As the school year moves on into the fall, some districts face challenges with continued backlash over decisions and policy while others herald success and credit keeping safety and transparency at the top of the list.
Londonderry School Board members faced a strong public push back from those attending a meeting Sept. 21, when the three-member board swiftly appointed two new members to replace former members Jenn Ganem and Michael Saucier, who both stepped down this summer.
Only about eight minutes into the meeting, Londonderry board Chairman Amy Finamore quickly nominated former board member Nancy Hendricks and Greg DePasse to join the board, seconded by board member Sara Loughlin.
In a 2-1 vote, the two were approved, with board member Bob Slater saying no.
Candidates to fill the board seats were interviewed at a past meeting, but many felt the process was not handled well, calling out complaints publicly at the meeting. Some residents had put forward a petition to have a special election to choose new board members.
But school district counsel Gordon Graham said the board has the legal right to appoint new members.
“State law says school boards can fill vacancies on the board,” Graham noted.
Many attending the meeting continued to shout out in opposition to the process, calling for more discussion among members prior to picking new board members.
“I’ll continue when people can calm down,” Graham added, “but no one wants to listen.”
Finamore then called a recess, but in less than a half hour into the meeting, the night ended abruptly, with officials flashing lights and telling everyone to go home. The board never returned to the room.
Londonderry officials have faced a lot of public interaction in past weeks, both for and against the business of the district, mostly the district’s mask-wearing policy and the recent choice for new board members.
Schools opened in Londonderry with a mask optional policy in place, but a COVID-19 matrix is also being used to gauge the virus transmission in the community and levels of new cases that could spur a change in how masking is handled.
Windham school officials are also watching COVID numbers closely. As of Sept. 24, the district had 22 positive cases, an increase of 15 over the previous week.
Fourteen of those new cases were at Golden Brook School, now identified with an outbreak status by the state, and requiring all students and staff there to wear masks for a minimum of 10 days.
Schools there also opened this year with a mask optional plan.
The school board voted last week on an adjusted Indoor Face Mask Matrix to use as a guiding tool to monitor whether the mask plan has to shift due to cases in the district in specific schools.
In a statement last week, Windham Superintendent Richard Langlois reminded families to follow the district’s protocols to maintain safety.
“Our goal remains to keep all students in school to receive in-person instruction,” Langlois said in his statement. “This cannot and will not happen without the support and partnership of our school community and adhering to the mitigation tactics with intent and purpose.”
Derry schools opened with mandatory masking and officials there are crediting teachers, staff and students for working hard on staying safe.
Superintendent MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian said the district is watching the virus numbers closely, adding that the district’s website will be updated weekly to show cases in the county and district.
District nurse Sue Linehan gave her own updates of the new year, saying many things appear normal, but many challenges lie behind the scenes.
She called the staff “rock stars” as they handle the virus cases that arise in the district and making sure protocols are followed for safety.
Linehan encouraged families to continue to watch their children for any symptoms and follow the district guidelines.
“It’s going to be a team effort between everybody,” she said.