Mayor Joyce Craig talks a good game when it comes to transparency and working together with everybody. Unfortunately, her record is very different than her rhetoric and shows that she’s not only willing to stack the deck in favor of her position, but is also willing to sabotage those decisions she disagrees with.
A case in point is how she acted on the issue of “student voice.” Pushed by disgraced former Ward 2 School Committee Member David Scannell and the race-baiting Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP), “student voice” was an attempt to seat between one and four high school students as ex-officio members on the Board of School Committee (BOSC).
So great was Craig’s support, she obtained an opinion from City Solicitor Emily Gray Rice saying state law overrode the city charter, which has always determined the membership on the BOSC. Former City Solicitor Tom Clark had previously, and correctly, issued an opinion stating the state law didn’t apply because the city’s charter,which IS state law, took precedent. The fact that the city’s school board, in no way, conforms to the laws in question (they require a school board with 3, 5, 7 or 9 members elected at large for 3 year terms with 1/3 of the board up for election every year) fazed neither Rice nor Craig, who put the solicitor’s opinion on a school board agenda, hoping to persuade the board to vote for it.
The board voted not once, but twice against seating students on the board. Instead, after several months of work by a special committee led by Ward 7 School Committee Member Ross Terrio, the board voted on a compromise proposal by at-Large Committee Member Rich Girard creating a spot on its meeting agendas where representatives from each school could present their questions, comments and concerns in public session. Once presented, any actionable items would be referred to the necessary committees or district officials for resolution. In this way, each school would be heard before the board monthly and the issues raised would have a “paper trail” that could be followed to see what was done in response.
That all seemed lost on Mayor Craig when the question of putting “student voice” came before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to be placed on this November’s ballot as a non-binding referendum. During the discussion, several aldermen opposed the question on the grounds that it that properly belonged before the school board and should be decided by it. When asked by an alderman how the school board had handled it, Craig developed an interesting case of amnesia. She correctly said the school board had opposed it but when asked what, if anything, it did to get student input, she said wasn’t sure what was in place.
As Chairman of the Board of School Committee, Craig should have, at the very least, explained what the board did to provide students with a special opportunity each month to address their concerns to the board. Instead, she took the opportunity, under pressure from the GSOP which advanced the question and had representatives in the audience during the BMA meeting, to advance her own position. This is how Craig “collaborates” to get things done.
School Board Vice-Chairman Arthur Beaudry has taken to asking students if they like the current system that provides their input at board meetings. With the rare exception of those who do GSOP’s bidding, the students have said “yes.” Since they like the current system because they believe it provides a good opportunity to represent their schools before the board, we should vote “no” on the ballot question to preserve this system. After all, IF we’re listening to the students, should we do away with something that they like and is working in favor of something that isn’t legally permissible and has been solely driven by a politically charged, racist special interest group for its own purposes?
~Richard H. Girard