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Another View: Ovide Lamontagne has a great record on public education

November 01. 2012 11:52PM

We served with Ovide Lamontagne, now the Republican nominee for governor, when he was chairman of the state Board of Education. Although we did not always agree on every issue that came before the board, we found him to be a skilled, intelligent and compassionate leader in his work. Ovide put in countless hours as a volunteer and used his temperament and evenhandedness to lead the board during very challenging times.

Our experience in working with Ovide is very different from what we have seen and heard depicted on TV and radio. We dismiss the personal attacks on Ovide as unfortunate political hyperbole too often seen during campaign season and unfair to the legacy of the individual we know as a loving, caring man who has dedicated his life to helping others, especially those with challenges that require assistance. As such, we have chosen to write this reflection in order to set the record straight.

The claims that Ovide doesn't support kindergarten are false. Ovide is a former schoolteacher, and he understands the importance of early education for our children. You can bet that he supports kindergarten.

The claims that Ovide had no accomplishments during his tenure as chairman of the state Board of Education are false. Ovide provided can-do leadership that included landmark changes in education. He provided tireless leadership to pass into law New Hampshire's first statewide assessment tool, one of the first in the nation, enacted before Massachusetts' well-known MCAS test.

He led us to support the first-ever charter school legislation, which was passed and signed into law by Gov. Steve Merrill, as well as revised teacher certification standards so that talented individuals could move from the workplace into the classroom. The reforms allowed someone expert in the subject matter of a certain field to teach students while earning a teaching certificate under an alternative certification process. Under Ovide's leadership, the board also adopted a code of ethics for teachers.

The claims that Ovide would reject all federal education funds are also false. Ovide led us in working with state Sen. George Lovejoy to accept federal funds and implement the School to Work program. This happened at approximately the same time that the majority of the board, with Gov. Merrill's leadership, opposed the state's participation in Goals 2000. Unlike School to Work, Goals 2000, a precursor of No Child Left Behind, was a federal program intended to put much more federal control and requirements on elementary and secondary education, which creates pressure on property taxpayers.

Ovide testified in Congress to ask that the law be changed, which ultimately it was, to allow school districts to apply individually for limited Goals 2000 participation. Unlike what the NEA and Maggie Hassan claim, Goals 2000 funding would not have lowered property taxes; it would have simply grown bureaucracy and the federal presence in our classrooms with no real improvement in education.

Ovide was and is a staunch supporter of special education and testified in Washington for full funding of IDEA, the federal special education law that was enacted in the mid-1970s. As a foster parent of a special-needs child, Ovide believed that the federal government was shirking its legal obligation to fund 40 percent of special-education costs, a commitment Washington has never honored. He knew this federal funding would lower property taxes and he fought to obtain those federal funds. He has pledged as governor to fight to secure full funding of the federal government's IDEA commitment.

What was probably most remarkable about Ovide's leadership was the manner with which he handled the concerns raised by parents of children in our public schools. He guided us deftly in resolving disputes between school districts regarding the proper placement of children who had moved from one district to another; he was fair but firm in revoking the certification of a teacher who had abused a child; and Ovide was a staunch supporter of character education in our public schools as required under the New Hampshire Constitution.

Agree with him or not, Ovide always found a way to work with people, to agree to disagree respectfully, and he always conducted himself with the utmost integrity and decorum.

We decry the personal attacks against Ovide and the misrepresentations of his record on education in an effort to scare voters. We know Ovide and know that he will be an effective, passionate and dedicated governor who will advocate for sound policies in elementary and secondary education. He will be a great overnor, focused on improving our state's educational system for all.

In addition to Fred Bramante, Ray D'Amante and Joy Falkenham, this column is signed by Tracy Hatch, Pamela Lindberg and John Root. All served with Ovide Lamontagne on the New Hampshire Board of Education.

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