Editorial: New faces and lingering questions

Published: 11/7/2019 6:15:24 AM

In New Hampshire, serving as a city councilor or school board member is a time-consuming, often-stressful job that is more likely to be rewarded with criticism than accolades. We thank all who ran and congratulate the winners, starting with Mayor Jim Bouley, who earned what will be his seventh term. Congratulations, too, to the incumbent councilors who were re-elected and to newcomers Nathan Fennessy and Erle Pierce.

The city of Concord and its residents, in our view, won because voters rejected both keno games and sports betting. The community has enough problems dealing with addiction without adding gambling to the mix.

No single issue dominated city elections. Not so for the school board, where student safety in the aftermath of the school district’s bungled effort to deal with a teacher who preyed on students led to the resignation of school district superintendent Terri Forsten and Concord High School principal Tom Sica.

Voters elected to the school board two outspoken critics of the district’s handling of the matter of teacher Howie Leung. One is Gina Cannon, a former lawyer who works with, and advocates on behalf of, people with disabilities; the other, David Parker, founder of Parker Academy, a private institution based in the Concord elementary school he attended as a child. They will help guide what promises to be a change in the culture of a school district accused of safeguarding its reputation by dealing with problems quietly and behind closed doors.

Though two reports by an outside professional who investigated the school district’s handling of complaints about accused rapist Leung’s inappropriate relationships with female students have been issued, a host of questions remain unanswered. The first report, for personnel reasons, remains private. The second public report makes recommendations for what we assume are changes from past behaviors and policies but says nothing about what occurred and why.

Betsy McNamara, whose son had Leung as a teacher, nailed it when she said: “If we don’t know what went wrong, how will we know when you’re getting it right?” Like most in the community, we want that question answered.

Most school districts, in similar situations, put out a summary that, without violating personal privacy rights, explains what happened, Bill Glahn, a lawyer and former Concord school board member, told the board. “You need to give a general summary of what kinds of things were found, why weren’t certain steps taken,” Glahn said. He’s right, and that should be high on the embattled school board’s agenda.

We suspect that what such a summary could show is that for years, if not decades, the relationship between the district’s top officials and school board members tended to be both chummy and blurred as to who was working for whom. That, we presume, led to the lack of concern that administrators were properly credentialed and to an unspoken policy of avoiding damage to the district’s reputation by dealing with problems, and investigations, in-house.

We could be wrong about that, of course. In fact, we’d be happy to see an impartial report or summary that proved us so. Like the rest of the community, we’re waiting.

(An earlier version of this editorial misstated the nature of comments made by Bill Glahn. He was speaking to the Concord School Board, not a Monitor reporter.)

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