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Two newcomers challenge Croteau for District A school board seat

  • From Left to right: Tom Croteau, Liza Dube, Danielle Smith, Barb Higgins, Liza Poinier, Rusty Cofrin, and Chuck Crush. Jonathan Van Fleet



Monitor staff
Monday, October 30, 2017

In wards 1, 2, 3 and 4, Concord voters choosing a school board member to represent District A will have their pick between a veteran of the board and two fresh faces.

Tom Croteau, the incumbent and the school board’s secretary, hopes voters will stick with him because of his experience.

A former teacher and principal, Croteau, 64, said he’d first run for school board partly because he wanted to stay involved with schools after retirement. He was principal at Winnisquam Regional Middle in Tilton and retired in 2009.

“Education is my thing. Education is my passion,” he said. On the board for five years, Croteau said he’d been a highly invested member, unafraid to participate in multiple subcommittees.

That involvement has given him a deep, granular understanding of the district, he said, and made him a more efficient member of the board.

“I can answer questions quicker, make decisions quicker. I know the history of why things are done and how they work and what may need attention in the future,” Croteau said.

Neither of Croteau’s challengers have pointed criticisms to make of the board or the district. Both Liza Dube and Danielle Smith instead said they’d long wanted to get more involved and believed they had an useful perspective to offer.

“I’m not running because I see problems in Concord schools, but promise,” Dube said during a candidates’ forum organized by the Monitor last week.

Dube, 39, a communications vice-president at the Housing Partnership Network and a former executive at Stonyfield, thinks she could help create better bridges between the business community and the city’s schools.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to think about career readiness in a more expansive way,” she said. The board should and must concern itself with policy and budgets, she said, but also “(look) at the world that our kids are living in and (push) the envelope.”

Dube said she got involved in civic life in high school in Merrimack, when several members of the local school board tried to ban gay teachers and install daily prayers. The board’s actions were a “boiling point of controversy” in town, she said, and taught her that local seats “are really important to the community and how our world gets shaped.”

Dube has a second-grader in the district and a preschooler headed to kindergarten next year.

Smith brings to the table multiple perspectives: those of a former education – she taught kindergarten – and a business owner – she owns Rosy Hue Photography, a photography studio in downtown Concord. Like Dube, she’s also a parent in the district.

She first got involved with the board last year, while advocating for full-day kindergarten.

“Kindergarten is definitely high on my priority list,” she said.

Smith said she’d been thinking about how to get more involved in the community and the experience gave her the idea of running for school board.

Her experience, in particular, had given her a perspective into the needs of children and teachers. She highlighted the trauma teachers are increasingly asked to contend with in an elections questionnaire for the Monitor.

“When I was teaching kindergarten I had a child that was homeless, that had been in and out of shelters,” she said an interview. “We were wondering why he couldn’t sit still in a classroom.”

Like Smith, the other two candidates also said they planned to vote to implement full-day kindergarten next year. Croteau, who voted against it last year, said the district just wasn’t ready yet at that time, and was dealing with the unexpected cost of converting to gas heat after Concord Steam’s unexpected closure. Dube has also said she thinks the district ought to be thinking about universal preschool.

All three also favor building a new school to replace the aging Rundlett Middle.

The election is Nov. 7. The District A term runs through 2020.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)