Forum, March 5: Let School Boards Protect Schools

Sunday, March 04, 2018
Let School Boards Protect Schools

Gov. Chris Sununu opposes local control when it comes to school safety. I am respectfully asking him to reconsider.

I offered an amendment to the safe school zones legislation, Senate Bill 357, allowing our school boards to decide whether firearms should be allowed in their safe-school zones. Because New Hampshire is not what is called a “home rule state,” our school boards have only the authority that is expressly designated to them. Under existing state law, school boards do not even have the authority to prohibit firearms in safe-school zones. That should change. While this measure won’t solve all of our school safety problems, the very least we can do is allow school boards the ability to debate and discuss school safety at a local level. Instead of creating yet another “task force” to study yet another issue, I encourage the governor to get behind real, commonsense proposals, right now.

Sununu wouldn’t be alone in his political party. At a news conference on Feb. 27, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, endorsed local control for school boards on the issue of guns and prohibiting firearms in schools. Sununu should follow suit.

If this were to pass, we don’t know how many school boards and communities would prohibit firearms in safe-school zones, but at least they would have a choice. If I were on a school board, I would heed the words of the NRA’s executive director, Wayne LaPierre, who, in 1999, said: “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools. Period.” My oh my, have things changed. But, whether it’s 1999 or its 2018, common sense should always prevail. It’s not time to arm teachers; it’s time to arm school boards with an actual ability to make decisions about school safety. I hope the governor is listening, as our constituents and our children are demanding no less.

Sen. Martha Hennessey, N.H. Senate District 5


More Work to Do in Newport

I am asking the voters of Newport for their vote on March 13 as I am running for a two-year seat for the Newport School Board. I have had the pleasure of serving on the School Board for the past two years, but my work is not done.

When I ran for the board two years ago, I pledged to get our fiscal house in order. We have made great strides in that direction, but we still have a long way to go. We need to improve our financial system and our accountability to the voters. I am asking for your support so I can continue to address this issue.

I have been criticized for saying that I want to be on the School Board to address financial issues rather than say, “it’s for the kids.” Any effort that a school board member makes should be obvious that it is to directly affect children — to improve educational opportunities; to provide fair and equitable wages for the staff; to insure adequate resources, both financial and materially, so that the teachers and staff have what they need; and to raise the expectations of success for each student.

To simply say that one is running “for the kids” is a hollow promise unless it is backed with something specific one will do to help all our children. For me, it is getting our fiscal house in order, employing competent administrators and staff, and preserving our facilities, including the coming renovations to the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center.

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions or concerns regarding my candidacy or the Newport School District.

Thank you for your past and future support.

Virginia “Biddy” Irwin


Lebanon Auditorium Is Unneeded

This is a plea for Lebanon voters to vote down the school’s recent wish list, the most upsetting part of which is millions of dollars for an unneeded auditorium.

There are schools all across the country that would be ecstatic to have a building as historic and beautiful as the Lebanon Opera House to perform in and which we, the taxpayers, are already supporting. Further, to the argument that we “need to compete,” at what point in time did a good education rely on which school had the most unnecessary toys?

Finally, we all know that the current tax changes have included a cap on personal property deductions. That would be what we pay on our houses and cars. At this yearly rate of increase, we will all be over the $10,000 limit very shortly, if we’re not already.

Connie Kroner


‘No’ on Article 14 in Orford

Orford Academy’s 1851 building could be anything, if the town were very, very rich. All we would need is an investor willing to spend over $3 million in rehab construction or, as is proposed, the town of Orford, with its small number of taxpayers, could raise taxes to shoulder that burden for years and years to come.

A better solution is proposed. After 10 years of research and debate, including professional engineering studies, we have a proposal for senior apartments and a community classroom from the Littleton, N.H.-based Affordable Housing Education and Development, known as AHEAD.

Of course, the Academy building has the theoretical potential to house legal or professional offices, refined retail or commercial space, or even condominiums for the very well-to-do. Over more than a decade, all of those options and more were considered, including trying to encourage the hospital to locate one of its clinics in the building.

The efforts to find a new use for the Academy building considered the community’s needs, the historic preservation of a classic exterior, parking, traffic, impact on both the school and Orford’s municipal services, as well as the potential contribution to the tax base. We have found a well-qualified, nonprofit, senior affordable housing alternative with AHEAD, which has found grants and other sources that will pay for the renovation of the Academy. This is a win-win-win result.

Rivendell Academy wins by securing a partner to restore and maintain the building and build a community classroom for school and community use. Simultaneously, it retains use control through a long-term, revenue-positive lease. Orford wins as it receives annual payments in lieu of taxes. The restored structure is a win for AHEAD, with its mission to provide attractive and affordable housing for our elder citizens. And Orford seniors win with an opportunity to continue to live in their same community as they age in place at an affordable price.

To be sure, Orford needs to address the major maintenance issues at its Town Office in Orfordville. But the proposal in the Town Meeting’s petitioned warrant Article 14 to raise $1 to “buy back” the Academy building would saddle Orford’s taxpayers with the need to spend millions.

Therefore, I urge Orford residents to vote “no” on petitioned warrant Article 14.

Terry Martin