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To the Editor:
On June 14, 2021, the SAU 16 Joint School Board, along with Superintendent Dr. David Ryan, held their first “in-person” meeting in over a year. The following night, The Exeter Regional Cooperative School Board (with Dr. Ryan), then held their first “in-person” meeting in over a year.
Both were held at Exeter High School and it was the first time these elected officials (who are supposed to represent their constituents) were able to listen to public comments. They will probably claim that public comment was welcomed during their Zoom meetings within the “chat box,” but that is, at best, deceiving (more consistent with lying), as it wasn’t always open, and when it was, the “gatekeeper” was highly selective in what was read aloud and subsequently subject to discussion.  I spoke at the Joint School Board meeting on June 14th, and I attended both meetings in their entirety (until it was closed to the public), so I know exactly the tone that was set. 
If you’ve been following along with us here in SAU 16 (Exeter area), this letter will make absolutely perfect sense. Perhaps you’ve seen the multiple national headlines in recent weeks regarding our senior prom as well as the Thin Blue Line Flag removal from a middle school student?
It all seemed to start when an overwhelming majority of parents (per two surveys sent out by the administration) were disgusted, disgruntled, and disappointed with the “lack of reopening” of our schools.  Throw in a lack of transparency, deflection from the top, and spin-doctoring around every corner for the last year, and you’ve got a recipe for discontent. 
Immediately following both school board meetings, the ongoing smear campaign against parents certainly ramped up.  I point you to Cooperative Board Chairperson Helen Joyce’s opening dissertation at the Cooperative Board’s meeting on June 15th.  Mind you, she made her remarks having not been present at the June 14th meeting (although video was immediately available).
Without hesitation I can attest that 100% of the attendees who gave public comments during the Joint Board’s June 14th meeting spoke against this administration, this SAU’s direction and leadership, and the handling of COVID and masking, with numerous in attendance clearly demanding the resignation of Superintendent Ryan and school board officials.  100% (nearly 30 speakers).  Not a single person who got in line and gave public comment threatened anyone, used profanity, became violent, or required any restraint.  Not one.  Did several raise their voice and yell?  Yes, they did.  Did some rogue attendees take it upon themselves to “get out of line”? Yes, but was it enough to paint all of us in a poor light?  Absolutely not. Why did some feel this passion?  Well, what you may not know is that the morning of the meeting, the board released an updated “agenda,” moving the public comment section to later in the evening, I suspect hoping that constituents would lose patience and leave prematurely. They had gotten word that hundreds of parents were going to attend, and had even hired a police detail.  Well, that was a gross underestimation of our devotion to our children, obviously. Why would they do that?   Trust me, it’s a pattern here.  Attendees requested that one of the 33 Joint Board members make a motion to revert back to the initial agenda. Despite a motion, and a second, the motion failed.  That made things worse, rightfully so.  
This pressure, this “We the People” mentality, then ruled the room, and public comment commenced, despite objections from Joint Board Chairperson Travis Thompson.  To the board’s credit, they then sat and listened to every single public commenter.
The majority gave their comments respectfully, after a year of being shunted, stifled, smeared, and subdued.  There will always be “that few.”  Just like there are bad cops, but the majority are not.  Just like there are bad carpenters, but a majority are not.  Just like there are bad teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers.  And just like there are really bad superintendents.  We (the majority) here in SAU 16 should know. We’ve got one.

Shawn Roussin

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