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Lebanon voters reject school resource officer

  • While talking on the phone, Lebanon City Council candidate Al Patterson, right, elbow bumps with Bruce Johnstone, of Lebanon, N.H., while standing outside the Ward 1 polls at Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 9, 2021. Standing with Patterson are Lebanon School Board candidate Barbara Patterson, who is also Al Patterson's wife, and suporter and volunteer Ramzi Hraibi, of West Lebanon. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Holding a sign created by Lebanon High School students, Asma Elhuni, of West Lebanon, N.H., speaks with voter Martha Solow, of Lebanon, outside the Ward 3 polls on March 9, 2021. Elhuni was encouraging support for an article to eliminate the school resource officer in the Lebanon schools. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Karen Sheehan, right, hands a ballot through a barrier to voter Anne Farrell, of Lebanon, N.H., at the Ward 3 polls at Lebanon City Hall on March 9, 2021. Sheehan is one of the ward's supervisors of the checklist. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Ward Clerk Anne MacEwan waits to hand a ballot to a voter in the City Council chambers at the Ward 3 polls at Lebanon, N.H., City Hall on March 9, 2021. A photo outside the meeting space shows the city's first council. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2021 9:17:12 PM
Modified: 3/9/2021 11:00:19 PM

LEBANON — City voters narrowly approved a petitioned warrant article asking the Lebanon School District to “discontinue” its school resource officer position during ballot voting Tuesday.

Residents, by a 1,011-1,006 tally, greenlighted a nonbinding proposal to do away with the position held by Lebanon Police Officer Gregory Parthum.

Voters also decided several contested races for both City Council and School Board during Lebanon’s municipal election.

Longtime City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, who is wrapping up her 16th year, beat back a challenge from two contenders to win a two-year term representing the whole city.

She received 924 votes, while former Hanover police officer Al Patterson garnered 802. Sylvia Puglisi, a teacher at Vermont Technical College, won 303 votes.

Meanwhile, nonfiction book publisher Devin Wilkie was leading with 321 votes against Cory Grant for a Ward 2 seat on the council. Grant, president of the Lebanon Outing Club, received 294 votes.

Assistant Mayor Clifton Below ran unopposed for a seat representing Ward 2, while Douglas Whittlesey ran uncontested for a Ward 1 seat that’s being vacated by state Sen. Sue Prentiss.

On the school district ballot, a slate of candidates who ran under what they described as a “pro-school” platform won three seats to the nine-member School Board.

Stephen Kantor won 1,088 votes, Lisa Vallejo Sorensen received 1,072 and Lilian Maughan got 1,017, becoming the top three vote getters in>kern -0.18pt< a seven-way race.

They beat out Barbara Patterson, who had 780 votes; Renee DePalo, 698; Joshua Flanders, 659; and Jason Gillespie, who wasn’t actively campaigning and received 197 votes.>kern 0pt<

Residents also approved the School Board’s $47.5 million budget for the 2021-22 school year in a 1,242-740 vote.

The spending plan amounts to an increase of $1.7 million, or about 3.8%, over the district’s current budget. School officials estimate it will add about 86 cents to the local school property tax rate, which amounts to an additional $215 for a property valued at $250,000.

The vote on the school resource officer was nonbinding and the future of the resource officer post would ultimately be decided by the School Board.

Parthum splits his time between the city’s four schools when classes are in session and regular patrol duty in the summertime.

The role costs about $120,000 in salary and benefits, which are split equally between the city and school district.

The warrant article asked that the school district’s share be returned to the general fund, with some activists saying the money should go toward the hiring of a school social worker.

Lebanon’s school resource officer program dates back to the aftermath of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., when the school district took part in a $750 million federal grant program that saw thousands of police placed in schools across the country.

The post went unchallenged until this year, when a group of activists argued that students, especially those of color, should be able to attend class without fear that their actions will lead to criminal charges.

They gathered signatures for the warrant article, which was watered down to be advisory-only during this year’s deliberative session.

Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello opposed the article, saying in the lead-up to the vote that students were largely comfortable with the school resource officer, whose job isn’t to discipline children.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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