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Hartford School Board Members Vote for New Chairman

  • Hartford select board member Mike Morris, left, talks with school board member Kevin Christie, right, after the Community Day meeting at Hartford high School in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford School Board chair Kevin Christie speaks during the joint town and school meeting in White River Junction, Vt., on March 29, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, March 17, 2017

Hartford — In what could signal a change of direction for the School Board, members voted to elect a new chairman, while the panel seems poised to rethink a previous decision related to an effort to promote racial equality in the community.

Longtime member Kevin “Coach” Christie, who is also a Democratic state representative and a member of the House Education Committee, won the slot over Lori Dickerson, a financial manager at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine who has held the leadership post for the past two years, according to CATV video of the March 8 meeting.

The vote was 3-2.

Dickerson and Christie each nominated and voted for themselves. Among the other School Board members, Nancy Russell voted for Dickerson, while newly elected member Michelle Boleski joined Peter Merrill in voting for Christie.

Boleski, a former art teacher with the district, said on Thursday that her vote was based on a longstanding professional relationship with Christie, a former coach and teacher.

“I just have known Kevin for a long time,” she said. “I wished I had more time to get to know Lori. I think she was doing a great job and loved the way she ran the meetings.”

Before the vote, Dickerson and Christie each made their pitch to their colleagues.

“I try to bring respect and order to the meetings so that we can start meetings timely, and end meetings timely, and make sure that all the board members are heard, equally,” said Dickerson.

“I agree with Lori that it’s important that we hear and listen to our constituencies,” said Christie. “It’s also important, I think, that we try to be as proactive as possible on issues and concerns.”

Christie and Merrill had been outvoted by Dickerson, Russell and outgoing School Board member Paula Nulty in two recent key votes.

In December, the board decided not to move forward with a $5 million bond to renovate the decrepit Wilder School, which houses an education program for students with behavioral issues from around the Upper Valley.

In February, Merrill and Christie were outvoted again when the board declined to participate in a Committee on Racial Inequality that is in the process of being formed by the Hartford Selectboard in response to citizen concerns.

The School Board’s role on the committee is scheduled to be revisited during the board’s next meeting on March 22. Boleski said she is supportive of the School Board’s participation in the committee.

Christie was first elected to the School Board in 2007, and served as chairman for a five-year stint that ended in 2015, when he was replaced by Dickerson, also on a 3-2 vote, with Merrill and Christie in the minority.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

Correction

The Hartford Selectboard has created a committee to address racial inequality in town. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the goals of the advisory panel.