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.