Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changing the way Concord School Board members are elected

I wrote the following note to members of the Concord School Board Charter Commission last night. This is the corrected version. I would encourage you all to contact them as well:

Since I will probably not be able to attend Tuesday’s meeting, I just wanted to send a short email supporting Mike Donovan’s proposal for a new process for electing Concord School Board members.

As some of you may already know, I had mixed feelings about state. Rep. Steve Shurtleff’s proposal in 2008 to move completely to Ward elections for school board members. I felt it had negative and positive aspects. And I also believe that the current way of electing school board members is inherently flawed. However, having read Donovan’s proposal, I feel this is an excellent alternative to the previous proposal by Shurtleff and the current structure we use to elect members.

First, the proposal allows for a mix of opportunities for candidates, ones who have city-wide support and local Ward support. Lowering the threshold of election by running in three wards instead of at-large should encourage greater participation and will be more inclusive than the current process. Since the election would be more manageable, more people will probably run. The process works very well in electing our state representatives and city councilors (although there is always room for more competition, in my mind).

Second, having the elections held on odd numbered years eliminates what I have termed “the lemming effect,” essentially, thousands of people voting because of the presidential or congressional election cycle, randomly casting votes for school board candidates based on nothing more than names they recognize or the color of a person’s shirt at the polls. This proposal will equalize the process. Also, in the past, there have been huge discrepancies in the number of votes it takes to get elected. For example, in 2007, a municipal election, the three winners of board seats won with between 1,901 and 2,814 votes. A year later, a presidential election, the winners received between 6,480 and 7,086. In 2009, all the incumbents won against a ghost candidate, with between 1,297 and 1,953 votes. Again in 2010, three incumbents were elected with between 8,545 and 9,384 votes, with no challengers. The difference in votes is based on turnout but it is staggering because, essentially, thousands more people determined the outcome of who won in one year over the previous year. Granted, if voters don't bother to vote, then they cost themselves representation. But still, the fact that one year it only takes 1,300 votes to win and then another year it takes more than 6,000 is a serious problem which will be fixed with this proposal.

Third, running both on the district level and at-large ensures that every neighborhood of the city is represented on the school board. This has been a problem in the past. In 2009, for example, a quick analysis of the school board membership revealed that a third of the nine, came from Ward 4. Wards 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10, each had one member each. This meant that five members - or more than half – at the time, lived in the Kimball/Walker School District. There was no representation from Ward 2 or 8, meaning the Beaver Meadow and Dame elementary schools had no one from their districts or neighborhoods representing them on the board [No one represented Ward 1 either but most people who live in Ward 1 send their kids to the Merrimack Valley School District]. Today, Wards 1 and 2 are still not represented and there are three members from Ward 5. This proposal would open up opportunities for broadening neighborhood representation.

This is an excellent proposal with an acceptable timeline to implement the plan over a number of years. I encourage you to support this proposal.

Charter commission member emails:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More information on School Board election proposal

On Thursday I wrote about a new proposal by former Concord Mayor Mike Donovan on how to improve the electoral process for Concord School Board members: [Charter Commission to consider changing the way school board members are elected"].
I only had a bit of background but he forwarded the complete proposal to me earlier today.
Donovan proposes keeping a nine-member school board but changing the way the board members are elected from at-large seats to a mix of at-large and ward seats.
The proposal would establish three at-large positions and six ward positions, two each from districts identical to the voting districts used to elect Charter Commission members.
Donovan also proposes electing board members in odd municipal election years and not every year. In his proposal, he wrote that this would eliminate the influence of much larger voter turnouts during state and national elections, where some board members are elected by 3,500 voters and others by 10,000 or more.
Donovan suggests create four-year terms for the board; five elected in one election and four in another.
"Having 4 year terms elected on two year cycles promotes stability," he wrote in the proposal.
A transitional provision would be implemented to allow the changes to be implemented over a number of years.
As I said in the previous post, this is a much better proposal than moving to all ward representation or leaving it the way it is for a number of reasons.
I urge everyone to contact the Charter Commission members and let them know what you think. Send an email to

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Charter Commission to consider changing the way school board members are elected

I received word today that the Charter Commission will be considering a proposal to change the way Concord School Board members are elected.
The next meet will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at Dewey School.
The proposal, forwarded by former Concord Mayor Mike Donovan, would have board members elected in a similar fashion that the charter commission was elected. Instead of having all nine members elected at-large, three of the nine members would be elected at-large. Another six members would be elected from wards (two members from Ward 1,2,3,4; two from Ward 4,5,6; and two from Ward 8,9,10).
This proposal is much different than one forwarded by state Rep. Steve Shurtleff, written about here: ["Rep. Shurtleff's School Board plan"] and here:["The case for ward representation on the school board?"].
And, frankly, this proposal is much more acceptable than Shurtleff's. Having a combination of at-large and ward seats should widen the quality of the candidates who run for school board. The system would mirror the kind of representation that both the Concord City Council and the State House have. Both are much better than the school board. The accessibility of some of the seats would also be easier for candidates without a lot of money or powerful connections. Concord is a much bigger city than it was 50 years ago. While there have been fluke wins on the school board in the past, it is not the norm. Changing this process would be a big improvement.

If you are interested in being heard on this issue, show up to the hearing or email Betty Hoadley at

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Amateur Radio Station Dedication

From the inbox:
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in conjunction with the Contoocook Valley Radio Club (CVRC) and the New England Amateur Radio Festival (NEAR-Fest) has completed production of an amateur radio station with full operational capabilities. This station, KA1SKY, will be formally dedicated on February 14 at 11 AM, part of School Club Round-up Week, to 2009’s station project manager Ken Rust, KB1PRV, who recently became a Silent Key. The station will now be called the Mumley-Rust Memorial Station.

The new fully functional HF/VHF/UHF/Satellite amateur station will enable visitors at the Discovery Center to understand and use a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The radio will allow voice transmission and Morse code on thousands of frequencies of various wavelengths. With the guidance of volunteer amateur radio operators, visitors will be able to talk to other “Hams” around the world as well as contact the International Space Station when it is in a favorable position. Communication with satellites in space will also be possible in order to receive and make transmissions to other parts of the world. Use of the station will also demonstrate how energy and information is transmitted on electromagnetic waves in the radio end of the electromagnetic spectrum, making it an essential tool for enhancing Discovery Center educational programs.

A brief history of the project will be given by project manager Wayne Santos, N1CKM, followed by the dedication with station manager Peter Stohrer, K1PJS. Future plans for the station will also be presented by Santos and David McDonald, education director at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. The station will officially be open at 11:30 for student and public use.

Donors who made this project possible include Phil Parton; Lee Scott, AA1YN; Gordon West, W5YI; Kenwood USA, Inc.; NEAR-Fest; Port City Radio Club; CVRC; Ham Radio Outlet; West Mountain Radio; and the American Radio Relay League.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center features 21st century interactive exhibits on aviation, astronomy, Earth and space sciences, a state-of-the-art planetarium and a variety of science, technology, engineering and math programs. The engaging, robust educational programs are geared towards families, teens, seniors, students, community groups, and lifelong learners. For more information, visit