Concord School Board Zone B: Different backgrounds but shared values
Published: 10-28-2023 4:31 PM
Modified: 10-28-2023 4:46 PM
Liz Boucher, a mental health dietitian and a parent of two children attending Christa McAuliffe School, wants to bring a fresh perspective to the Concord School Board.
Bruce ‘Gib” West, who spent 40 years working in public education, wants to offer his experience and dedication to the board.
The pair are both making their first foray into public office in the upcoming election for the Concord School Board seat in Zone B, which includes Wards 5, 6 and 7.
Boucher said she hopes to use her expertise in public health to support children’s social-emotional learning, a perspective she feels is currently underrepresented on the school board.
West said he is focusing on improving curriculum quality and nurturing stronger student-teacher relationships.
Despite any differences, they share many similar values, like their support for investments in sports infrastructure, a commitment to transparency and fostering diversity within the education system.
The renovation of Memorial Field, which has an undetermined cost depending on its scope, has ignited community discussions, with opinions varying widely on need and affordability. The project is expected to improve drainage, update facilities and ensure the safety of students.
However, both candidates are united in their commitment to making this renovation a top priority – the one hesitation was cost. Faced with the construction of a new middle school, they said the athletic field renovation has to be done at a reasonable cost.
Boucher pointed out that heavy rains render fields unusable and said improvements are needed to create equal footing for female sports.
“It will be a draw for community rentals and outside the city for events,” said Boucher. “I just think, yes, money might be spent in other places, but sports are very important for social-emotional learning and mental health.”
West pointed to research that highlights the academic benefits of students participating in athletic programs and extracurricular activities.
“I do believe that because of the heavy use of that facility by both middle school and high school students, as well as the role that Memorial Field plays in the overall community, the investment is a critical one to make,” said West.
The candidates also share a unified stance when it comes to providing students with access to books and discussions related to race, gender and sexual orientation.
West, drawing on his experience as an English teacher, cited the importance of providing alternatives to books challenged by parents rather than outright bans. He said banning books due to concerns about how students will engage with the text in the classroom where they have the guidance and support of educators and peers can lead down a precarious path.
“It is about coming together as a group and as a community and creating protocols so the dialogue can take place,” West said. “Because that is the only way we are going to support critical thinking, support students making judgments for themselves and their children as they learn to go through the process of being part of a team, because it takes all of us to be part of that community.”
Boucher extended the sentiment, saying that divisive politics should have no place in the Concord School District as it hinders the development of students.
“What we can do as a school board is to anticipate and prepare for changes in the law, maintain a structural relationship with the school district and a New Hampshire Department of Education and publicly confirm issues that affect education, our economy and child safety,” said Boucher. “For those who know me well, I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations.”
On the matter of transparency, West said he believes that certain information, such as personnel and student details, should remain confidential. However, he underscores the importance of sharing other relevant information with the community and parents, empowering them to make informed decisions for their children.
Boucher agreed with West on the need for privacy regarding employee information but emphasized the vital role of transparency.
“Transparency is so important because we are all the taxpayers who fund the school,” she said. “So we all have a right to know what’s going on in schools for our tax dollars.”
Both candidates participated in a Concord Monitor forum for school board candidates held last week, which can be viewed online.