Granite State Progress news release
Early results from town meeting season shows New Hampshire on track to once again to show up for a strong, honest, and inclusive public education; Granite Staters agree: LGBTQ+ students belong in New Hampshire
CONCORD, NH – Similar to last year’s record-shattering turnout that delivered big wins for pro-public education school board candidates, early results from this year’s Town Meeting season shows New Hampshire on track to once again show up for a strong, honest, and inclusive public education. In several races to date, concerned parents and community members in communities large and small successfully organized to elect pro-public education candidates and reject those seeking to dismantle public education and target LGBTQ+ students and families.
“In nearly every school board race, Granite State voters chose out-spoken champions for public education and an honest, inclusive education. This is a big win for public schools and for our future. These leaders are committed to keeping our public schools strong and making sure every student has the freedom to learn in a safe, affirming learning environment,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “As the State House debates support for our public schools and whether to put a target on the backs of LGBTQ+ students, they should pay attention to what is happening at town meeting.”
Members of We the People and other hate groups, individuals disrupting school board meetings lost big, along with members of the Free State Project. Meanwhile champions for a fully funded, honest, and inclusive public education won across the state:
- In the Milford School District, Chair Judi Zaino handily won re-election to the school board and newcomer Amy Clark Canty was the top vote-getter; both candidates prevailed over former State Senator Gary Daniels, a politician of 35 years with strong name recognition. Daniels had supported school board members Noah Boudreault, Nathaniel Wheeler, and Joseph Vituli in their attempt to restrict transgender students’ right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, while Zaino and Clark Canty advocated for a welcoming, safe and affirming environment for all students. Amy Clark Canty received 1556 votes and Judi Zaino received 1437 votes to Gary Daniels’ 1233.
- Merrimack Valley School District, home to the leaders of We the People, a local hate group, elected strong pro-public education and inclusive candidates Jessica Wheeler Russell and Sally Hirsch Dickinson over the We the People candidate slate which explicitly ran on a so-called ‘parental rights’ and anti-LGBTQ+ platform. Last year MVSD, generally considered a red conservative district, also defeated a classroom censorship/anti-equity warrant resolution.
- In Brentwood’s selectboard race, Paul Kleinman and Andrew Artimovich prevailed over Melissa Litchfield, who ran on parental rights and cutting public school budgets in both her school board race and unsuccessful State Representative campaign. These are the third and fourth losses, respectively, that voters handed Litchfield in the last six months. She’s now been voted out of the State House, off the school board, and as of this month, lost races for coop school budget committee and select board. Meanwhile, in Brentwood’s library trustee election, Megan Schneider and Melissa Bertoulin prevailed over Julie Velevis, who was a part of a group that sued SAU 16 over enforcing masking protocols in 2021, calling masks “psychological crutches.”
- In Claremont, Jennifer Gallagher prevailed over former school board member Michael Petrin, who was part of abruptly terminating the superintendent’s contract amid contentious discussions over reducing the school budget.
- In Croydon, voters overwhelmingly ousted Free State Project member and School Board Chair Jody Underwood. Underwood and her husband Ian, both close allies of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, had attempted to slash the school budget last year in a school privatization scheme until the town rose up to restore the school budget and save the local public school. Stand Up for Croydon ran a slate of candidates this year, with leader Angi Beaulieu beating Underwood 229-36. Ed Spiker and Amie Freak of Stand Up for Croydon also won seats on the Selectboard.
- Wolfeboro (Governor Wentworth Regional School District) passed a pro-book warrant resolution, Article 39. This article prohibits spending town funds on the banning of books or other content from the Wolfeboro Public Library. The vote was 1058 in favor of preventing book bans, and 406 against. This timely vote against book banning prompted a letter to local State Reps, Senator Jeb Bradley, and the full House Education Committee. The letter was sent before the full State House voted to table HB 514, a book banning bill on Thursday, March 16th.
- In Weare, William Pollit and Christine Heath were re-elected, beating Toni Parker in the school board race. Pollit and Heath received 408 and 464 votes respectively, while Parker received 273. Parker was a vocal voice against critical race theory, and supported school board member Lisa Mazur’s attempts to ban books with racial justice and LGBTQ+ themes. Pollit was inspired to run due to attempts to ban books. Pollit and Heath were both signers of the New Hampshire School Funding Fairness Project’s recent letter to Governor Sununu and the state legislature calling to prioritize comprehensive school funding reform in the upcoming budget.
- In other news: Three warrant articles proposed by the election-denier crowd, which has strong crossover membership with the so-called ‘parental rights’ groups, were all soundly defeated. The warrants sought to ban the use of voting machines: in Pelham Article 16 was rejected 935-498, in Sandown Article 21 was rejected 480-158, and in Salem, Article 22 was rejected by 61% of voters.
- And in Amherst, voters rejected Free State Project founder Jason Soren’s campaign for the Amherst planning board. Despite Soren’s stated pursuit of “freedom,” he unsuccessfully sought a restraining order against the free speech of a critic during his campaign. Members of the Free State Project have routinely sponsored or voted for bills at the State House that harm progress on racial, gender, and ability justice, and that target LGBTQ+ youth.
“For more than a year, our communities have come together to protect and support public education and an honest, inclusive education,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress. “The seed work that began with the school board elections last year continues to grow as parents, students, educators, and community leaders unite to protect their communities and organize proactive efforts. From recruiting strong candidates to showing up at the school board meetings to demand the best for all students, these community leaders are building a future we can all be proud of. Public education is the bedrock of our democracy, and the politicians trying to drive a wedge between parents and their local public schools by targeting queer youth or other students are being rightly rejected.”
“LGBTQ people belong everywhere, and sometimes schools are the only place for LGBTQ youth to feel safe being who they are,” said Linds Jakows, founder of 603 Equality. “603 Equality is strengthened by the outpouring of support in communities across the state to ensure the state meets its obligation to provide an adequate and inclusive education for all students. No LGBTQ+ student should be deprived of the safety and affirmation a public school can provide.”
For the past year, Granite Staters have made it clear that New Hampshire supports a strong public education and LGBTQ+ youth. Time and again, local communities are rejecting politicians and policies that attack public education and promote so-called parental rights bills, book bans, and other efforts to harm LGBTQ+ students and undermine school efforts to create affirming, inclusive learning environments.
- In March 2022 school board elections, Granite Staters across the state overwhelmingly rejected candidates who targeted a strong, inclusive public education.
- In May 2022, the New Hampshire state legislature rejected a bill which would have required mandatory, immediate disclosure to parents about changes in gender identity and expression at school, even if it put the student at risk or danger.
- In May 2022, the small town of Croydon waged a historic campaign to restore the school budget and save the local public school.
- In September 2022, the City of Rochester handily blocked a proposed book ban by Senator and City Council James Gray to ban 4 LGBTQ+ books from the city library.
- In November 2022, the Milford School Board fought back against an attempted book ban against their school libraries.
- In November 2022, the City of Concord turned out to oppose the hostile protest of a drag queen story hour.
- In January 2023, students in Milford staged a walkout in support of queer students, telling anti-LGBTQ+ school board members to repeal an attempted bathroom ban.
- In March 2023, the City of Concord came together to support a beloved educator targeted by far-right bad actors.
- In March 2023, hundreds of Granite Staters turned out at the State House to support the LGBTQ+ community and reject legislative attempts to harass and target that community.
- In March 2023, the City of Dover denied bad actors from outside of their community spew hateful rhetoric at a school board meeting.
- In March 2023, the NH House of Representatives voted down HB 10, a so-called parental rights bill that targets LGBTQ+ youth and forces educators to out children, potentially putting them in danger.
- And the list of Granite Staters supporting PRIDE in their community goes on.
Every time someone comes after our public schools or our LGBTQ+ students, our community rises up stronger. Every child deserves to be safe, healthy, and loved.
To speak with newly elected school board leaders or the parents and community members behind local organizing efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: School Boards.