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Charter candidates in District A

  • Matt Fisk is running for a seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission in District A Matt Fisk—Courtesy Photo

  • Tracey Lesser is running for a seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission in District A Tracey Lesser—Courtesy Photo

  • Tom Croteau is running for a seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission in District A Tom Croteau – Courtesy photo

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    Benton "Chick" Smith is running for a District A seat on the Concord School District Charter Commission. Chick Smith—Courtesy photo

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Published: 10/24/2021 1:00:11 PM

Five candidates are vying to be elected to two District A seats on the Concord School District Charter Commission in November. Tom Croteau, Matthew Fisk, Tracey Lesser, Patrice Myers and Benton “Chick” Smith are all seeking spots on the Commission, which is being assembled to conduct a 10-year review of the school district’s charter. Members of the commission will be able to review, revise or establish a new school district charter, which determines how the district operates.

The two District A members will be elected by voters residing in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 on Election Day, Nov. 2.

Tom Croteau

Occupation: Retired

Connection to the Concord School District: Growing up in Concord, I attended Concord schools and graduated from Concord High School. After attending undergraduate school and spending a few years in other districts as a teacher, I began my time teaching in Concord at Broken Ground School. After nearly twenty years there I became a principal in another district and retired from there after about 12 years. Later, I became a Concord school district board member and spent nine years on that board, finishing just a few years ago. I spent all of that time in and around Concord because this is my home, this is where my family and extended family are and I really like and care about this community.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? I am running for a seat on the Charter Commission to continue to be involved in the Concord School District, but in a different role than I’ve held before. I truly enjoy discussing all of the facets of the educational process and the Charter Commission is another opportunity to look at the Concord School District through a governing lens. The charter addresses the way the board operates and addresses areas like elections, budget, finances, bonding and meeting procedures to mention a few. It is extremely important that the procedures outlined in the charter are understood by, and adhered to, by the board and school administration and that the charter is reviewed at designated times by an independent commission to determine if the charter is still a viable document for the district and to bring any major issues and concerns from the citizens up for discussion.

I will bring fifty plus years of educational experience from being a student myself in this system, teacher, to principal, to parent of three children, to board member. I also bring a tremendous desire to work with other open-minded individuals on this commission. It would be my pleasure to serve on a commission to discuss any and all of these issues.

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? I think the school district budget should be created, as it is currently done, with teachers, principals and SAU administrators, with input from the community. These are the people on the ground floor whose lives revolve around good educational practices and they know what they need to get the job of educating students done. The Concord school board, by charter, is made up of elected officials from all over our city. They are voted into office by and represent all of its constituents. Board members spend many nights from January until late in the winter discussing every component of the district’s budget; all questions are allowed and answered. The board then holds two public meetings especially for budget presentation and public input. It is important for each and every community member to know that they have the right to participate at every step of the way. I believe from my experience, our community and our school board members truly cares about the students, teachers and taxpayers they represent. My experience has shown me that board members and administrators are willing to put in tremendous amounts of time and effort to create and present a responsible budget that truly represents the best interests of our schools, teachers and taxpayers.

Matthew (Matt) Fisk

Occupation: Educator

Connection to the School District: I have two sons both enrolled at Concord High School. My wife and I are also graduates of the Concord School system (I attended Concord schools K-12).

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role?: I have never held elective office before, so I would be new to this commission. I have lived in, and worked in, a few different school systems. I believe the experiences I have had would give me a different perspective when looking at the Concord School District charter. Most importantly, I try to be a good listener and I am passionate about both education and the city in which I was raised. I would love the opportunity to give back.

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?: I believe representatives elected by the citizens of the city should be tasked with determining the school district budget. As a member of the Charter Commission, I would want to make sure that all governing procedures are transparent, and elected officials are held responsible, and responsive, to the people of Concord.

Tracey Lesser

Occupation: Professor of Chemistry and Program Coordinator for Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Agriculture at NHTI

Connection to the School District: As an educator and parent with children in the school district, I understand the specific needs of the Concord Public Schools students. My daughter Frances is a freshman at CHS and my daughter Jane is a second grader at BMS. As a professional educator who has worked in public, private, and higher education settings, I understand the needs of learners. And, as a community member I have a vested interest in making sure the Concord School District continues to produce well-educated, well-adjusted students within an affordable, transparent budget.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? My years in higher education give me first-hand knowledge of the importance of having strong funding of education from early childhood through high school. Well-funded schools lead directly to local industry having a strong, motivated workforce. NH has an aging population and strong schools along with access to higher education and career opportunities help attract people to the state. An independent school board, elected by the voters with equal representation throughout the city has the ability to make sure the needs of the current population of students are being met. It is the duty of the School Board to ensure that all the employees within the SAU are following district policies and state laws, and are acting in an equitable, non-discriminatory manner in every interaction with staff, students, and parents.

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? I believe that the School Board should be a fully independent, elected body that has equal representation throughout the City. In order to equitably and appropriately fund our schools, the elected School Board must be able to set their own budget and adjust the tax rate through an open and transparent process in order to be accountable to those they represent.

Patrice Myers

This candidate has not responded to requests for comment.

Benton (Chick) Smith

Occupation: I was an active-duty officer in the USAF from 1966 to 1972. After leaving active duty and receiving a master’s degree in education from Springfield College, I was hired for a position with the Concord Recreation and Parks Department. I served as a guidance counselor for 9 years at Merrimack Valley High School. I reentered the military in a post with the NH Air National Guard, first as a part-time guardsman and later working in a full-time capacity with the organization. I retired in 2003 as the Assistant Adjutant General (rank of Brig General) for the NHANG. I have been involved in a myriad of volunteer activities in Concord, including the food pantry at St Paul’s Church, I served as an overnight overseer at the homeless shelter at the First Congregational Church. I was a volunteer at Walker School and Rumford School for 10 years, was a CASA volunteer and served as a senior mentor in the Concord Friends program for eight years. I have served on the Board of Directors for the NH Veterans Cemetery Association for over 10 years and have served as an ombudsman for the federal Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program (ESGR). My role in this activity is to mediate issues with reservists and their civilian employers as it relates to their military duty.

Connection to the School District: I have been a resident of Concord since 1973 and my wife Pam and I have been taxpayers for 42 years. My son, Michael, attended Concord schools. From 2004 to 2013 I was the golf coach at Concord High School.

Why are you running for the Commission, and what will you bring to the role? To date, most of my experiences have been at the ground level dealing directly with students and others for the betterment of each. I would like the challenge of dealing with an issue at a more strategic level, thus my interest in being part of the Charter Commission. Overall, I feel the current charter is a high-quality document. However, it is important to examine it and make appropriate changes to meet the needs of the changing times. I would like to opportunity to be part of the group that does that. I see the role of this commission to examine the structure of the Concord School District to provide the best possible educational opportunity for each student while always being concerned with financial implications for the citizens of Concord-not an easy balancing act. I know what I don’t know and am willing to ask pertinent questions and make decisions based on good, sound data.

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? I have a leaning on this issue but I want to listen to both sides of the argument and then make a final determination. I don’t think it is a good idea to come into this process with preconceived ideas as to what is the right way to do it.




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