Jonathan Weinberg, Concord School Board Candidate

Tony Schinella

Jonathan Weinberg

Age (as of Election Day)

21

Position Sought

District B School Board

Party Affiliation

Undeclared

Family

Mom: Rebecca Perlstein, Dad: David Weinberg, and sister: Sara

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

No.

Education

A junior in college majoring in philosophy with a minor in music.

Occupation

Student

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office

N/A

Campaign website

jonathanweinbergnh.com

Why are you seeking elective office?

I am running to represent District B on the Concord School Board because we need a fresh voice and a new perspective to address the grievances of our community. We have witnessed what happens when students’ voices go unheard, and as a recent graduate, I understand the importance of heeding students' calls. We need accountability and to rebuild trust between the board and the school community. One way to do this is by ensuring the school board is not a team behind a curtain, but actively visible and accessible so students know who they are and feel comfortable approaching them. We must emphasize that our district prioritizes equity and addresses the actual, not hypothetical, needs of the students, staff, and faculty in our schools.

The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

The single most pressing issue is rebuilding trust in the school board and accountability for the wellbeing of students. The inaction from our district leaders is disturbing, and the hollow promises of safety and security are not enough. As a younger person who graduated in 2018 from Concord High School, I understand the nuances in the halls that others are more detached from. Trust and accountability will not come easily and we must be methodical with how we move forward and listen to the community. The district is currently deliberating various ideas for a reporting system for the school community, and I am in favor of implementing a system for students and faculty to anonymously report incidents. Whether anonymous or not, we must be cognizant of what option will not just quell fears of, but prevent retaliation for reporting. This is only one step, and as I have been doing this for the past couple of months on the campaign, I will continue to listen to community members' concerns and ideas so that we are moving forward as one. Additionally, an important component of holding ourselves accountable is having a vision, especially one that prioritizes equity. In the wake of COVID-19, we must work extra hard to address the inequities in our community. Students, from low-income backgrounds and marginalized communities, in the ELL program, students with IEPs and 504s, and those requiring the support of paraprofessionals cannot be left behind. We need a comprehensive strategy that allocates necessary resources to students and teachers. I believe in a pedagogy that sees inclusive education as a cornerstone for producing equitable and effective learning environments for every student, and that actively strives to foster anti-racist environments in our schools.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

The school board is missing a perspective which comes at a cost to both the wellbeing of the students and faculty, but also the community. It results in speculation rather than actual testimony and experience. The missing voice is of a recent graduate from the district that has the power to cast a vote, which student representatives to the board do not possess. When students see me, a class of 2018 CHS graduate, they can feel empowered to run for office and be civically engaged. I do not subscribe to the mentality that I need to have my own kids in the district to be invested. I hear the concerns from my neighbors, friend’s younger siblings, anxious parents and caregivers, and teachers to know continuing with the status quo is not enough -- we need new voices and ones that have recent, relevant experience as a student in the district. In addition to my connection as a recent graduate, I have a depth of experience engaging with the state legislature and community to enact change. I have testified in front of our state legislators, and federal delegation to protect students in schools. I have even spoken personally with the Vice President of the United States to address gun violence prevention in our schools. I’m not running because I want to be in politics; I am running because I experienced and witnessed both the amazing and the horrors in our schools and understand that bandaids are not enough for the challenges facing our district. While some may see my youth as something negative, I see it as an advantage – I can be a voice that speaks for and from a student experience.

If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)

Thank you for your service to our community, Liza!

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform

The new board members will be tasked with vetting and selecting the next superintendent. This is important because the difference between a trustworthy, reliable superintendent and the opposite of one is a student receiving the support they need and apathy and negligence. The difference between the two is shaping a culture that emphasizes growth and empathy, versus unhealthy competition and stress. The difference between a reliable superintendent that fights for the students and the opposite of one is accountability over deflecting blame. The next superintendent will be tasked with recommending how school and education should take shape during COVID-19 and guiding curriculum for the district. I will look for a superintendent that believes we should put more of an emphasis on mental health, sees equitable education, and fostering anti-racist environments as unequivocal musts, promotes sustainability and collaboration with the city council, and will stand up for the students and teachers in our schools.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I have frequently testified in front of the New Hampshire State Legislature, as well as in Washington DC to our federal delegation to address environmental protections, immigration reform, gun violence prevention, as well as advocating for the protection of DACA students in our community. In 2018, I led students in a walkout in solidarity with young people across the nation following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and continued to help students become more civically engaged. I have organized statewide rallies with over 4,000 participants to address gun violence prevention, and most recently, I have been a vocal ally for Black Lives Matter protests throughout our state. The strength in our community is derived from our differences. I will bring experience, a unique perspective, and a history of organizing in the community to the school board and advocate to make our district more accessible and inclusive for each student.

The best advice ever shared with me was …

Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The day I met my mentor in 2015, Anne Marie Dipasquale -- a social worker and ELL professional -- I noticed this quote on the wall in her office. In each interaction, Anna Marie instilled the importance of being an agent of change in our community and grounding my actions in empathy and active listening. I can only be successful if I’m addressing real concerns and grievances. To do that, I have to be cognizant that each of us carries a unique experience and to treat one experience as more important than the other ignores the complexities of our community. We are not a monolith. I have a lot of experience with grassroots organizing in our community. Yet, there is a lot I do not know, but as someone who wants to bring about positive change in our district, I would rather be open to listening and learning and be open to criticism than to believe I am complete with knowledge. Anna Marie taught me that you should lead by example and it is that combined with active listening, empathy, and awareness that can help someone “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

The school district's budget exceeds $90 million, where over 85% of it goes to salaries. This leaves thin margins for other expenditures in the district. I believe that we need to, as a board and as a community, advocate more directly to the State and our elected officials to bring more funding to our public schools. I have a history of speaking up and I will continue to fight for you on this board. I humbly ask for your vote on November 3rd.

This article originally appeared on the Concord Patch