live and work. In 2019, the state is increasing funding for full-day kindergarten, which will make it cost-effective for our taxpayers.   

Should the school board give the public information or hold a public hearing before approving labor contracts?

No, this should not be the process. Holding public hearings would go against the process of two parties who negotiate in good faith and agree on common ground. The school board is representative of the public and reflects the values of the community.

What's the biggest issue facing the city's schools?

I cannot say one single issue is bigger than another. We have some upcoming decisions such as full-day kindergarten implementation and the Rundlett Middle School project that are focus issues. We also have to make decisions regarding supporting our new Americans, our LGBTQ students, our students who experience disabilities and career path education. I will work to make sure all decisions and issues receive the same attention because each is vital to who we are as a community.

Why should voters choose you on election day?

Voters should choose me on election day for several reasons. I bring 20 years of healthcare leadership experience to the role.  My career is one in which I deliver healthcare to seniors in a quality cost effective manner. All organizations and families must live on a budget to survive and thrive. The school system must do so as well. As a school board member, I will make sure we have innovative quality education that is fiscally responsible. The second reason I am the best candidate to represent Concord District C (Wards 8, 9 and 10) is my passion for the Concord School District. My stepchildren tragically lost their father as a result of service to his country when they were both very young. Josh was six years old when his father passed away and the drama program served as one of his main sources of healing. He is still involved in the drama program at Concord High School, and it is his passion. Ally was a little over one year old when her dad passed away. Ally experiences Angelman syndrome, which creates many challenges for her, but she spends the day learning and having fun with her friends in her classroom.  Both Josh and Ally have benefited from innovative teaching and academic diversity.  My commitment is to ensure that we have a school system that fosters innovative education for all students.