Running forBoard of School Committee At-Large
Running as Non-Partisan Election
Worked at a technology company, startups, CEO of several companies.
Manchester of Board of School Committee: 2019 - present
President of Citizens Manchester Schools 2016-2019
Time lived in NH24 years
Business and Commerce South End Polytechnic
University of Essex
Business and Law at Merrimack College
Best way to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WebsiteO'Connell at Large
Why are you running?
I am running for School Board Member at Large to continue the work that I began in my first term. Much of the focus of the board over the past 1.5 years has been clouded by the impact of the Covid issue. I am committed to making Manchester Schools the best in the state and to push back against the onslaught of attacks on our public schools. I want to oversee the revamping and updating of our schools and systems.
What uniquely qualifies you for the Board of School Committee?
I have had four children go through the Manchester Public School system. I have been an advocate for our schools for many years and I have a deep and extensive knowledge of our schools, their personnel and their programs. I was cofounder and president of Citizens for Manchester Schools as well as a PTO member and president for more than a decade. I have strong relationships with parents groups, sports groups, teachers, principals, social workers and others across the district. I make a point to know the names of our secretaries, counsellors, para educators, substitute teachers and janitorial staff in buildings cross the city. That has been a multi year process, long before I ever ran for public office. I want the people in our schools and our families to know that they have someone who listens to them in City Hall.
How would you rate the school district's current curriculum and why?
I am proud that Manchester School district has at last adopted a system wide curriculum for Math and English and we will shortly have citywide Social Science and Science curricula also. We will shortly increase the number of credits needed to graduate and we have expanded our competency based learning and our ELO opportunities.
What are your thoughts on the Manchester School District’s facilities? How many schools should the district have and what grades should each school have?
Do all students in the city have the access to a quality education regardless of where they live? Please elaborate on your answer.
This question does not lend itself to a short-form answer. Manchester Public Schools have consistently produced some of the highest achieving students in the state. The sad part is that not all students can access everything our schools have to offer in all schools. The quality of Manchester’s schools has been put at risk by the fact that we now lose many teachers every year to other towns where class sizes are smaller and salaries are substantially higher. Paying $39k a year for a newly graduated teacher is not enough to attract the best new teachers. A teacher in Manchester has to work three years before getting to $40K!
Should the Manchester School District be autonomous from the city government, a department of the city government or something else entirely?
Manchester schools should be autonomous. The current situation leaves citizens without a body to bear ultimate responsibility for our schools. There is no question but that our school have been neglected for a couple of decades. We have at least $150 million backlog on required maintenance and more like $200 million, why? Who is to blame: BoMA or BoSC? We now struggle to attract the best teachers (we used to be the most desirable and best paid district), why? Who is to blame? The answer has been that the BoMA can blame the BoSC and vice versa. With great respect to our current and former aldermen, they have no clue about our school system. It is bigger in size than all other city operations combined: more employees, more buildings and a budget larger than the city side. For those who fear a runaway school board I would simply state that the people choose their representatives every two years. I am certain that a school board, just like a BoMA, that voted to override the tax cap and add unsustainable spending to the city would be removed from office and replaced by more responsible members.
What are your thoughts on the Manchester School District’s financial decisions in recent years?
What is your perception of Manchester Proud's recent Community Partnership proposal?
Manchester Proud: what is it? Manchester Proud is simply an umbrella group for a broad range of our city’s most committed and responsible businesses, charities, philanthropies, community organizations and other concerned bodies who have come together to help our schools become the best schools in the state. They are an invaluable asset to our administration and our schools. They have been the catalyst to raise substantial funds to help our schools to do what is needed to support and educate our children. The community Partnership Proposals arise out of this effort and help us to formalize and understand both where the biggest needs are and who is best placed to respond.
Manchester School District's governing body? (currently known as the Board of School Committee, but proposed to be renamed as the Manchester School Board). If so, why (or why not?)
The words School Board and School Board Member are more explicit and direct than Board of School Committee. So I support the change it’s no big deal and It’s really a non-issue.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I have worked hard to the best representative of the people of Manchester that I can be. I take my duty to be aware of what is happening in education for families in every corner of the city. In the last 18 months, despite Covid I have visited every school in the city at least once, most I have visited multiple times. I answer every email and every phone call. I engage constructively with the parents and families of Manchester whenever and wherever I have the opportunity to. I have gone to great lengths to explain my positions to anyone who cares to know, both those who strongly agree with me and just as importantly to those who do not. I listen. I have not missed a single meeting, I have never been late and I arrive prepared to ask difficult questions of our management every day. I ask the people of Manchester for their support and trust and I promise to continue to do my best every day to look after their interests at City Hall.