New Hampshire

School Board Member Ousted From Seat Due To Residency Requirement

CONCORD, NH — A member of the Concord school board who moved out of her Ward 4 apartment and has not reinstated her residency in the zone for which she was elected two years ago has been removed from her seat.

Kate West, who was elected in November 2020 but moved out of her Jackson Street apartment in September, failed to appear at Monday’s SAU 8 Concord Board of Education meeting to confirm her residency in the district and was defeated by a vote removed from the board.

The vote was unanimous.

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Despite knowing she had not lived in the district for months, the board chose to wait until its charter meeting in 2023 to remove her. Board members were waiting due to new language in the school district’s charter of incorporation approved in November. The language changed the name of the township seats to “School Electoral Zones” seats.

The earlier language that spoke of municipal seats used the word “district” and required them to be residents. However, members of the 2021 Founding Commission and legal advisers to the Board felt that the language in the previous charter could be questioned.

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According to board members, West refused to step down from her seat and used the “domicile gap” to hold the seat, calling herself “temporarily homeless.” She intended to remain in the zone at some point, members said.

At the start of Monday’s organizing meeting, District School Superintendent Kathleen Murphy interviewed the eight board members present and confirmed that they all lived in District SAU 8 as well as their constituency — if they weren’t elected citywide. All members confirmed their place of residence.

The eight members then voted unanimously to remove West from the board.

Jim Richards, the school’s other constituency representing Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, said the board thanked her for “all her hard work,” adding, “We will miss her and her contribution.”

West didn’t return an email or phone call in November when Patch first reported issues with her residency.

West beat Roy Schweiker, who was not actively running for the seat, by a three-to-one margin in November 2020. She was one of several young Democrats elected to municipal and legislative offices in New Hampshire that year.

West voted in the November 2022 general election from her former Jackson Street address — although she didn’t live there at the time, according to the Concord City Clerk’s Office.

Richards returns as President

Richards was also re-elected to another term as school board president on Monday.

The vote was 6 to 2, with both Richards and Barbara Higgins, an MP at large, abstaining.

Prior to the vote, Higgins reminded school board members that the board is not a political body, it is about supporting children’s education while representing parents, taxpayers and others in the city. She said they must represent all of the city’s citizens, regardless of political affiliation, wage level, race, religion, and not just the beliefs of the politically motivated members of the community.

Higgins has also stated in the past, when running for district leadership positions, that it was an insider club and some members were disqualified from the process because of perceived cliques within the board.

At that time, all school board members were elected citywide.

Higgins called the process “disingenuous” at the time, as not all members had the opportunity to serve outside of an elected official’s role. She also added that as a body there was a need to make second nominations and give all potential candidates a chance to run for the posts.

After his speech, Higgins nominated Bob Cotton, another at large member who lives in Ward 5, for president.

However, the nomination was not endorsed.

Cotton then reappointed Richards as chairman of the board, saying he thought he had done an excellent job. Jonathan Weinberg, a Zone B member, supported the nomination and Richards was elected.

From then on, Murphy resigned and Richards took over the meeting.

Brenda Hastings, a Zone C member, nominated Pam Walsh, an optional member, for vice president. Sarah Robinson, another Zone C member, supported the nomination.

Richards nominated Higgins, who served in the role last year, and said he knew she wanted to stay. Her nomination was supported by Weinberg. But Walsh was later elected 6-2, with Higgins and Walsh abstaining.

Weinberg nominated Hastings as secretary and was the only candidate elected with two abstentions – herself and Higgins.

Made policy change to the replacement process

Walsh offered to change the district policy regarding the replacement of members who resign or are removed due to lack of residency.

The school board president may continue to nominate a replacement prior to a full board vote. But she requested 24-hour notification and also wanted the public to have a chance to comment on the nomination. Walsh also suggested that the alternate board member should serve through the end of the year, rather than just until the next election, to be consistent with all members sitting in the first week of January.

Richards said he liked the changes and felt the board “wanted to try and be as transparent as possible.” He added, “I think it’s a good change of pace.”

The board unanimously approved the change.

It is unknown at the time of publication who will be nominated to replace West. Applications to fill the remainder of the seat will take place in September and the election will take place in November.

Correction: An earlier version of this story falsely claimed that Higgins didn’t get a second. It has been corrected.

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