Here are the Letters-To-The-Editor written in 2021, which appear in Manchester Ink Link
Victoria Sullivan is Wrong for our Schools
When I read Mrs. Sullivan’s most recent email, in which she categorized her plan for education, I was concerned, because her ideas would cause more harm than good, and she places blame where it doesn’t belong.
Mrs. Sullivan’s verbatim statements are in italics.
While many other school districts in New Hampshire and around the country quickly and safely reopened, Manchester lagged behind. This lack of adaptability caused parents to explore alternatives, which was only precipitated by increasingly awful test scores and outcomes from the school district over Mayor Joyce Craig’s tenure.
The decisions on when and how to reopen were made by the superintendent, not the mayor, and were in accordance with recommendations from the CDC and the governor. While none of us is happy that we had to face a pandemic, we didn’t have a choice in the matter, and we did the best we could with the information we had at the time. I do not fault Superintendent Goldhardt for his decisions. I believe they were wise.
Regarding her plan for the school district, she states:
Promote school choice in all ways possible. Charter schools, online schools, learning pods, homeschool communities, private schools – they all provide valuable diversity in education.
People are free to make whatever choice they would like regarding the education of their children. They are not, however, free to use public funds for private use. We need to consider who would be left behind when vouchers are used: it would be the children who stay in the public school system. A significant amount of money would be siphoned from the district via the vouchers which would make it even more difficult to give the students the education they deserve. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too: in this case, you can’t complain about school performance and then advocate for defunding the schools.
Provide tax credits for families to send their children to the school they desire.
Maybe I’m misinformed, but I am not aware of mayors being able to give out tax credits.
Task the school board with an action plan to address the decline of district performance. Under Mayor Craig’s leadership, the numbers have simply gone down.
I contacted the school district to fact-check this statement. At this time, they do not have the numbers regarding school performance in reading and math for this year. They might have it later this month, but it might take until June. As such, I am not sure where Mrs. Sullivan is getting the data from which she is drawing this conclusion. I will evaluate the numbers and trends once they are provided to me, but I recall the school performances increasing prior to COVID. When evaluating the data, we need to keep in mind that COVID upset norms across the country. Many students nationwide had difficulties learning remotely. The MSD is not unique. I anticipate numbers to decrease, but that is not the direct fault of the district.
I believe the school district has done everything within its ability to excel during COVID. As mentioned earlier, some students could learn well remotely, but many could not. My younger son was one of them. He suffered while trying to learn remotely, falling significantly behind in reading (although he was ahead of his peers in math). The school (and we as his parents) recognized his difficulties and took action. My son was evaluated medically. A 504 was developed to assist him, he received tutoring and Title I services, and he was allowed to return to school full-time due to his learning needs. It made a significant difference. The child who once hated – and even feared – reading is reading independently, enjoying it, and is nearly caught up with his peers. This would not have been able to be accomplished if it weren’t for the dedicated staff at his school. I am extremely grateful for their efforts. Their work made a difference. We cannot expect schools to meet – or exceed – performance standards while advocating for defunding them and decreasing staff; however, these are part of Mrs. Sullivan’s plan.
Implement cost-saving measures, such as making the school district a department of the city and reducing non-teaching staff to align with decreased enrollment.
This was tried before, and it failed. Why should we waste money on something that we know doesn’t work? As it is, we don’t have enough educators and supportive personnel. Taking away more resources won’t help students get what they need; it will simply tie the hands of the district even tighter than they already are. I’m not sure how she would expect the district to do well under the conditions of less funding and fewer staff.
Sullivan’s plan is extreme and would cause harm to our schools. Superintendent Goldhardt is doing an excellent job. COVID happened. None of us wanted it. It was difficult for the entire nation (and world). It’s still an ongoing problem, although it’s getting significantly better. We can’t blame the district for problems that are outside its control. I applaud the efforts of all the staff and educators; they’ve worked long hours under difficult conditions because they love the students.
What we need to do instead:
Adequately fund our schools. Mayor Joyce Craig is having the school district join the ConVal lawsuit, which is perfect. Proper funding will give us the help we need.
Have the right amount of staff to fit the needs of each school.
Have a contract that meets the needs of the educators and supportive personnel, as this retains staff.
Follow COVID guidelines. They will change as the situation changes, but compliance is critical to ensure no outbreaks.
Problems with Victoria Sullivan’s plan for homelessness
To the Editor:
Addressing the Substance Abuse Component
According to Mrs. Sullivan’s website, she plans to, “Build a coalition of nonprofits, faith-based groups, veterans organizations, and private organizations that are currently doing the work on our streets.” How is this different from what Joyce Craig is already doing? She made a coalition to gather together community entities – including faith-based groups and private companies – to bring them together to help solve homelessness.
While this idea sounds good on paper, this is what Mayor Joyce Craig is already doing. Organizations like Families in Transition and Waypoint are doing great work with the city to provide much-needed services for our most vulnerable populations.
Lowering Housing Costs
According to Mrs. Sullivan, she plans to “lower housing costs,” but plans to do this by incentivizing homebuilders and buyers of multi-family homes, rather than addressing costs of rent, nor addressing wages, which people need in order to pay their rent.
She stated in a recent email:
“Incentivize home buyers to purchase and occupy multi-family homes.
Provide tax incentives for builders to build multi-family homes and apartment buildings.”
This would create tax-free or tax-reduced properties, which means less income for the city, which could mean the budget would need to override the tax cap.
Plus, our federal delegation through The American Rescue Plan Act provided NH with millions of dollars in incentives to address affordable housing already.
Maintaining Shelters/Building Transitional Housing + Improving Quality and Livability
Funny she brings this point up, because the man who donated office space to Sullivan’s 2019 campaign, Ben Gamache, bought the building that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved to be used as an emergency winter homeless shelter in the 11th hour. This made the BMA have to start from scratch, just because Gamache didn’t want a shelter next to his properties.
Sullivan stated in a recent email that “we need to create a line of communication between the homeless citizens and City Hall so that issues may be addressed quickly.” However, the line of communication already exists. People know that they can attend the meetings, or go to City Hall directly with their issues. Again, Mayor Craig hired a Director of Homelessness Initiatives and created an affordable housing taskforce to work on this.
Support Law Enforcement Efforts
“Hold all citizens in Manchester to the same set of rules and standards of behavior. There can’t be a set of rules for the homeless vs. the housed. Current leadership binds the hands of our law enforcement officers to secure the public safety, especially in our downtown. Enforce laws already on the books regarding loitering, camping, and public trash disposal.”
Mrs. Sullivan wants to tackle homelessness from a criminal perspective, instead of a housing and mental health perspective. It’s not a crime to be homeless, arresting people does not solve homelessness; it would simply move them to the jails, which causes overcrowding and costs the city more money.
What We Should Do Instead
We need to raise wages. If people cannot afford rent, they are likely to end up homeless. The average salary for a renter in this county is $48,498. To afford a typical two-bedroom apartment with utilities, that same renter would have to earn an additional $12,902 a year, or about $29/hr. A minimum wage of $7.25 is less than 1/4th the wage to afford rent. Also, one of the key drivers to homeless is medical costs, which is yet another reason to raise wages. People’s healthcare diagnoses are not a fault of their own. Healthcare is expensive.
We need Medicare for All, for reasons stated above.
It would be better if we increased access to mental health resources rather than having police arrest people for behaviors outside their control. This needs to be addressed at the state level and needs proper funding.
Affordable housing is complicated! We need more transitional housing, and rent needs to be reasonable.
The best model that we have seen in this country is the Housing First model, which means that the first way to address homelessness is to house them. This gives them a physical address to use on job applications, personal dignity, access to bathrooms and showers, and a safe place to reside. They are more likely to be hired when they have supportive services. They often can’t get housing without having enough income: the main way to earn income is by working. If no one hires them, the homelessness cycle continues. The Housing First model would save the city money because homeless individuals are less likely to use other city resources, which becomes quite expensive over time. Saving money, while also getting individuals safe shelter, and ultimately getting them back on their feet is the best solution from all angles.