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Meet the at-large candidates for the Concord Charter Commission

  • Bill Ardinger is running for an at-large seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission. Bill Ardinger – Courtesy photo

  • Clinton Cogswell is running for an at-large seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission. Clinton Cogswell—Courtesy photo

  • Betty Hoadley is running for an at-large seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission. Betty Hoadley—Courtesy photo

  • Roy Schweiker is running for a seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission as an at-large candidate. Roy Schweiker—Courtesy photo

  • Robert Washburn is running for a seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission as an at-large candidate. Robert Washburn—Courtesy photo

Monitor staff
Published: 10/23/2021 4:45:13 PM

When Concord voters go to the polls on Election Day Nov. 2, they will be selecting candidates for the Concord School District Charter Commission, a nine-member body that is convening for the first time in 10 years to review the school district’s charter.

Concord’s first School District Charter Commission was established by the state legislature in 2009, and when it met in 2011 it recommended to give Concord voters control over changing the charter, the district’s governing document, which had previously been controlled by the legislature. The measure was approved by voters. Concord School District is already uniquely independent in that its final school budget is approved by the School Board alone, with no outside approval from the mayor, City Council or a city-wide vote at the polls.

Commission members will begin work after the November elections to review the school district charter and revise or establish a new charter or leave the old one as it is. They are expected to issue a preliminary report with its recommendations by April 2022 and a final report by June 2022 at the latest. The recommendations outlined in the report will be put to a vote by residents in the November 2022 regular election.

The Commission will consist of two members from District A (Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4), two members from District B (Wards 5, 6 and 7), two members from District C (Wards 8, 9 and 10) and three at-large members who represent the whole city. There are currently 14 candidates running.

Here are the five candidates vying to be elected to the three at-large seats: William Ardinger, Clinton Cogswell, Elizabeth “Betty” Hoadley, Roy Schweiker and Robert Washburn.

Bill Ardinger

Occupation: I am an attorney who helps businesses and non-profits with various legal issues.

Connection to Concord School District: My wife and I have lived in Concord since 1989, and we raised our three children here. They all attended the Concord public schools. Ten years ago I was elected to serve on the last School District Charter Commission. That Commission recommended that control of our charter should be transferred from the State Legislature to Concord voters. Concord voters overwhelmingly approved this local control charter. Also, my wife was elected to the Concord School Board three times and served as chairperson when the school district built the three new elementary schools.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? I am running for this 2021 Charter Commission because I care deeply about our Concord public schools. Our public schools are our most important community assets. They bring together all Concord families in the common enterprise of helping our children learn the skills to enjoy happy and productive lives. All Concord citizens benefit from having excellent public schools. Indeed, it is proven that good public schools translate into stronger home values and healthier communities, just like having a good police or fire department, good roads and utilities, and a vibrant downtown. I believe that the best way to ensure strong public schools is to establish a simple and clear charter that authorizes Concord voters to elect an independent School Board that can make informed decisions about our schools and be accountable to voters. My service on the last Charter Commission and my long experience as an attorney will provide me with the experience necessary to contribute to this important review of our charter. My family has benefited greatly by being part of this community, and I would consider it an honor to give back to it by serving on the Charter Commission.

Do you think Concord voters should have a direct say over the school district budget, or elect representatives to the school board to decide overall school spending? Currently, Concord voters have a say in all school district matters, including budget issues, when they vote to elect members to the Concord School Board and through public testimony given at budget hearings. The job of elected School Board members is to become very knowledgeable about the detailed needs of our schools. These elected members balance critical school needs with the impact on local taxpayers, and then they vote in public to approve a final budget for our schools. I believe that this current process of electing knowledgeable school board members to approve budgets is a very good, very public, and very effective way to run our School District finances. And all school board members are directly accountable to Concord voters at School Board elections. I believe that the best way to ensure good, high quality public schools is to establish a simple and clear charter that continues to authorize Concord voters to elect an independent School Board that can make informed decisions about our schools.

Clinton Cogswell

Occupation: Retired Concord school principal.

Connection to the District: I worked as a school principal in Concord for 27 years. I served on Concord School Board for 10 years, four years as president. My three children and one grandson had a wonderful educational experience in Concord.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? I served on the first Charter Commission. Developed our first charter that was approved by a vote of Concord residents. Before Concord schools had this charter, our charter was controlled be the New Hampshire Legislature.

Do you think Concord voters should have a direct say over the school district budget, or elect representatives to the school board to decide overall school spending? As a School Board member we spent many months working on preparing the budget. The City Council follows a similar procedure. I think the process works well for our community and would not like to see it change.

Elizabeth (Betty) Hoadley

Occupation: I have worked for a national intelligence agency and a large Boston insurance company. I am retired now, from 26 years of teaching in Concord at Walker School, Kimball School, Rundlett Jr. High School and Concord High School.

Connection to the District: I am a graduate of Concord High, a former teacher in the district, and I served 15 years on the School Board. Four generations of my family have taught or are teaching in this district.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? I was elected to the Concord School District’s Charter Commission when it convened in 2011 and served as chairperson. Surely, my experience in that inaugural commission should be of help when this new commission starts its work. My connections with the operation of our public schools gives me further experience which should be of value.

Do you think Concord voters should have a direct say over the school district budget, or elect representatives to the school board to decide overall school spending? It doesn’t matter how I feel about the voters having a “say” over district spending. What matters is how the Commission as a whole reacts to any such suggested amendment to the charter and if it decides to put that amendment to Concord voters in November 2022. Commissioners should listen carefully to public testimony, ferret out the facts in the proposed amendments and rationally decide which amendments should go to next year’s public vote.

Roy Schweiker

Occupation: Retired.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? When I filed on the next-to-last day, there was a shortage of candidates, and I thought people should have a non-lawyer choice. There are two things I think should appear on the charter ballot whether I am elected or not.

The Concord City Council misuses Tax Increment Financing Districts to permanently divert property taxes from schools to their dubious economic development projects that would never be funded from regular property taxes, such as million-dollar giveaways to wealthy developers and subsidizing downtown parking although about half of users are from out of town. The downtown TIF district was created to support the Sears Block redevelopment, long completed and now redeveloped again as the Hotel Concord, but still diverts roughly $515,000 annually from Concord schools. RSA 162K:9 requires the city to notify a school district of proposed TIF projects. We need a school charter amendment that the School Board not respond to the notice until the school district completes a financial impact analysis and a school district public hearing is held.

The District should dispose of excess real estate only through either competitive bidding or an open process in which all proposals are made public, to prevent abuses like the DES building. This should be in the charter.

Do you think Concord voters should have a direct say over the school district budget, or elect representatives to the school board to decide overall school spending? Only a tiny fraction of eligible voters bother to vote in School Board elections, often members of special-interest groups. There is little value to having a separate spending board elected by the same voters who elect the regular (allegedly-spendthrift?) board. A tax cap can be overridden. If a majority of people in the city really think the School Board spends too much, they should take time to vote in School Board elections.

Robert C. Washburn

Occupation: Certified Public Accountant with tax practice.

Connection to the District: In 1971, my wife Ranee and I escaped LA in search of a fit place to have and raise a family. We found it in Concord. Our two children Heather and Robb, now adults, went through the Concord school system. Concord remains a great place to have and raise a family. I have served on the City Council as a Ward 4 councilor and an at-large councilor. In addition, I was elected to serve as a member of the City Charter Commission. Policy issues are the sole domain of the School Board, if you have a policy issue you need to elect school board members who will be attentive to your views. The Charter Commission will make changes as necessary that will encourage good governance.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? I am running for the Concord School District Charter Commission with the hope of having a conversation with fellow Commission members to amend the charter to have all school board members elected in off-year elections, the same way city councilors are elected. We are already experiencing media ads for the 2022 general elections and there is no way a School Board candidate can get their message through to the voters during a general election media blitz. In addition, general elections are major partisan events and off-year elections are supposed to be non-partisan events. I think non-partisan elections are better for school board candidates. I would not support any amendment that would limit or modify the policy making authority of the School Board that is defined in Article 9 of the charter.

Do you think Concord voters should have a direct say over the school district budget, or elect representatives to the school board to decide overall school spending? Having the voters have a vote on the adoption on the district budget is a novel idea of accountability in which the powers that be who govern the school board would never allow the question to be put on the ballot. In the 1960s, Penacook residents had a choice to merge with the Concord School District or form their own district. The feeling was that Concord would treat the Penacook children like the proverbial red-haired step-child, and they opted to create the Merrimack Valley School District. Every spring, the MVSD presents to the voters an operating budget and, when necessary, a capital improvement budget and salary increases and the voters vote it up or down. And it works.

The Concord School District is the only totally autonomous district in New Hampshire. As a consequence, with the decrease in school-age children lasting decades, it was decided to build three new grade schools we didn’t need, one of which either by design or construction was in need of immediate major repair. Would voters have approved the construction? I doubt it. Plans are now in the works that may shift fifth graders to the middle school to accommodate taxpayer funded daycare (pre-K). Given the choice, would voters approve such a plan? Not likely. Having democracy come to the district is but a dream that will never happen charter-wise. The best we can hope for is to elect responsible school board members for a change.


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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