Six running for Board of Education in Nashua
All six candidates have served on the board and have skills and experience they believe will be assets in leading Nashua's school district.
Thomas Vaughan is running for a third term on the board with a new sense of optimism.
"We are going through big changes in the way we do instruction, and it has the potential to be very positive for students," he said.
"I know it won't be easy, but I think we have the chance to really turn the corner," he said, adding there is a tendency to underestimate Nashua students.
Vaughan first ran for a seat on the board because he felt budget negotiations were too contentious, and funding for schools was inadequate.
"I have a passion for education," he said. "I hope voters support me so I can keep working at it."
David Murotake's motto as both a state rep and an incumbent seeking a second term on the board is "Education is the Foundation of Liberty."
He uses his own life as an example of how education opens doors.
Murotake was able to use the scholarship to attend MIT were he racked up a string of degrees in engineering, computer science and managing technological innovation.
"Those are foundational skills that we need to teach kids in elementary school," he said, adding success in later years depends on those basic abilities.
He also has concerns about the data collection and curriculum development occurring with Common Core.
George Farrington served on the board from 1990 to 1997, and watched a parade on educational reform movements come and go.
"I have concerns and questions," he said, adding that he wonders if the standards provide reasonable expectations for students.
"My concern is that we don't go 10 years down the road and decide, like No Child Left Behind, that it doesn't work," he said.
"I can't help but believe that impacts education," he said. "Teachers are taking time out of class to write curriculum."
"The tendency has been to use a top-down approach and I think you need more input from teachers," he added.
A retired airline pilot who also serves on the Board of Assessors, Farrington now has a grandchild in first grade and he wants to foster a school system that challenges all kids.
Dotty Oden has been pushing the board to tweak the morning bus schedule for Amherst Elementary School. Oden has repeatedly explained that kids arrive too late to have breakfast, and she's offered the board the information needed to fix the problem.
Oden said she's "running for kids," and their needs and interests will be her priority rather than test scores and data.
Oden served on the board from 1992 to 1995, and has watched public education embrace different reforms and trends.
If elected, her first step will be a close review of the budget the distribution of resources.
During her first two terms on the board, Sandra Ziehm became known for speaking her mind on thorny issues such as salaries for school administrators, which she says are too high, and funding for special education, which she worries is unsustainable.
"I think you need to rule from the bottom up," she said, adding that the board and the administration need more input from teachers.
Ziehm believes classrooms are the cornerstone of education, and she supports adding more paraprofessionals and reading specialists and reducing class sizes.
Ziehm owns Harmony Real Estate in Hudson, and is serving her second term as Hillsborough County Commissioner.
She believes schools need to better prepare Nashua kids for colleges and careers. But she opposes many of the changes schools will see with the Common Core Standards and feels the reforms will hurt kids who are struggling.
Dennis Ryder ran for his first term on the board after the school budget came up $3 million short. He was also troubled by how far Americans have slipped in international student rankings.
If elected to a second term, tighter budgets and higher test scores will still be his priorities.
Originally from London, England, Ryder is a retired engineer and CEO who has lived and worked all over the world. He feels he has the background to help strengthen the district's budgeting policies, and the perspective to push for higher academic standards that will help students compete in an international economy.
"There are all sorts of reasons not to like Common Core," he said. "But the reasons to like it outweigh the disadvantages. It is the first real step to get some improvement."