Monday, February 27, 2017
Meet SAU61 School Board Candidates Linda McElhenney & Penny Morin

Both Linda and Penny are running for the open positions on the Farmington NH School Board. Two positions are open so you may vote for both in the upcoming local election in March.



Linda McElhinney
Running for School Board position for 3 years.

Why do you want to hold the office you seek?
I feel it is important for someone to join a board, any board really, not because they have all the answers, but because they are willing to put forth the time and effort to ask the questions and share their views and suggestions. I, for one, have many questions in regards to the School Board and how the budget process works as well as how the board, administration, faculty and public work as a whole. I feel that as a School Board member, I would be able to more fully grasp the issues at hand, and I am willing to put in the time and effort it will take to work through the challenges facing our school district. Also, a fresh perspective would bring about some positive change!

If you are a challenger, describe one challenge you see with the present Board.
One challenge I see is a lack of a unified vision. The goal of being a top ten school in ten years is a great one,  but I don’t see a clear actionable plan in place to attain this. I feel that Superintendent Vaughn is heading the schools in the right direction and the student centered approach that the board has adopted has gone far to increase trust and encouragement from both faculty and students. I think the momentum is there, we just need to keep it moving in the right direction.

What is your vision for the Farmington School District?
My vision for the Farmington School District is to raise the perception, image and reputation of our schools and promote a more positive educational experience for our students. This can be accomplished in many ways. One means to this end is to increase parental and community involvement. We want to attract families to buy homes and put their children in our schools. The schools are a cornerstone of our community and how we prioritize our funding and involvement within our schools and our community says a lot about how we view our town. If we place education first in regards to budgeting and involvement, it reflects how important we feel, as taxpayers, about our future generation’s education.

Do you support accreditation for Farmington Schools? Why or why not?
First off I just want to say that I have found that accreditation, or lack thereof, has had little effect on a student’s ability to enter a good college.  A student  graduating from High School and moving on to College will succeed only if they put in the effort to do so. Now, that being said, I have to say that I can see some benefits of accreditation for Farmington schools. This has to do with how our town is seen as a whole. Prospective home buyers that have children will look at schools and how they rank in comparison to surrounding communities. Having accredited schools is a benefit to our community and ultimately our growth, in this regard. However, since I don’t have any numbers to go by, I am not sure if the benefits  outweigh the cost. I want to research this further to fully understand this issue before I can speak with any confidence on it.

What improvements would you make to the education of the children of Farmington?
As I mentioned above, I want to create a more positive educational experience for our students. I do feel that there is room for improvement in regards to those students that are excelling in school. An effort should be placed on keeping these students engaged. There are many opportunities (e.g. STEM) that are under utilized. I want to focus not only on the students that want extra help, but those that want more challenges.

What are the first five actions you would take, or encourage the Board to take, if you were elected?
First of all, I would review  the budget. As the school is potentially looking at a decrease of over $200,000.00 from their original budget (not default), there will be many decisions to be made. I am on the Board of Trustees and treasurer  for the Goodwin Library. I have worked on the Goodwin Library budget and presentation to the town and have experience with budgets and dealing with limited funding.

Secondly, I  encourage transparency. It is great that the meetings and minutes are available online, however there should be clearer organization and management of the website. The parents, public and staff should be made aware of decisions as they are being made, and given a chance to voice their opinions.

Next, I would work to receive more first hand information from parents and staff. One way I could accomplish this is by taking the time to meet with both groups through attending PAWS meetings, staff meetings and being available either in person or via email to parents and taxpayers questions and concerns. I also have three daughters in middle school so that helps too.

I want to also further my understanding of the accreditation process. Is there a benefit to having this for all three schools? I want to weigh the cost against the benefit.

And finally, as I have mentioned, I want to increase parent and community involvement as well as creating a better relationship between the school board and the other town boards.  We must increase support and awareness of our schools as they have the ability to attract young families to move here. And we must change the view that some officials hold; that our schools are a burden on our town. As my Dad always said, any decision comes down to priorities. You will always have the time or funding for those things you put first.


Penny Morin
Running for School Board position for 3 years.

Why am I running for school board…
 My goal along with the rest of the current board is that Farmington schools will be one of the top 10 schools in NH within the next 10 years. One way we will get there through NEASC accreditation. I am proud to be part of the team that began the process with NEASC and would very much like to see the process through fruition. Another way is keeping academics and services top rate, all students deserve a challenging education no matter where they are. Having more opportunities within our district, we will be able to reach many more students. We need to provide a fair and equitable education serving the many and not just the few.                                                                                                                                                                      
 I believe that through NEASC accreditation we will be able to improve not only our schools but our town as well. We need economic development in order to help alleviate some tax burdens on our citizens. Our current economic development is lackluster at best, we need to be proactive and reach out to all businesses.

 Knowing that on a board I am one voice I would (1) encourage members to look at the big picture, we are responsible first to the students who count on us to provide them with the best education we can. I would (2) encourage members to give our staff the opportunities to improve their craft, so that it would best benefit the students and taxpayers of Farmington. I would (3) encourage administration to be diligent in their duties to perform evaluations and encourage staff members. I would (4) encourage students to be proactive in their education, own it. I would (5) encourage community members to take an active role in the education of our youth, they are our future.

 I want to continue to move the school district forward while holding taxes at a rate that taxpayers can afford. The current board reflects diverse points of view, varied experiences, and works in the best interest of the children, staff and taxpayers. 

     
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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Meet Write-In Candidate For Farmington Board Of Selectmen Michelle Elbert


Michelle Elbert
Running for Board of Selectmen position for 3 years.


Introductory Letter

My family and I purchased land, built a house and moved to Farmington in 2003. Over the last 14 years, I have volunteered with the elementary and middle schools, Cub Scout Pack 188 in Farmington, Boy Scout Troop 186 in Rochester, and the Goodwin Library here in town. I have been on the library’s Board of Trustees since 2010 and have had the great privilege of serving as its president for the last 4 years. At the same time I am the Committee Chair of our Boy Scout troop and have seen great strides made with both of these organizations under my leadership.

I am running as a write-in candidate for Selectman because Farmington is not only stagnating under the current leadership, but it is moving backwards. Change is necessary for growth to happen. Farmington is a gem of a town and has such potential as a community, but economic development is a necessity and should be put first on the town’s agenda. The Route 11 corridor is ripe for development and nothing is being done. Our downtown area is in need of revitalization and preservation and it is my understanding that Farmington may be eligible for the USDA RDBG (Rural Development Business Grant) and as a Selectman, I intend to pursue that avenue. I will make economic development a priority because I believe that we have to give families and businesses a reason to come to and stay in Farmington.

This is a critical time for Farmington. Our town is in a prime location – close to the Seacoast, Lake Winnipesaukee, the Belknap Mountain range which includes great skiing and hiking options, and it’s a viable option as a residential area for people who work in Portsmouth and the more expensive seacoast towns. New businesses are coming to Route 11 and people are spending their money in Rochester. We need to continue that development into Farmington, but to do that, we must have a plan and act on it. This is where the current system is failing. New businesses are crucial to our town to improve the tax base and reduce the burden on residents. We cannot let another 5 years of economic development opportunities pass Farmington by while the BOS allocates funds to other budget items. We must put the interests of our residents first and economic development is the way to do that. We cannot continue to fund the town solely through tax dollars and simply maintain the status quo.

This will be a learning process for me, but I am not scared of digging in, asking questions, and challenging the system. It has taken three years as President of the Library’s Board of Trustees to sift through several years of neglect and poor direction to get the library back on a path of excellence. Since 2013, we have settled many issues that were allowed to linger for decades. I did not do this alone. I have worked with a team of dedicated trustees and staff and I hope to bring that same spirit of teamwork to the Board of Selectmen. I will also bring my tenacity and desire for positive change to the town of Farmington.

This is an exciting time and I want to be a part of it.
Please consider me as a write in candidate for Selectman when voting on March 14th.

Questions or comments can be sent to melbert@metrocast.net

Why do you want to hold the office you seek?
After hearing about some of the antics of our elected officials, I realized we need real leadership, not more mischief. The only way we are going to further the progress of our town is to try something new. We keep making the same choices and expecting different results. That’s not leadership, that is an agenda. We need to remove personal agendas and vendettas from the table and get down to the business of moving Farmington forward. The “good old boy” style of politics in Farmington has run its course.

If you are an incumbent, describe one contribution that you made on the board? N/A

Describe one challenge you see with the present board.
The majority of them seem to have obstructional views to change.  They have a “no” attitude to any suggestion of investment to make our town better or more attractive to new families and businesses. Let’s change that to a “yes” attitude and spend the money necessary to make the improvements that will attract those new tax revenues.  Let’s find creative ways to bring abundance to our town.

What is your vision for Farmington’s economic future?
It’s time to look outside of Farmington for help in getting us on track to economic development.  The UNH Cooperative Extension is ready to offer help and we need to align ourselves with them or they will take it elsewhere. Two years ago, we voted for the TIF, but we’re not doing anything with it. We need a committee to to discuss how to use it, but they’ve failed to create one.
My vision also includes solving the zoning issues we face and working collaboratively with the boards and committees in town because we all serve the taxpayer.

How do you accommodate those who do not share your vision?
I will not accommodate them.  I will listen to them and learn from them. With our current leadership, there is no listening and when faced with a problem they ignore it and hope it will go away. They make excuses and fall back on the idea that this is the way it’s always been done rather than tackling important problems.  This is not governing and it is not the leadership that this town needs. The ability to bring my vision to fruition will only be enhanced by understanding what drives the people of this town. In the end, we may still disagree, but conflict often provides opportunities for creative problem solving.  We need new blood and new ideas if Farmington is ever going to move forward.

What services and resources should a municipality provide for its citizens?
It depends on the municipality and demographic.  For Farmington, we need a reliable transportation system (Coast Bus). A quality educational system will attract new families to fill available homes. By making a serious marketing effort to portray Farmington as the gem it is, we can bring businesses and jobs back to our town.

What are the first 5 actions you would take or encourage the board to take?
A.      Develop collaboration between the various boards and committees
B.      Establish a common goal for the town
C.     Our budget is lean but there is room for improvement because we don’t spend our money on the right things. We need to spend the town’s money in responsible, meaningful ways.
D.      I was able to figure out a decades plus legal issue with the library this past year and I am ready to tackle the TIF
E.       Establish an open and ongoing dialogue between the BOS and the residents.  The selectmen should be accessible to the taxpayers all the time, not just during election season.


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Friday, February 24, 2017
Visit Farmington Community TV Channel 26 & FSDTV 25 Online


Just a reminder that Farmington does provide access to official meetings on the Farmington Community TV 26 channel. You can also view archived previous meetings. The Board of Selectmen, Budget Committee, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Trustees of the Trust Fund, and other meetings are available at the link below. The School Board meetings and deliberative session archives can viewed at the FSDTV 25 YouTube channel.

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New Website-Occupy NH Seacoast


Occupy NH Seacoast has been around for a long time now, but they just created a new website for people to connect with them, learn about their local initiatives, and join them for visibilities, rallies, and protests.


 
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Thursday, February 2, 2017
We All Belong Here-Resisting Racism & Bigotry

From AFSC:

Share and display these images in your community to help create welcoming spaces for all. 

Between Nov. 9—the day after the presidential election—and Nov. 15, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment from around the country.

Muslims, immigrants, women, and Black and LGBTQ communities were all targets of these attacks. These incidents took place on public transportation, in the streets, in places of worship—but the majority took place in K-12 schools. These attacks are happening to our communities, our friends, and loved ones.

Driven by a desire to provide tools for schools and the larger community to create space for discussion and declare solidarity, artists Micah Bazant and Kate DeCiccio partnered with AFSC, Forward Together, Jewish Voice for Peace, Center for New Community, and Showing Up for Racial Justice to produce these beautiful images.

Share these posters widely in your community. You can: 

 https://www.afsc.org/resource/posters-resisting-racism-and-bigotry

 Download "We All Belong Here" poster (PDF)

 Download "We Commit to Resist" poster (PDF)

 

 

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February--African American History Month



The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.  




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Tri Town Meeting Feb 9th, 7 PM-Guest Speaker Olivia Zink, from Open Democracy


Update:

Hi folks,

In lieu of the weather predictions for tomorrow, we think it wise to cancel our TriTown Dems Meeting on Thursday, February 9. 

We will email out the agenda with some notes and have a few questions for you, so you won't be totally off the hook for participation and sharing of ideas!  But we do want everyone to be safe from driving in the predicted, and sometimes unpredictable, weather.

As we are developing that agenda and notes to share, please send me any items or notes you would like to be included for either notice or discussion. 

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. 

Stay safe in the storm.


Our next scheduled meeting will be on February 9th, at 7:00 PM in Milton at the Emma Ramsey Center. Our speaker will be Olivia Zink, from Open Democracy. She will speak about voting rights and campaign finance reform.

About Open Democracy:

Founded in 2009 by renowned reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock (1910-2010), Open Democracy is leading the New Hampshire movement to strengthen democracy and stop the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics. Over the past five years, we have educated and engaged thousands of New Hampshire citizens through nonpartisan grassroots campaigns, film and theatrical events, a national speaker series, research and publications, and local and state advocacy initiatives. In 2014, we partnered with citizens in 52 New Hampshire towns to pass warrant articles calling for an end to corporate and union spending in political campaigns under Citizens United.

http://www.opendemocracynh.org/




Mark your Calendars for the Farmington Democratic Committee Caucus

Our committee caucus is scheduled for Thursday, March 9, 6:30 PM at the Farmington House of Pizza.  Please come and join us for some socializing and strategizing for the coming year.  This is the year to get involved, and we are the folks that can help you get involved and stay involved.
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Support Your Schools & Educators-SAU 61 Deliberative Session Saturday Feb 4th 9am


Update 2/6/2017-SAU61 Deliberative Session Saturday lasted five hours this time. Concerned citizens were able to stop several attempts to massively cut funding(one for 1 million in cuts and one for 500K in cuts) to the schools, educators and students of our school system. It was close though. As personal citizens, the Town Administrator Arthur Capello and Charlie King, Chairman of the Select Board, proposed the large cuts. We need support during the election in March & town meeting for many things including the schools & library. Time to step up everyone.



Residents of the Town of Farmington are hereby notified to meet at the Farmington High School, 40 Thayer Drive, in Farmington, NH on Saturday, February 4, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. to discuss and amend, if required, the 2017-2018 School District Budget and Warrant Articles. Voting, Session #2 will be held on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Town Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.


The School Board approved a budget of $16,217,851 (tax impact $3.14).
The Budget Committee reduced that amount to $15,850,889 (tax impact $2.31)  This is the number that will appear on the Warrant, unless it is amended at the Deliberative Session.


Most of the money targeted by the Budget Committee dealt with personnel.  While the School Board favors rewarding our educators for their hard work and dedication to our schools and our students, many members of the Budget Committee seek to treat personnel as toss away, hired hands, and clearly resents paying and treating our educators like the professionals that they are.

They will seek to force the school to continue low pay and part time employment of our dedicated educators.  Please help us stop them!





1.  Come to the School Deliberative Session.
The deliberative session is on Saturday, February 4, at 9:00 AM, at the High School
We need a bunch of folks to show up at the deliberative session and amend the budget to put the money back so our budget can go to the voters intact.  We need support to drum up folks for the deliberative session, and for support for the warrants in March.  We have a budget, the teacher contract, and the maintenance Workers Contract to pass.

2. Call, Write or Email the Budget Committee and School Board Members

Both boards need to understand your feelings about our schools, and our town. Applaud the School Board for its decisions to get our schools back on track and put our district in the top 10% of New Hampshire Schools in the next 10 years.  This is the only way we will attract families and businesses to our town.
The School Board will use your positive support to move even further towards progress.
The Budget Committee will use your negative support to understand how the townsfolk feel about the education of our children and investments in our community.



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Vision. Action. Community.

The Farmington Democrats believe that equality of opportunity can be achieved through community involvement, political action, and a shared vision of social justice.