Weare school board candidate says 1619 Project was ‘started by a bunch of crooks’

  • John Stark School District deliberative session had a section for unmasked participants and five residents, including Weare Finance Chair Tom Downing who spoke in favor of passing the warrant for the school budget. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 3/4/2022 4:52:59 PM
Modified: 3/4/2022 4:52:35 PM

Weare voters have straightforward choices for the school board on Tuesday, election day for most towns and schools in the state. Two seats are open, one for three years and one for a single year.

The three-year seat is being sought by Alyssa Small, the only one of the four hopefuls with any school board experience. She was appointed last fall to replace Rochelle Kelley, an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 prevention measures who resigned after well-publicized run-ins with officials and police over the issue.

Small is a paralegal who has volunteered and worked as a substitute in the Weare schools. She supports full-day kindergarten, the proposed budget and proposed teachers’ contract on the ballot.

Her opponent, Brent Dickinson, is a Navy veteran and machinist. He has concerns that Weare won’t have enough young children to support full-day kindergarten for long. He told the crowd at a candidates night that he has a “very low opinion of unions” and that the school system would be better if there was no union for teachers.

Dickinson said he was spurred to run by a petitioned warrant article that would have prohibited teaching about “topics such as Critical Race Theory or any of its derivative philosophies.” The wording was changed during deliberative session in February to “encourage open inquiry and honest discussion” about U.S. history.

Dickinson emphasizes the role of parents in shaping the school system. Responding to a question at candidates night about “indoctrination” in schools education – “are we educating them to learn things or forcing something down their throat?” asked one resident – Dickinson said “some of the curriculum could be perceived as indoctrination” and “anything that appears to be an indoctrination I think parents need to be screening for that and bring it to the board’s attention.”

Small’s answer to the question was: “I have not seen anything that would be indoctrination. It’s purely education.”

Small responded to a question at a forum about Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project concerning the history of slavery in the U.S. by saying that recent state law restricts local decisions about these topics, so “I don’t think we have to (be) concerned too much” about them. Dickinson said the 1619 Project was “started by a bunch of crooks” and that Critical Race Theory “does not belong in any school.”

That question also reflected a sharp divide between the two candidates for the one-year seat, which will fill the remainder of Kelly’s term. The three-year term is for the seat currently filled by Wendy Curry, who is not running for re-election.

Toni Parker is an office worker who put in a biography to the local community publication, Weare in the World, that her “community involvement is centered on my church family at Weare Bible Baptist Church.” She says she was one of the organizers of the anti-Critical Race Theory petitioned warrant article. Her response to a question about whether it or the 1619 Project should be taught was a succinct “no.”

William Politt is a retired salesman who has been a substitute teacher at John Stark High School for 11 years. He described the two topics as a distraction that is irrelevant to Weare’s K-8 schools. “Both have been widely misconstrued, inaccurately described, criticized for statements neither of them make.”

Parker told the forum she wasn’t yet familiar with details about the budget or curriculum. “I’m an advocate for parents rights,” she said, describing the role of school as giving “basic skills of reading writing, arithmetic, history … so they can go out in the world and have a life of worth or higher education, whatever they decide.”

“I think we are at a pivotal point in our history,” she said. “What we are doing is not working.”

Politt said he supported the proposed budget and contracts.

He said at the forum he was spurred to run by news of book bans in other parts of the country. “I said I cannot let that happen here. I sense a closing of minds, a narrowing of viewpoints, and an unwillingness to accommodate … the curiosity of our students.”

“When minds are closed, schools become exceptionally bad,” he said.

The candidate forum can be seen on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HagxERhQ2k. The school board candidates questions begin at about the  one-hour mark.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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