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New MV board member backed district withdrawal study

The newest member of the Merrimack Valley School Board was among those leading a drive earlier this year to explore whether Webster should leave the district.

Karin Page said she still supports a study that would examine a potential breakup of the district, but she said she won’t be involved in promoting it from her post on the board.

On Monday, the school board approved Page, of Webster, to fill the vacancy left by Tom Godfrey’s resignation. Page was the only person to formally express interest in the post, which runs until the district meeting in March. The board voted in favor of appointing her with one abstention, said board Chairman Mark Hutchins.

Page, along with former Webster selectman Mason Donovan, circulated petitions to study Webster’s possible withdrawal from the district, which also includes Loudon, Penacook, Salisbury and Boscawen. Board members don’t anticipate distractions because of the issue.

“We asked Karin a number of questions because we wanted to determine the sincerity of her interest. I think we were comfortable with her answers,” Hutchins said.

One of the questions she fielded asked why someone who considered breaking up the school district would apply to serve it.

“She said she was participating with that petition because you can’t make decisions without having information in hand about what potential options are,” he said. “I wouldn’t blame anyone for exploring what might be available to them outside the school district.”

After closely following the board’s actions for months, Page said she felt informed and wanted to serve.

“When Tom Godfrey stepped down, I was contacted by a couple of people who asked if I was interested. It’s a little sooner than I had anticipated, but because I knew how the meetings had been, I felt I could jump in and really go with it,” she said. Also, her daughter will begin sixth grade at the middle school, so she has a vested interest in Merrimack Valley’s success, she said.

“I know there were some questions about that, and I respect that,” said Page. “I think they’ve gotten to know me enough as a person. I’m excited about it. It’s a great opportunity.”

After the 2014 district meeting, petitions started making the rounds in Webster and Salisbury asking for the school board to create a committee to study “opportunities and liabilities” associated with withdrawal from the district. While its supporters stopped short of saying they supported an exit, they billed the petitions as a way to gather information.

“I definitely do support the petition and the board is aware of that. I’ve always been open with that,” Page said. To avoid a conflict of interest, she said she won’t circulate any petitions.

“There are certainly people collecting signatures and that’s still moving forward, but at this point I need to take a step back on the town level and we can deal with it at the board level if it gets to us,” she said.

The petitions have not been submitted to the board, Donovan said in an email.

“We have decided to gather more information from surrounding schools before submitting the petitions,” he said. “Also, we did not want the town to incur the costs associated with a special town meeting, so it looks like it will go on the warrant for the annual town meeting.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com or on Twitter@iainwilsoncm.)

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