March 05. 2014 8:17PM

Hooksett School Board candidate drops out

Union Leader Correspondent

HOOKSETT — Citing a career change that presents a likely conflict of interest, Rebecca Berk is asking voters to remove her name from consideration on election day.

Though she noted it's too late to strike her name from the ballot, Berk said she'll be unable to commit to the school board if elected on March 11.

Berk was one of seven residents vying for three three-year seats on the newly-expanded seven-member board.

"With deep regret, I need to inform the voters in Hooksett that I will not be able to accept a seat on the Hooksett School Board if I am elected on March 11," she wrote in a statement. "I do hope to reach as many voters as possible in advance, however, so that they may select their top three-year candidates, as if I were not listed on the ballot."

Berk has accepted the executive director position at Breakthrough in Manchester, which she says has "the dual mission of launching high-potential middle school students with limited opportunities on the path to college, while also mentoring and inspiring high school and college students to pursue careers in education."

"My husband and I have been staunch supporters of Breakthrough for the past 20 years, often hosting college students from around the country in the summer months. The chance to lead this program is exciting and very meaningful for me, as it combines my interests in equity in education, non-profit work, social justice, and mentoring the next generation of teachers and leaders. The timing has been less than ideal, however, and I have not made the decision lightly."

Because Berk must now work closely with Manchester middle and high schools, she pointed to a potential for friction.

"Given the crossroads at which Hooksett and Manchester find themselves, I believe that simultaneously fulfilling a lead role in close cooperation with the Manchester school district and serving on the Hooksett School Board may pose situations with potential conflicts of loyalty, whether real or perceived," she said. "The integrity of elected officials to represent their communities fairly is paramount, and I would never intentionally jeopardize that integrity.

"I have been so thankful for the support and encouragement of so many for throwing my hat back in the ring," Berk added. "If life were linear and perfect, these choices would not have coincided."

John Lyscars, who is completing his first year on the Hooksett School Board, said he was hoping to work with Berk in an effort to move the district forward.

"I serve on the Hooksett Kiwanis Community Leaders Recognition event committee with Becky and I can say with full confidence that Breakthrough Manchester is very lucky to have Becky as their new executive director," said Lyscars. "Our preparation to recognize this year's recipient of the Community Impact Award, the Hooksett Youth Athletic Association (HYAA), along with seven other award recipients, is a testament to Becky's continued dedication to the children of Hooksett, a dedication we both share. Now that Becky is officially withdrawn, I can say without reservation that I was looking forward to working with Becky on the Hooksett School Board in a respectful environment that the citizens of Hooksett deserve, and is long overdue."