Elections in Nashua are held every year. In “even” years, candidates for federal office are on the ballot. In “odd” years, candidates for local and state offices are on the ballot. But because local elections don’t generate the excitement and (sometimes) national coverage of elections for federal offices, Nashua residents rarely show up at the polls.
Or, more precisely, far fewer voters show up for local elections than for federal elections.
It may seem boring to vote for candidates for “lowly positions” in the Nashua local government. After all, it’s just the Board of Aldermen, or just the Board of Education, or just the Board of Public Works, or just the Mayor. Or just some other local position like Fire Commissioner or Public Works. Nothing exciting. Just the humdrum local stuff that most folks don’t find interesting.
But here’s a thought: when was the last time a federal official – a Senator or a Congressperson – came to Nashua during an off-year election to talk about the exclusively local political issues in Nashua? For that matter, when was the last time a New Hampshire State Representative worked toward any changes that specifically targeted Nashua – and only Nashua?
The truth is that all of those local political offices have a far greater effect on the daily lives of Nashuans than anything coming from as far away as Washington DC. Onetime Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill once said, “All politics are local”. He may have been speaking of federal-level offices such as Senator or Congressman, or he may have been speaking of State Senator or Representative – or, in NH, the Executive Council.
However, the real meaning behind that phrase was the recognition that local city and town boards are where the “rubber meets the road”, politically. It is in those local political offices that the work of running a community is accomplished. It is in the mayor’s office where spending decisions are proposed. It is at the Board of Aldermen where a vote is held to determine whether those proposals are funded. It is at the Board of Education where teacher contracts are discussed and negotiated.
This is the very definition of “local politics”. It is the locally elected representatives who are supposed to set policies for fair treatment of all residents in a community. It is the task of those local boards to ensure that the community’s tax revenues are spent wisely.
And it is the task of a Board of Education to ensure that the students in a community’s public school system – its district – receive a solid education that is free of political influence and the latest “let’s try this” experiments in education.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s done in Nashua.
The Nashua Board of Education (BoE) has spent the past several decades implementing failed experiments in scheduling, curriculum, and different theories in student socialization methods. The belief is that these failures were driven by the teachers, educators, or the Nashua Teacher’s Union (NTU).
These failures are all exclusively the fault of the Nashua Board of Education.
You see, the BoE sets policy for entire the Nashua school district. All policy. Curriculum policy. In-classroom policy. Sports policy. Behavioral policy. Disciplinary policy. The BoE has first and final approval on any actions that district administrators plan to implement in the classroom. And the current BoE has failed on several counts.
For example, in September of 2019, a 12-year-old girl was attacked from behind. She had been bullied for at least the previous several weeks and her father had lodged multiple complaints with the school administration. After he posted a video of an attack in progress to the Internet – her child was the target – the superintendent of schools complained… about the fact the video had been posted online. This same superintendent had taken no action to either investigate these attacks or to instruct his staff to keep a watchful eye on the schoolyard where the attacks had taken place. Instead, he suggested that the girl who was attacked should learn to defend herself – or maybe should find a different school.
Many current members of the Nashua BoE were members of the board when this happened. They took no action. They did not demand that the superintendent explain his inaction, nor did they demand that he take any remedial action to prevent any further attacks. They decided that the superintendent’s actions were appropriate.
The Nashua BoE had an ideal opportunity to set a policy to prevent future attacks. It failed to do so. Bullying still occurs. To make matters worse, dozens of New Hampshire RSAs that address special education, funding, equal treatment, discipline, suspension and expulsion, and all manner of rules to ensure equal treatment of all students throughout New Hampshire have been regularly ignored by the BoE. Instead, the BoE takes it upon itself to arbitrarily create new rules that do not reflect New Hampshire law. This “scattershot” approach generates both confusion and inequities and puts the Nashua school system at odds with school systems in neighboring communities.
Unlike several other local communities, the Nashua BoE has required a “full-time mask mandate” for all children in the city schools. The reason? Covid, of course. But even this attempt at the BoE’s claim to “keep our children safe” is rife with inconsistencies. If Covid is so serious that masks must be worn full time in schools, then why are “mask breaks” sometimes permitted in the principal’s office? Has nobody considered that, under physical exertion, student-athletes would be breathing heavier and faster, and that a mask – once saturated with moisture – becomes an impediment to taking a “full breath”? Students are allowed to remove their masks in the lunchroom – are students immune from infection while eating? I have been told that students in gym classes may wait in line for a “mask break” which is taken in a “special location” – does that “special location” provide immunity against Covid?
The Nashua BoE relies on a statement from the NH State AG that mask mandates are legal. However, neither the Nashua BoE nor the NH State AG has addressed the specific content of NH RSA 126 with regard to “coercive restraint”. The Nashua BoE issued an administrative order that mandates the wearing of a non-medical device that is not proven to provide specific protection against a specific threat. Masks that restrict the free flow of air into a child’s lungs are a form of “coercive restraint” and are being imposed on Nashua’s school children who are, according to the CDC, the least vulnerable members of American society to either the effects of Covid or to spreading Covid to others.
The Nashua BoE has mandated (“forced”) the use of paper or cloth masks by all children in all local schools. Their theory is that a cloth mask prevents “moisture droplets” from being expelled toward others and can thus “prevent the spread” of a biological agent. What they fail to acknowledge is that, after being worn long enough for lungs to fill the mask with moisture, the mask becomes a biological waste product.
The Nashua BoE has no answer for this obvious limitation in the efficacy of an air permeable mask, other than to say “everyone must wear a mask”. The Nashua BoE has decided that children who cannot wear a mask in public schools cannot attend in-classroom instruction and must continue with “remote learning” (which we already know is a disaster). Forbidding them to receive a full education with their peers due to the existence of a legitimate medical condition — are those children as disposable as a paper mask?
As I have mentioned previously, I was in the US Navy for 10 years. During my tenure as a member of the military, I attended multiple refresher courses in NBC warfare: Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (now known as BCNR: Biological, Chemical, Nuclear, Radiological). These courses concentrated on the effects of biological and chemical “agents” that might be used by opposing forces and spent considerable time on the prevention and mitigation of the effects of these weapons.
Nowhere in any of those refresher courses were we taught that air-permeable cloth or paper masks were protection against airborne biological agents – or the “moisture droplets” containing those agents. All of these courses emphasized the use of air-impermeable protection over the entire head – including the eyes and ears, which are not protected by the Nashua BoE “mask mandate”.
The hypocrisy, inconsistency, and absence of logic or reason exercised by the current Nashua BoE is sufficient reason to reject any candidate who agrees with the school “mask mandate”. Nashua voters, especially those parents with children in the Nashua public schools, would be wise to become familiar with the names of the current members of the Board of Education who support the mask mandate and their opponents prior to walking into the voting booth.
It is about your children’s education. Either we make those choices wisely, or we end up with elected officials who believe they are our masters – and not public servants.