ORCSD's School Board Recognized as New Hampshire’s Best by New Hampshire School Boards Association

A photo of Oyster River Cooperative School District Board Members in the ORMS Concert Hall. From left, Superintendent Dr. James Morse and School Board members Thomas Newkirk, Daniel Klein, Chair Denise Day, Heather Smith, Giana Gelsey, Brian Cisneros, Vic

From left, Superintendent Dr. James Morse and School Board members Thomas Newkirk, Daniel Klein, Chair Denise Day, Heather Smith, Giana Gelsey, Brian Cisneros, Vice-Chair Matthew Bacon and Student Representative Paige Burt.

Superintendent James Morse and the Oyster River Cooperative School District are pleased to announce that the Oyster River School Board has been named School Board of the Year by the New Hampshire School Boards Association (NHSBA). 

The NHSBA School Board of Excellence Award acknowledges the leadership, teamwork and effectiveness of school boards, and provides an opportunity for the chosen board to share its expertise with others throughout the State. School boards can be nominated for the award by their local members, administrators, or constituents.

The Oyster River Cooperative School Board was nominated for the award by Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, who cited the Board’s work to attract and retain exceptional faculty and staff; to improve communication and transparency; to support improved facilities; to embrace diversity; as well as the Board’s embrace of sustainability and its work to balance the financial demands of running a school with affordability for taxpayers. 

“Through careful budgeting, long-range capital planning, and modulating school-related investments to coincide with local economic realities, the Board has worked to mitigate tax rate increases for the collective community,” Selig wrote in the nomination. 

Krista Butts, of Lee, also supported the nomination. Butts, a parent of three current and former Oyster River students, praised the Board’s successful mitigation of the COVID-19 virus and embrace of diversity within schools. 

“As a parent, I have felt safe sending my kids to school with the masking policies, space allowance policies, and contact policies that are in place,” Butts wrote. “The Board remained professional and fact-driven despite the fact that they had many angry parents voicing their opinions on all sides of the topic.”

Selig also nominated the Board because of its work on fundamentals such as aligning district policies and procedures with statewide best practices, and its work to improve all district buildings while also building a new LEED Gold certified middle school that is saving the district significant sums in energy costs. Even as a new middle school was built, the Board worked to implement safety improvements at all school entrances, addressed deferred maintenance issues in several buildings, and updated HVAC units, which resulted in “healthier facilities, healthier staff/students, and reduced energy costs to support local taxpayers.”

“A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee was formed involving staff, students, administration and community members,” Selig wrote. “This has resulted in the updating of transgender policies, conversations around what it means to be a school district that embraces minority populations while also supporting the entire student population, and more.”

The award will be presented on June 3 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Manchester as part of the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards program.

“It is an honor to have been selected as the 2023 NHSBA School Board of the Year,” said Board Chair Denise Day. “Over the years, members of the Board have worked in collaboration with our outstanding team of administrators to provide the best education possible for the students of the district. Together we have accomplished much, including strengthening support for equity and justice via policy and the hiring of a DEIJ coordinator, expanding world language into the middle school, and building a LEED Gold certified middle school. The Board continues in its commitment to our mission of working together to engage every learner.”