Running forWard 8 School Board
Running as Non-Partisan Election
I am a mother to two young girls—one is three years old and the other is six months old. My husband, Jimmie, and I have been married for 12 years this September. After Jimmie separated from the Air Force in 2014, we moved to NH. At first, we lived in Hooksett, but then bought our home in Manchester in 2016. My father was also in the Air Force; our family (my parents, brother, and I) moved to NH in 2000 when my dad was stationed at Hanscom AFB. He retired a few years later and NH has become our home. I like to think of myself as being from NH, since I have lived here longer than anywhere else (granted I had a few excursions to go to college and follow my husband).
I have been an active member of the community. I actively keep track of bills that are important to me and contact my representatives, senators, and the governor’s office advocating for their passage or tabling. I’m a member of the NH Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and follow/read their emails regarding policy and legislation—along with the news that comes from the Manchester Democratic Party. I try to stay informed and up to date by following stories from local and national news stations.
Current jobI currently work for the State of New Hampshire, Dept. of Health and Human Services, as a SNAP Program Specialist on the SNAP Team. Our work mostly involves managing the evaluation and implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In particular, I work with SNAP-Education, SNAP Outreach, and the SNAP Nutrition Incentives Program.
Time lived in NHI have lived in Manchester since 2016.
I was homeschooled and graduated high school in 2006. My parents chose to homeschool me and my brother for a variety of reasons, but the biggest was that it just fit better with the military lifestyle. (Prior to becoming a parent, my mother was a high school math teacher, and felt confident she could give us a quality education herself—which she did.) By the time my father retired, I was either a sophomore or junior in high school. It just didn’t make sense for me to go to public school at that point, even though my parents offered it up as an option. I chose to finish my schooling at home and continued to play sports through Nashua High School North.
I left NH in 2007 to attend Samford University in Alabama, but transferred to UNH in 2009 due to rising tuition costs at Samford. I studied social work at UNH and graduated in 2011 with honors, magna cum laude. I later attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa and obtained my Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Child and Family Welfare.
Why are you running for this office?
Everyone has the right to access a quality education. Our children especially rely on us to provide it. We cannot continue to disservice them by allowing stagnation to permeate the school system—particularly at the school board level. I’ve become frustrated with the lack of action to address student performance, teacher appreciation, and social/emotional issues (i.e., mental/behavioral health). In a state such as ours, where we have less locally generated income, creativity is key in problem-solving. Utilizing existing resources in new ways is necessary to address these issues.
What qualifies you as the best candidate for this office?
As a parent, I understand the urgency of ensuring a quality education for our children. As a social worker, I realize the education system is multi-faceted—facing pressure from all sides. On the Manchester School Board I will work to bring people together and move the School Board from discussion and into purposeful action. I’ve done so throughout my career as a social worker, where I was challenged to leverage available resources to meet the needs of my clients—who faced challenges like homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment, court involvement, and physical/mental illness.
What are your thoughts on the Manchester School District's relationship to city government?
The school district needs a closer relationship with city government. The Board of School Committee and the School District work all year to bring together a budget that fits the needs of the students and teachers. We must ensure that the School District and the Board of School Committee are working together to successfully advocate as one voice for the needs of our students and teachers. The Board of Mayor and Alderman are the ones who give final approval, so it’s vital the relationship amongst everyone be cooperative.
What are your thoughts and plans for the number of public schools needed in Manchester (with breakdown of elementary/middle/high schools in that number?)
13/4/4—We should not be downsizing or combining schools at this time, unless there is a safety concern with the building itself. It’s not a bad thing that the number of students in schools is decreasing. It will (in time) allow class sizes to come down, while increasing the amount of time teachers have to work with pupils, plan their lessons, and grade papers.
What are your thoughts/plans on improving grade-level proficiency scores?
Follow the teachers’ lead and follow the research. I am interested in learning what the teachers think will improve grade-level proficiency scores. There are all sorts of educational methods that can be incorporated into the classroom if we give teachers the opportunity to utilize them.
How would you address student equity?
What are your thoughts on extra-curricular offerings in Manchester public schools?
We need to prioritize extra-curricular activities. It’s an excellent way for students to expand on their interests and hone in on their skills. Teachers typically run these programs, but may not have the time or energy to invest in them—especially, if they are unpaid positions. The school system needs to partner with more community resources to create opportunities for extra-curricular activities to be offered without further marginalizing any community.
What are your thoughts on per-pupil expenditures/costs per student?
Manchester spends the least amount of money per pupil in the state—yet we are the biggest city. However, because of the way funding is distributed throughout the state, we can’t necessarily increase funding very easily. Most of our money comes from the city’s property tax, with the rest being made up through the State and other means. We need more money for our schools, period. We won’t get there though with our current funding stream. Many people rent in Manchester, and so the property tax doesn’t apply in the same way. As a community, it’s like we are being punished for having non-homeowners, but we can’t separate ourselves from rental properties because that’s what’s most affordable—and with the housing crisis being what it is, there’s really no end in sight. Funding statewide has to change. Manchester has a big voice, and we need to use it more effectively with those who have power to make big changes.
What are your thoughts on attracting and retaining high quality Manchester School District staff?
It’s a complex question. Teaching is an underappreciated profession—but it is one of the most important. We have to show potential teachers that we value and respect them. By increasing salaries, decreasing class sizes, and maintaining teacher autonomy in the classroom (e.g., allowing them to do their job—teach—without interference), we will draw in qualified educators. To keep them here, we will need to give them that work-life balance everyone craves. One starting point is to look at how we can give teachers that work-life balance; things like assisting applicants with relocating (i.e., finding a place to live, moving expenses, etc.), personal time, and other “perks” are some areas to explore.
What are your thoughts on the Manchester School District's relationship with private schools, charter schools and other school districts that have tuition agreements with Manchester?
Public funds should be used for public education. I am against a voucher system and, while the intention of the charter school was good, it has failed systematically. Charter schools have long waits and lottery systems that are ineffective at offering a true “choice.” As a nation, we have tried to apply marketplace principles to a sector that is not profit driven. Schools will not be pushed to “be better” if we continuously give money to the schools that already perform well. All we are doing by following that model is widening the gap between wealthy and poor communities. Education is a right, not a competition. We must invest in the schools that are struggling in order for them to become beacons of excellence. In terms of the other school districts that have tuition agreements with Manchester, I am in favor of retaining those agreements.
What are your thoughts on and plans on school safety?
School safety is of the utmost importance. With the heightened politicization of LGBTQ+ students’ needs, curriculum decisions, and on-going mental health and substance uses crises in our community, schools have an important role to play in keeping students safe. When most people think of school safety, their minds often go to preventing gun violence first. Although the school board isn’t going to effect change in gun laws (it is a huge issue in its own right), the school board can take measures to prevent students from being exploited and drawn into dangerous situations. Oftentimes people are compelled to act in ways they normally wouldn’t because a need isn’t being met. It could be a physical need, like housing, clothes, food, or medical care. It could be a more emotionally based need like acceptance, fulfillment, or family. Safety isn’t just a physical need, it’s something that’s felt internally. Knowing that you are not going to be judged or targeted for who you are helps students relax, feel comfortable, and let their mental walls down so that they can learn. If that kind of environment can be fostered, it will also help teachers feel confident that they can teach their subjects without others questioning their professional judgement. While schools cannot provide for all these various needs, they can become a connection to other community resources that can. Our district just received a grant to expand mental health access in the school system. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet students where they are at—to bring the resources to them and ensure that when students are in school, they are safe from harm in all its forms.
What are your thoughts on and/or plans for addressing remote learning/other uses of technology in local education?
I love the thought of using remote learning and technology to creatively address some issues our schools are facing. Remote learning can be used to ensure that schools maintain a predictable schedule for students and teachers. Snow days can be limited so that school breaks can go on as planned. VLACS can be used to fill gaps for students who have more than one study hall. They could go home early and complete their class there or use a computer at school or the library. Using VLACS for classes that may typically be smaller, can free up valuable time for teachers to dedicate to other responsibilities. Students still have access to those courses but have the freedom to complete them at their own pace.
What are your thoughts on or plans for addressing vocational and career-focused educational initiative?
Vocational and career-focused education is necessary for the vitality of the community. Students have varied skills. While some may be proficient in writing a cohesive essay, others may be gifted in mechanical thinking. We should help students develop those skills with the same gusto that we put into a math class. Trade schools are a legitimate route post-graduation, and it’s imperative that we not funnel students into academia simply because of traditional thinking. We must prepare those students who plan to attend trade school with as rigorous an education as those who plan to attend college.
What are your thoughts on as well as plans for addressing issues and costs related to Special Education/IEPs?
We need to ensure that we are billing Medicaid to the maximum extent possible. Medical billing and coding is a time intensive process, so much so that there are people whose job is to complete that process. However, other states have found that when they invested the money into these positions/programs, they have gotten it back ten-fold. New Hampshire allows for billing according to an IEP, 504, or “other plan,” for any student enrolled in Medicaid. According to a report from DHHS in July 2023, there were around 85,000 children/people between 0-18 years of age on some form of Medicaid/CHIP. Yet, according to an earlier report from Feb. 2023, the State reported providing reimbursement to schools for around 8,000 students’ care during State Fiscal Year 2022. Either I’m reading these reports wrong, or there’s a huge discrepancy. The option is there to bill, but we have to engage in the process as a school system to access the resource. We are the largest school district in the state; we are missing out. I will advocate to change this; if I have to bring it to the Mayor, the Board of Alderman, the State legislature, personally, I will. This is an investment we must make for our most vulnerable students to receive the medical/mental/behavioral health care they need in the most accessible setting—the school.