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Concord voters face three contested races for school board, four contested city races

Monitor staff
Published: 9/17/2019 6:10:04 PM

Incumbent Pam Wicks, who is running for one of three contested seats on the Concord School Board, said she thinks the board has been as transparent as it can be, given the circumstances.

“I feel like we’ve been really transparent – as transparent as you possibly can be,” she said. “We televise all our meetings, we moved meetings from the district office to Mill Brook School twice to accommodate more people. We do care about what people have to say, even when it’s hard.”

But two challengers for those seats say the board could have done a lot better following the arrest of Howie Leung, a former Concord High School special education teacher who has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a former student in Concord and at an out of state boarding school. The school board reviewed and revised several of its policies surrounding sexual harassment and student-teacher boundaries over the summer and hired an independent investigator to review how the district responded to reports against Leung in 2014 and 2018.

Many parents asked the board to give more information to the community and acknowledge past mistakes.

“I don’t think they were particularly welcoming to criticism. I don’t think they did a good job of making people feel like they had a healthy avenue for grievances,” said David Parker, who is running in District B. “Although they said differently, I think many people felt belittled because we were trying to ask questions about why decisions were made the way they were.”

Parker has been outspoken at recent school board meetings, along with Gina Cannon, who is Wicks’s opponent in District C.

“I do think the administration and the board should have made things significantly more clear in why they were limited on what they could say,” Cannon said Tuesday. “I think that would have made a lot of the parents more comfortable.”

“There are some fundamental things that need to be changed and if the people who are on the board cannot clearly see the need for some of these changes, then we need to have people on the school board who do and will,” Cannon added.

With the candidate filing period closed, Concord voters will weigh in on three contested school board races, three contested races for city council, and a rematch for mayor on the ballot this November.

For the school board, incumbent Jim Richards will be challenged by newcomer Patrice Myers for the District A seat, which covers Wards 1 through 4.

Parker and Max Schultz will face off for the District B seat, which includes Wards 5, 6 and 7. Parker is the founder of the private Parker Academy in Concord, while Schultz is the Assistant Director of the State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Nancy Kane, the incumbent in District B, chose not to run again.

Wicks and Cannon will run against each other in District C, which covers Wards 8,9 and 10.

Wicks said the board should have done a better job early on of communicating to the public after Leung’s arrest, but didn’t know what to say.

“I appreciate how frustrating it must be to not know anything,” Wicks said. “You have no idea how many people come up to me and I wish so badly I could tell them all the things I know, but I can’t until we know everything and we see the report. It is my hope that we can release as much of the report as possible.”

Cannon said she’s running to make sure the district is heading in the right direction.

“I’m very sensitive to the fact that the school board cannot be as transparent as the public wants them to be but the culture in the Concord School District has not been really students-first in my opinion for a very long time,” Cannon said.

City races

Byron Champlin, Edith Chiasson and Nathan Fennessy have filed to run for two city-wide at-large seats on the council.

For mayor, incumbent Jim Bouley is facing another challenge from Linda Rae Banfill, who ran against him two years ago.

Voters in wards 1 and 8 will also see contested races.

In Ward 1, Marine Corps veteran and former Republican candidate for state representative Kevin Miller is running against incumbent Brent Todd, who has served on the council since being elected in 2013.

Dennis Soucy is running against incumbent Gail Matson in Ward 8. Matson beat Soucy in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

In Ward 2, Erle Pierce filed to replace Allan Herschlag, who announced he would not run again after three terms in office. Pierce will run unopposed.

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