The following is a candidate letter submitted by Venus Merrill to Hampton-North Hampton Patch.
Hello my name is Venus Merrill and I am a candidate for the Winnacunnet at large seat. I have lived on the Seacoast in Seabrook, Hampton, and the past 20 years in Hampton Falls, I’ve been married for 17 years. I am a mother of 2 grown children one 27 and one 15. My husband, my sons, and I are all Winnacunnet Warriors.
I am employed by the State of New Hampshire and I have an extensive background in Administrative and Management Field. My husband has owned and operated a small business on the Seacoast for 30 years and I have work with him for the last 20.
I attended Seabrook Elementary School and graduated from Winnacunnet High School class of 1981. I furthered my education in the Substance Abuse Addiction and Prevention Field taking classes from Center of Substance Abuse Prevention as well as Community Leadership Initiative Programs.
Public service/public-office experience:
I was one of the founders of the Seacoast Community Safety Net and was one the only grassroots organization to receive Federal funding from “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration” (SAMSHA) to host a Town Hall Meeting as a joint effort with the Greenland Diversion Program which we did at WHS. I was one of the organizers of the first Community Forums held at Winnacunnet High School. We held many more after that. I presented the Winnacunnet School Board with information based on the 2001 YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) for the need to continue the survey in 2005 which our students continue to participate in today. I presented the Safe Home Programs to Winnacunnet High School which still needs follow through. I had formed a parent support group in the community. I have volunteered at the Greenland Diversion Program, Seacoast Youth Services, Blue Heron, and the Odyssey House volunteering during the formation of the Recovery School.
I was honored to serve 2 years on the WHS Board while serving on the Board I gained the following knowledge; I was able to help students, Budget, negotiations, hiring of staff, contracts, pushed for the meetings to be taped so that the Taxpayers could be informed, implemented several programs one being the Freshman Seminar in hopes that it followed the student through graduation which still needs to be reevaluated, implemented the start time from 7:20am to 7:45am after several months of research which included input from students, parents, staff and Administration, worked on the new wellness policy along with implementing the educational substance abuse prevention program for athletes and parents. Along with the Board and the taxpayers support we created a line item in the Budget for substance abuse and prevention. Brought The Center for Preventing Hate to the school which the school used until this year because the center closed.
What are the three most important issues in your race?
1. Substance Abuse, Bullying, Cyber Bullying, Violence and Wellness
If you are elected how do you plan to address these issues?
1. Substance Abuse, Bullying, Cyber, Bullying, Violence, and wellness
During my tenure on the Winnacunnet School Board I work diligently to advocate for all students as WHS has a diverse group of students with different learning styles and abilities from AP Students to Special Needs. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a critical area that we all must be concerned with. I will work hard to preserve the YRBS pull the data of areas of concern and target those areas to support our youth. The survey results have not changed much since 2001 thru 2012 – it’s time to change the way we are doing things. (this is grouping the categories) According to the survey:
-830 -940 students understand that parents have clear rules and believe that using any form of substances is wrong. Parents are doing a great job!!
-190-520 students feel it is easy for them to get any substance. This needs to decrease!
-260 were offered or sold or given illegal drugs on school property. This needs to decrease!
-160-400 students have tried illegal substances. Too many need Prevention!
-120-680 have tried substances in their lifetime. Too many need Prevention and Education!!!
I feel strongly that the impact of these results are closely related to depression, hunger, suicide, and struggles of academic achievement. My hopes would be to share my experience and education to work with the board, teachers, students, and community incorporating more substance abuse prevention and education programs. I feel that we must work together as a community to improve in all of these areas. This should not be perceived as a negative reflection on WHS we must understand that anywhere youth gather their will be these results. The administration, students, and board should be commended for talking about these issues. Most of the programs WHS has used for support are no longer available due to funding cuts so we really need to pull together and find creative ways to help our youth in house.
My goal would be to see every student receive the best education possible. I will look forward to seeing the results from the newly formed Core Subject Committee along with the hired Consultant If Core Subject Math and English are to be implemented all year long I would work hard to preserve the opportunities for our students to have no impact on their electives. I am data driven so doing some research I have found a John Hopkins University study that shows how youth can lose 2-3 months of retention of education during summer break and it can take up to 8 weeks to regain that loss. This study also shows that different income levels can have an impact on this loss of information. In learning this I have concerns about the possible 6-9 month break that our students are experiencing from one school year to the next. I feel that this break is a disadvantage to our students and our Teachers. I feel that we cannot ignore the recent NECAP results. Yes, they have improved and we must consider all areas of student achievement. I would like to see the High School look at student placement more closely with the sending schools as we have a diverse community of student’s. Winnacunnet has so much to offer our students and I would like to see every student have equal opportunities for all that WHS has to offer.
We have been fortunate to have the taxpayers pass the Winnacunnet Budget despite the struggles the economy has placed on our families. The Budget has been responsible for some time however fresh eyes can sometimes see different ways to save without impacting education. I will work hard to protect your tax dollars while assuring that our students get a high quality education.
Explain why you are running and why you feel you are the best candidate
I am running for the School Board at large seat which includes Seabrook, Hampton, Hampton Falls, and North Hampton for all of the reason I have listed. I feel the taxpayers will vote for the candidate that will best support the students as a whole. I feel that my background experience working within our Community and serving you in the past as your Winnacunnet School Board Member would be an asset. I would appreciate your consideration on March 13, 2012. Thank you for your time please feel free to contact me with any further questions my phone number is 603-926-4841 and my email firstname.lastname@example.org.