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November 06. 2013 9:04PM

Winning Nashua Board of Education candidates weigh Common Core effect

NASHUA — The four candidates who came out on top in Tuesday’s Board of Education race have mixed views on the role the Common Core standards played in the election.

Nashua has a strong and vocal group of parents and residents who oppose the standards, which outline what students are expected to know at each grade level. Opponents also question other aspects of the Common Core initiative, including the assessment tests due to begin in the spring of 2015, student data collection and the overall cost of the national reform movement.

David Murotake, who voters returned for a second term on the board, said all six candidates were up to the job and each brought a unique skill set to the table.

“But as I reviewed the candidates, who were all qualified, one thing I found interesting was those who won expressed a serious concern about the Common Core and whether the curriculum standards are appropriate, and whether the assessments are appropriate,” said Murotake, who has proposed a resolution to delay the assessment tests for two years.

Incumbents Dennis Ryder and Thomas Vaughan, who support implementing the standards and tests in Nashua’s schools, both lost their bids for re-election to the board. Neither Ryder nor Vaughan was available for comment.

Sandra Ziehm, who won a third term on the board, said Common Core was an ever-present issue during the campaign, but it is hard to gauge how many voters were driven by their support or opposition to the standards.

“There was a Common Core question at every forum we had,” said Ziehm. “I was amazed at how well it was being vetted.”

And while Ziehm also said voters asked her questions about where candidates stood on Common Core, she also felt there were other issues at play, such as the need for more resources for classrooms and teachers that may have determined Tuesday night’s final tallies.

George Farrington and Dotty Oden, both former BOE members who served during the 1990s, also won seats on the board, with Farrington coming in first in the field of six candidates.

Farrington and Oden were out first thing Wednesday morning making good on their promise to collect campaign signs from homeowners’ yards as soon as the election was over.

“I thought it was interesting that the two people who didn’t win supported Common Core, but I don’t think it was a major issue,” said Oden.

“For George and myself, I think it had to do with the work we did,” she added.

Farrington and Oden spent weeks walking the wards and reaching out personally to voters.

Farrington said Common Core was a key issue with some voters, and he spoke with two or three people outside the polls on Tuesday who opposed the standards.

“But I think it would be a stretch to say Common Core played a major role,” he said. “There are reports that still say a fairly significant percentage of people are still unaware of Common Core.”

Farrington added it’s more likely that Nashua was looking for change.

“It’s hard to know what motivates voters,” he said.


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