Schweiker versus West for Concord School Board District A

  • Roy Schweiker at the Concord Public Library in 2017. Monitor file

  • Concord parent and activist Kate West is one of two candidates running for the school board’s District A seat. Courtesy

Monitor Staff
Published: 9/21/2020 5:54:39 PM

In November, the Concord School Board’s District A seat will have a new face for the first time in eight years. Board member Tom Croteau, who has served on the board continuously since 2012, announced at the beginning of September that he will not seek re-election, and two candidates have indicated they are up for the challenge.

Roy Schweiker, a retired software course developer and activist, and Kate West, a Concord parent and community organizer, are both running for the position.

The District A candidate will be elected for a three-year term by voters residing in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Roy Schweiker

Roy Schweiker says people shouldn’t gripe about a system unless they are willing to fix it. That’s what has led him to become involved in different local campaigns over the years, most recently for Concord School Board – following in the footsteps of his late father, who was a board member.

Schweiker, who is now retired, previously worked incorporate educational services, grading courses for software training. He has lived in Concord for 50 years and is a regular attendee of city council meetings and author of frequent opinion pieces in the Concord Monitor. Earlier this year he ran for state representative and was beat in the primaries by Rep. James MacKay. In 2017 he ran for mayor of Concord and was defeated by Jim Bouley. He also ran unsuccessfully for School District Charter Commission in 2010.

“It’s not something you agree to do lightly,” Schweiker said about running for public office. “I agreed to do it because someone has to, and I think I will do a good job at it. But I will not be devastated if my opponent ends up winning the election.”

At the center of Schweiker’s school board campaign is the idea of “educational equity,” making sure each student has the resources they need to succeed individually. This differs from the concept of equality, which is about delegating the same resources to everyone, regardless of need.

Schweiker says the COVID-19 pandemic is making the need for educational equity particularly relevant, as students are having differing levels of success with remote learning and some will need additional help.

“It’s really a good system for learning, if you’re motivated to do it,” said Schweiker, who says he has taken over 100 online courses himself. “There will be a few who will be a year behind, because essentially they have blown off the whole year. You will have people in a classroom who are a year behind some of the other people.”

Schweiker says the district’s lack of transparency is a problem that became very apparent during the Howie Leung incident, when a Concord teacher was accused of sexual assaulting a student.

“The key change that I think needs to happen is parents need to be better informed about what is happening in classrooms that minor kids are in,” Schweiker said. “I think there needs to be better disclosure.”

Schweiker also supports policies that improve racial equity, though he feels a school board’s attention should be focused on the activism that is occurring locally, rather than nationally.

“Spending time on national political issues I don’t think is necessarily a good use of the school board’s time,” Schweiker said. “[But] if the school board finds out that people of any race are being treated unfairly, they need to find out why that’s happening and make it quit.”

He supports having school resource officers in the buildings – a debate that came up in July when a petition from racial justice advocates and alumni advocated for their removal – as long as the officers are carefully selected.

“My feeling is that they are probably a good idea because it allows students to get to know an officer personally,” Schweiker said. “But on the other hand, if parents really say ‘we don’t want this, they’re bad for us,’ I won’t insist on it.”

Schweiker noted that the issues school board candidates are discussing this year, particularly the effects of COVID-19, are far different from the issues his father ever had to handle as a school board member.

“It’s interesting that things have changed,” Schweiker said. “I hope regardless of who is elected to the board, things are better in the future rather than worse.”

Kate West

Kate West is all about community involvement, and she wants to make sure that things like school funding and COVID-19 policies represent what the community needs.

West, who works for ProtoLabs, a prototype manufacturing company, has an 8-year-old daughter in the Concord School District. West is involved in the local music scene as a member of an all-female rock band, and is also a community organizer and a member of the activist group Change for Concord.

“I decided that one of the most impactful institutions in our community is the education system,” West said. “I am running for school board because I feel a sense of responsibility to my community to advocate for policy changes that help to make every person’s life that lives here, better.”

West says her perspective as both a single parent with a full-time job and a community organizer would add value to the school board. Having to balance work with her daughter’s remote learning this month has informed her perspective on the issue of COVID-19 – she says there need to be multiple learning models available, because remote learning isn’t sustainable for everyone.

“There are ways we can make the world more accessible and accommodate schedules for single parents that we haven’t been, prior to introducing a remote aspect of learning,” West said. “Providing resources and working to allow parents to engage in the learning plan that works best for their family is the right path.”

Racial justice is a key aspect of West’s campaign. She supports the petition created by Concord students and alumni in July that called for changes like increasing diversity in staffing and curriculum and reforming the way the district disciplines students.

“I think it outlines a pretty clear list of changes that would be a positive impact on the community – clearly actionable change that we are capable of making,” West said. “I want to come together as a community and move those barriers. There is no reason not to make sure that we are including everyone and supporting everyone.”

One of those action items involves the removal of school resource officers. West says SROs should be replaced with mental health professionals to handle students’ behavioral issues in a non-punitive way.

Another priority for West is making the school budget representative of the community’s interests. West emphasizes equity in education, and says that although public schools distribute resources equally to everyone, some students, including the most vulnerable, need extra support to be successful.

“Systemically, not everyone needs the exact same thing,” West said. “It’s making sure that the community is represented in the decisions and the policies we are making, and making sure everyone is safe and everyone is treated with worth and value and given everything that they need individually to succeed.”

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