Lebanon School Board Has 3 Seats Up
Valley News - Aaron Rosenblatt
Bob McCarthy at a Lebanon School Board meeting in Lebanon, N.H., on Aug. 14, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
School board member Richard Milius at the deliberative session about the Lebanon school budget held at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, N.H., on Feb. 1, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)
Al Patterson, Sr., of Lebanon is a candidate for school board. (Valley News - Jason Johns)
Voting for city and school offices will take place on March 11 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., at Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon (Ward 1), United Methodist Church (Ward 2) and Lebanon College (Ward 3).
Lebanon — City voters will see familiar names all over the city and school ballots on Election Day March 11. And all but one contest are uncontested.
While five incumbents are running unopposed for re-election to their seats on the City Council, former School Board member Al Patterson is aiming to return after a year on the outside looking in.
For the second year in a row, the 48-year-old Hanover policeman is one of four Lebanon residents — this time the others are incumbents Kathleen Berger, Bob McCarthy, and Richard Milius — running for three three-year seats on the School Board.
Patterson, who as a four-year incumbent, finished fourth by 53 votes in a race for three seats in 2013. He filed his candidacy for the 2014 election a few hours before the deadline on Tuesday.
“I decided to run (again) because nobody (else) put their name in,” Patterson said. “And I’ve had time to sit back, to see things in a different perspective. I think the public wants accountability from their schools and from the board, but who knows? Something like 900 or 1,000 people voted last year (out of 9,000-plus eligible voters), so it wasn’t exactly a stampede.
“But there certainly was a stampede of people to sign my petition.”
In December, more than 150 residents signed Patterson’s petition urging the School Board to cut more than $1 million from the school administration’s proposed 2014-2015 budget of more than $40 million, and to hold school spending closer to the current year’s total of a little more than $39 million. In the 5-2 School Board vote to impose that limit in mid-December, McCarthy and Milius voted yes and Berger voted no.
“We’ve listened to people,” McCarthy said this week. “In the time I’ve been on, people on the board have changed toward the middle.”
Many of the objections to the administration’s budget request revolved around surpluses in recent budgets, including a $2.4 million surplus from 2012-2013 budget, part of which was used to offset the impact on the school tax rate.
McCarthy described himself as “a little concerned that (the surplus) is that high,” and Milius added, “This year we’re probably going to have a pretty good surplus again. Next year, I think we’re going to need a more balanced approach to that.”
All three incumbents said this week that along with spending issues, they all are running for re-election in part to provide continuity in areas on which they’ve been working in their time on the board.
“We negotiated three contracts — principals, secretarial and teachers — in two months, and we’ve got more coming in August and September, including custodians and bus drivers,” Berger said. “Having been through the other negotiations, I think my experience would be beneficial. I also would like to see through our work on job descriptions.”
McCarthy, who works in manufactured housing, said he decided to run for re-election in considerable part to help oversee coming additions to Hanover Street and Mount Lebanon Schools. As for issues of what’s taught in the classroom and how, he added, “Education-wise, I think we’re doing a good job. There’s a lot of accountability I didn’t think was the case a few years ago.”
Milius, who was appointed to the board in July 2013 to fill a vacancy, said he hopes to see the board and the administration focus more on what’s going on and should go on in the classroom.
“It’s pretty easy to get distracted by hot-button issues,” said Milius, who teaches chemistry at Norwich University in central Vermont. “The main thing is that the board is the voice for the kids. Lebanon’s an interesting city. Many kids are going to college, but there are still an awful lot of kids who intend to go right into the work force, and it’s important to look at their needs, too.”
Berger, who directs the practical nursing program at River Valley Community College, said she would have liked to see more candidates run for the three available seats on the board.
“I’m always a little discouraged that we don’t get more,” Berger said. “Several people inquired, so we were somewhat hopeful, so I’m not sure why we’re not seeing more. Usually it seems as if either people are satisfied or they’re not happy and they run, or they don’t have a preference either way.”
Milius noted that few residents showed up for the board’s budget discussions before the Feb. 1 deliberative session, at which 29 voters turned up and at which, by a 15-14 vote, rejected an attempt to add $79,000 — the equivalent of an additional teacher — to the school-budget bottom line.
“Right now, I think there aren’t a lot of emotional issues,” Milius said. “If we had had a big budget fight, there might have been more visibility (in the school board race).”
Patterson is offering visibility and audibility, particularly when it comes to hiring administrators to do “all those individual jobs” that he believes fewer people could handle.
“The teachers and some of the staff, in the administration, would clearly rather I don’t come on the board,” he said. “I’m not a ‘yes’ man. I’m going to say ‘yes’ when it’s good for the kids and good for the community. I want people to be creative with the taxpayers’ money. You have to make hard choices. You have to shake it up.”
On the City Council ballot, incumbents facing no opponents for their re-elections are current Mayor Georgia Tuttle in Ward 1, Bruce Bronner in Ward 2, Carol Dustin in Ward 3, and Nicole Cormen and Erling Heistad for at-large seats.
Cormen, who has served the city in a variety of capacities, including the Conservation Commission, said on Wednesday that people whom she has approached with the idea of running for office cite a variety of reasons why they can’t — from commitments to work and family to volunteering with organizations and charities to which they already belong.
“The tragedy is that local government is the easiest place to get involved and have an impact on the place where you live,” said Cormen, who also serves on the Planning Board. “A lot of us have been at this for a long time. We’re tired. We need some relief.”
Running unopposed for the three available three-year terms on the city Library Board of Trustees are incumbent Francis Oscadal and current alternate (appointed) members Laura Barrett and Laura Braunstein
David Corriveau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 603-727-3304.
Five members of the Lebanon City Council are running unopposed for re-election. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number.