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School board welcomes public comment

  • The Mascenic school board met on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • The Mascenic school board met on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • The Mascenic school board met on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic school board chair Jeff Salmonson cuts off an audience member who attempted to ask a question about non-renewed high school principal Tom Marshall during Monday night’s meeting. Public personnel discussion is not allowed under RSA 91:A. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic school board met on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • The Mascenic school board met on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Ben Conant / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:44PM

Though Mascenic Principal Tom Marshall and a group of concerned citizens were in attendance, Monday’s school board meeting contained no reference to the student walkout that occurred earlier in the day in support of the non-renewed administrator. But, after all, it wasn’t on the agenda.

Given the recent turmoil and frustration voiced by parents in the Mascenic district over the board’s decision not to renew Marshall’s contract, board chair Jeff Salmonson started the meeting by discussing the ground rules of public discussion as set by NH RSA 91:A. That statute specifies that discussion of personnel issues is not to be made public, whether it regards hiring, firing, discipline or a host of other areas. Further, Salmonson explained that complaints about specific issues in the district need to be run up “the chain of command.”

“That chain of command would first be the student’s building principal and then the superintendent,” Salmonson said.

Greenville rep Tara Sousa pointed out that when the public has issues with the board itself, there is no other chain of command to follow than to bring them to the board.

“My personal preference is that I would rather hear [questions] from constituents here,” Sousa said. “We may not be able to answer them – in many cases, we can’t answer them.” She pointed out that if problems are not addressed at board meetings, but rather in the newspaper or social media, the board would “not be doing [themselves] any favors with regards to moving the district forward by not hearing those criticisms.”

The audience applauded her statement. Pat Mittleider stood up and thanked Sousa for bringing the public comment issue to the forefront.

“We’re just really wanting to have a dialogue, a two-way conversation going on. Not singling out and picking on people, just wanting our voices heard, and to feel comfortable that our members … are open to our concerns and our suggestions, and not close-minded.”

Addressing issues of high turnover, Salmonson pointed to teacher salaries, which are not competitive by regional standards, he said, shifting the blame to the taxpayers.

“In my opinion the reason the majority of teachers are resigning is low compensation compared to adjoining school districts, where an experienced educator can realize a $10,000 to $20,000 increase in compensation with superior benefits. In my opinion, this turnover rate will continue until the voters of our communities support Mascenic education with competitive compensation for teachers and staff.”

Board member Earl Somero was moved nearly to tears as he gave his prepared statement, voice quavering as he asked the public simply: “What do you want?” for the schools, students and community.

“Do you want us to run the schools? Do you want us to hire qualified people to be in the administration? Or, what do you want?” Somero queried. “...Many people want to mourn Mascenic and be down in the dumps, but I’m telling you, lift your head up, look ahead, get on the Mascenic bus! Because the Mascenic bus is moving – don’t be left behind.”

After the two-hour public meeting, the board went into a non-public session that lasted well over an hour.