Jun. 29—A Manchester mayoral candidate is asking the city school board to release professional development and training materials for school staff that addresses the topics of "Whiteness," "implicit bias," "systemic racism," and "cultural awareness", after the coordinator of Northwest Elementary's after-school program resigned Monday citing "white privilege training."
Former school board member and alderman Rich Girard is also seeking the release of any and all curricular materials, teacher assignments or other classroom instruction materials regarding "race relations."
"Our parents, students and taxpayers have a right to know what training the district is either requiring or 'making available' on a 'voluntary' basis to the staff," said Girard in a statement.
Daniel Concannon, 40, brought a harassment complaint against the district in March, claiming the mandatory training amounted to harassment. In response to the complaint, Manchester school officials said they clarified with employees that the training is not mandatory.
Concannon CC'd his June 28 resignation letter to many, including school board members.
Supt. of Schools John Goldhardt issued a statement late Tuesday addressing Concannon's resignation.
"The complaint derived from a training session for staff designed to foster critical thinking about race," said Goldhardt. "As we see debates on these issues on the state, local and national stages, I want to reiterate the values of our district, and emphasize that the words and actions of this former staff member are not reflective of the district as a whole."
Goldhardt said the Manchester School District values all members of the community regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. District Equity Policy (Foundations 101) states, "All district students deserve a safe and respectful learning environment that maximizes their potential for success in college, career, and community leadership."
"I understand that some will agree with this former employee's sentiments, and it's important to underscore that the intent of this message is not to make those people feel unwelcome," said Goldhardt. "Rather, the intent is to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome, safe and secure in Manchester schools. We remain squarely focused on equity and highly invested in the success of all of our students."
Some board members briefly addressed Concannon's letter during a meeting Monday night, where school officials introduced Tina Kim Philibotte, the district's new Chief Equity Officer.
Jeremy Dobson of Ward 6 said some are using Critical Race Theory — which he said has existed since the 1980s — for political gain.
"It's really being used as a tool to drive hatred and division, when really what we need is unity," said Dobson.
Dobson said Critical Race Theory was developed as a way to examine why African-Americans continue to experience racism in America.
"We're only just starting to hear about it now, because it's a political tool, or lever, or maybe more accurately a wedge, to continue to drive people apart and hopefully drive people to the polls this November, next November, 2024 etc.," said Dobson. "Critical Race Theory, for those of you who only watch the headlines, has nothing to do with whether or not you're racist, nothing to do with any particular person. It is a framework. Don't buy into the hype please, it means absolutely nothing that it's being construed as and it's not being used incorrectly."
At-large school board member Jim O'Connell said he's "100 percent" confident every student in Manchester will be treated equally and with respect regardless of race, gender, color or "anything else."
"That's the commitment I have and I know its shared by this board," said O'Connell. "Our students should have no fear from the small but loud minority who are hate-fueled and we are here to ensure they get an adequate and just education in a just system."
Dobson said he's proud to live in a city considered a "melting pot," at least by New Hampshire's standards.
"Please do not let this media crap around CRT and our schools, CRT training that everyone's up in arms about," said Dobson. "I don't think there's a single CRT training going on right now as far as professional development. You can agree or disagree with it — I don't know if I 100 percent agree with it. Legal scholars don't 100 percent agree with it. That's why it's a theory. However it is a conversation that needs to happen, that is happening on a regular basis here in the city, and I'm very proud of that."
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at email@example.com