Jaffrey town office candidates field residents’ questions

Town Manager Jon Frederick addresses candidates night attendees.

Town Manager Jon Frederick addresses candidates night attendees. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Select Board and School Board candidate Nathan Flowers introduces himself to residents.

Select Board and School Board candidate Nathan Flowers introduces himself to residents. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

On stage, from left, Diane Schaumann, Andy Lawn, Nathan Flowers, Jon Frederick, Jim Draper, Bob Schaumann and Christine Pressman.

On stage, from left, Diane Schaumann, Andy Lawn, Nathan Flowers, Jon Frederick, Jim Draper, Bob Schaumann and Christine Pressman. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 03-04-2024 11:37 AM

Jaffrey residents gathered in the Jaffrey Woman’s Club Thursday for a candidates night, where they were introduced to town office candidates and given the chance to ask questions.

Many of the questions were directed toward School Board members Nathan Flowers and Christine Pressman. In his opening statement, Flowers emphasized the importance of regulatory compliance – ensuring the school district was adhering strictly to state and federal law – and, as a parent of three children currently attending school in the Jaffrey-Ringe district, he advocated for parents’ rights.

Responding to Flowers’ opening statement, a resident asked the candidates for their definition of “parents’ rights,” and for their thoughts on the recent expansion of charter schools in the state.

While he didn’t feel it was necessary to expand parents’ current rights, Flowers advocated for ensuring parents always had access to their child’s activities while in school. He also said that while he wasn’t against charter schools, he felt it was unfair for the state to seemingly prioritize their growth over funding traditional public schools.

Pressman noted that the term “parents’ rights” had been co-opted by groups against the public school system.

“Of course parents have rights,” she said, pointing out that parents are allowed to see the school’s curriculum. She went on to criticize charter schools as a burden on taxpayers, saying that parents should have a choice where they send their children to school, “but taxpayers should know they are not free. They impact taxes.” She questioned how the state could use taxpayer money to fund schools without a set curriculum or a certification requirement for instructors.

Responding to a resident’s question, Flowers clarified he is also running for a position on the Select Board. To quell any potential fears that it would be too much work, he noted he graduated college in four years while also working 30 hours a week, despite being told he wouldn’t be able to. He sees a position on both the school and select boards as a challenge, and a way to help as many community members as possible.

“I don’t see them as getting in the way [of each other],” he said.

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Flowers and Select Board candidate Andy Lawn were asked how they would grow Jaffrey, especially as a community with many aging residents. The resident also asked how they felt about the construction of a community center.

“I would be in favor of a community center,” said Lawn. “There are a couple of great spots for it.”

Flowers pushed back against the community center idea, saying it would be great, but too much of an expense for the town. He stressed the importance of senior outreach and continuing to support programs put on by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Also in attendance was Trustee of the Trust Funds candidate Diane Schaumann, a current alternate who is seeking a full seat. She went into detail about her work with Bar Harbor Wealth Management, which processes transactions and generates financial reports for the town. A resident asked her if Bar Harbor was a fiduciary of the town, but she stated that she was not directly involved with billing the company, and that the bills go to the town.

School district Moderator Bob Schaumann is running unopposed. He went into detail about his history as a town moderator in Merrimack and Amherst, and his experience as an instructor in sales and marketing, but he did not field any questions.

Library Trustee Jim Draper also received no audience questions, but spoke briefly about how the library has become a community center for Jaffrey despite recently experiencing troubles with funding. He also endorsed Grace Flesher, another candidate for library trustee who was unable to attend.

Jaffrey’s town election will be Tuesday, March 12, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Conant High School auditorium. Town Meeting will be Saturday, March 16, at the Pratt Auditorium.