SUNAPEE – The four sitting members of the Sunapee school board voted unanimously to stick with one of their own Wednesday by appointing April Royce to fill a vacant seat on the board.
Royce will serve a one-year term that opened up following the recent resignation of member Heather Furlong. Furlong’s husband was arrested last month for allegedly committing election fraud during his wife’s race for a board seat last year.
Royce had been the overwhelmingly choice of voters to serve a one-year term in 2016, but she finished fifth among five candidates who ran for a full three-year term last month. The board chose her after she and two other interested residents were publicly interviewed at a public meeting before the group’s its regular meeting at Sunapee Middle High School last week.
During her interview, Royce told the sitting board members that she believed her professional and personal experience with financial issues would help them to “reduce costs while managing results and employee satisfaction.” She said she has a good understanding of the board’s financial responsibilities and has the ability to break down fiscal information for other people “in non-financial terms.”
Royce said she places a high value on public school education and that she believes the district’s primary mission is “helping children learn to be contributing members of society.”
Sunapee selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant seats in March, said that the board could benefit from his ‘numbers orientation and analytic mindset.’
Community activist Gidget Ducharme told the board that she wanted the district to develop a “clearer picture of (each) student’s strengths and weaknesses.” She promoted a community approach that would involve parents and teachers, as well as guidance councilors and educational advisors.
“I think we do a good job with kids who have challenges, and with the advanced kids,” she said, but students “in the middle of the road” could use more support.
Ducharme also promoted the idea of introducing languages in early education because research indicates that there are multiple educational and social benefits, including greater mental flexibility and higher math scores on standardized tests.
Selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant board seats in March’s elections, said that the board could benefit from his “numbers orientation and analytic mindset.” “I have the mindset of a business owner and entrepreneur,” he explained.
Augustine also said that he’s hired many local students for his business over the years and is concerned that with their general lack of enthusiasm about their futures. “I don’t sense that be-all-you-can be passion and inspiration that I felt a generation ago,” he noted, especially given the advantages Sunapee students have with relative small class sizes and highly compensated teachers.
Board member Jesse Tyler asked Augustine about how he would work in an cooperative fashion since local newspapers have published letters the selectman wrote that were critical of current board members. Tyler said he had to talk to his young child after he was “mischaracterized as being foolish” in one of Augustine’s column.
Augustine said that he had been critical of something Tyler said at a public meeting because he did not think it was helpful to the district. “We’re not here to make ourselves look good,” he added, suggesting that the board needs to face the “reality of the situation” in the district.
Shortly after the board convened its regular meeting, the group unanimously approved Royce for the vacant position. In addition, Royce was voted to become the board’s new vice-chairman.
A March 2018 election will let voters chose who fills out the remainder of Furlong’s term.
Read about the Warner selectmen here.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Sutton, NH, on April 11, 2017.