Commission finalizes list of changes to Concord School District’s charter

Monitor staff
Published: 7/4/2022 11:09:02 AM
Modified: 7/4/2022 11:06:24 AM

Concord voters will be weighing in on changes to their school district’s charter in the polls this fall, as the state has found “no objection” to the Concord School District Charter Commission’s final list of proposed amendments.

The Charter Commission, a nine-member body elected last November to review and recommend changes to the School District’s charter document, submitted a final report to the state in late June with their proposed changes. The Attorney General’s office found “no objection” with the final draft according to a June 20 letter, which Charter Commission president Betty Hoadley said Thursday is an indication that they will soon be officially approved. The proposed changes will go before Concord voters as ballot questions on Election Day.

On Friday, Charter Commissioners met with district officials to discuss the transition of responsibility for the Charter document, as the Commission prepares to disband after the work is completed.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for the Commission members. We’re delighted to pass on the torch to the District, but probably a little sad that were not seeing each other anymore,” Hoadley said Thursday.

One of the five proposed changes would authorize Concord School Board members to set their own stipend. While currently, school board members are paid the same amount as Concord city councilors – $1,000 per year – the amendment would allow the school board to establish the amount themselves. The idea is to acknowledge the school board’s independence from City Council and to give members the flexibility to increase the stipend to make serving accessible for more people. The charter would require the stipend to be set before Election Day, in an effort to curb any misuse of power.

“It would be a very unwise school board to put out a stipend that is outrageous, because they know the three people who will be elected will be out, and more people will be elected,” Hoadley explained.

Another proposed change clarifies that when a school board member moves out of their school voting zone they immediately forfeit their seat, which will be filled by a board appointee until the next Election Day. The Charter Commission had originally tried to propose that members who move can remain in office until the end of the year, but the state Attorney General’s Office nixed that suggestion during the draft review process, saying it’s not supported by state law.

The state shut down several other Charter Commission ideas, including a proposal to require school board candidates to disclose their campaign finances, which the Attorney General’s Office said is a rule school districts aren’t authorized to make. It was an issue that the Charter Commissioners found important, and Hoadley said their advocacy around a financial reporting policy isn’t over yet.

“Statewide, we’ve seen evidence of people who are in the mode to dismantle public education or to influence it in a way that is unusual,” Hoadley said. “We were trying to make a requirement for local school board to set up rules for financial disclosure, and it was turned down. There’s going to be a lot of discussion between the interest of the Commission that was thwarted and what we hope will be the continuing interest in the process by the Concord School Board.”

Additionally, the state nixed the Commission’s proposal to have the Concord School Board appoint its own clerk and treasurer instead of having the positions elected by voters, but the state Attorney General’s Office shut down that suggestion during the draft review process. While Commissioners had argued that Concord is exempt from RSA 671:6, a state law requiring clerk and treasurer to be elected, the state disagreed, saying that while the district is unique in many ways, it’s not unique enough to be exempt from that law.

Commissioners have since changed their charter amendment to reflect that the clerk and treasurer will be elected “in accordance with state law,” but included a passage saying that if the state law changes in the future, Concord should return to appointing those positions.

The final report also includes an amendment to delete any obsolete wording or references from the 2011 charter document, and an amendment to clarify the process of amending the charter in the future. With the amendment, school board members will need a 3/5 majority to amend the charter and at least 6 members to establish a Charter Commission, and citizens wanting to amend the charter will need least 20% of registered voters – but no fewer than 10 people – to establish a Charter Commission.


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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