Concord chooses school board committed to inclusivity, diversity

Audrey Redmond with her son, Flynn, at Ward 5 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

Audrey Redmond with her son, Flynn, at Ward 5 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER

Candidates Sarah Beauregard (left) and Karen McNamara hold signs outside the Ward 4 polling place at the Green Street gym on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.

Candidates Sarah Beauregard (left) and Karen McNamara hold signs outside the Ward 4 polling place at the Green Street gym on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER


Monitor staff

Published: 11-07-2023 9:11 PM

Modified: 11-08-2023 3:46 PM

Audrey Redmond walked out of the Christa McAuliffe School’s auditorium with her five-year-old son Flynn after casting her vote for candidates that would prioritize inclusivity and diversity.

She wants Flynn to learn in a nurturing environment at that school.

“We want the school board to represent our family values, which include diversity, and making sure kids of all identities feel supported and safe,” said Redmond, as she held her son’s hand. “We want to see a school free of hateful rhetoric and bullying.”

On Tuesday’s school board elections, Concord collectively voted for these principles when selecting their school board members.

Jessica Campbell won a seat on the school board in Zone A, representing Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4, with 964 votes, defeating her opponents Michael Gugliemo and Kristen Jackson, who received 117 votes each and Robert Avery who received 104 votes. Liz Boucher won in Zone B, representing Wards 5, 6 and 7, with 1,687 votes against Gib West, who received 776 votes. Incumbent school board member Brenda Hastings was re-elected to a three-year term serving Zone C, which included Wards 8, 9 and 10, with 1,414 votes, surpassing her challengers Kassey Cameron, who received 304 votes, and Peter Surmanis, who received 246 votes.

For many Concord residents in Zone A, the crucial factor in their decision to vote for Campbell was her open-mindedness. In her campaign, she declared her commitment to preserving the district’s safety and inclusivity.

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“It is my priority to make sure that we have a safe, healthy, welcoming district for everybody that is here and also making sure that our taxpayers aren’t feeling the burden too much,” Campbell said during her campaign.

But, her opponent, Michael Gugliemo, held a stance advocating for greater parental rights. He withdrew his daughter from public school after criticizing the district’s policies about gender identity and teacher attire, saying they are harming students, especially at the elementary-school level.

Residents overwhelmingly rejected him.

“It’s important to have someone who is thoughtful and wants to kind of weigh the financial pieces, as well as what’s the best for the kids,” said Connie Lane, a long-time Concord resident in Ward 2 who moved to the city in the ‘80s for the school district’s quality of education. “The whole thing around diversity and inclusion is important to me as well banning library books – no way, no ban.”

The need for diversity and inclusion on the school board extends among residents of all wards, especially as the city’s demographic landscape continues to evolve.

Voters have elected Boucher in Zone B who has also expressed her commitment to advocating for children’s social-emotional learning and promoting diversity. She is poised to bring a fresh perspective to the school board drawing from her expertise in public health.

Sundarshan Nepal, 44, of Ward 8, said his children are happy at school. As an immigrant that has lived in Concord for the last eight years, his family feels that both the school board and city council are doing enough to support New Americans.

Angela Daley, who immigrated to Concord from Puerto Rico, said that schools reflect the city’s diversity but the representation is still lacking.

Her son, Andrew, 8, helped Angela prepare for election day by going over government policy and reviewing candidate profiles. With English as her second language, Andrew helped her navigate the process.

She said it was an honor to vote.

“It feels good, special,” she said. “It’s amazing to have the privilege.”

Aimee Valeras, a resident of Ward 5 who has three children in the school district, said it is important to have a school board that mirrors the city’s population and incorporates diverse life experiences into its decision-making process.

“Their focus should be on opportunity, equity, equality and mirroring the population,” Valeras said. “We can’t just have one demographic – people need to see their faces represented in the process.”

Editor’s note: This article has been changed to reflect that Aimee Valeras is a mother of three chil dren in the Concord School District. Demographic information attributed to her was incorrect.