School board seat up for grabs

CLARIFICATION – The money contributed to Charlie Katsohis’ campaign for the Nashua Board of Education came from the Nashua Teachers Union’s Committee On Political Education. Money contributed voluntarily to the committee, which is made up of union members, is used for political purposes, and does not come from union dues, according to union President Bob Sherman.

NASHUA – Although much of the focus may be on the state primary, there’s also a special election going on today that will determine who will fill out the nine-member board of education until the end of 2009.

Dan Hogan, a retired Air Force pilot and former teacher, and Charlie Katsohis, who spent his entire 41-year career in education in Nashua, are running against one another for a vacant seat on the city’s school board.

The special election is needed because Edwina Kwan, at the time the longest-tenured member of the board, resigned July 1. The winner of today’s election will fill the seat until the term expires Dec. 31, 2009.

Katsohis, 64, has said that if he is elected, his decades of experience working in the school system gives him a distinct advantage, allowing for less of a learning curve when dealing with issues like student achievement and making policy.

Katsohis has received the endorsement of the Nashua Teachers Union, which also contributed $500 to his campaign.Hogan, 76, has called Katsohis an “insider” and said that he would have a conflict of interest, if elected, because two of his daughters currently work in the school system; one is a teacher and the other is an assistant principal.

Katsohis said his daughters’ employment in the school system would not prevent him from voting on most of the issues that will come before the school board.

Hogan is the uncle of current school board member Dennis Hogan. He volunteers as a pole vaulting coach for Nashua high school students. He said that, if elected, he is hoping to find ways to improve the city’s failing schools.

With the school district in the midst of a strategic planning process, the winner may have to vote on some significant issues such as redistricting or considering closing a school.

Katsohis spent 28 years of his career in Nashua as principal of Bicentennial Elementary School.

He transferred to Ledge Street Elementary School in 2005, at first with the understanding that he would be able to retire and stay on as a principal in the city.

However, the state’s public employee retirement board shot down that deal. Katsohis ended up stayed on as principal at Ledge Street until last year, when he retired.

After serving in the Air Force for 26 years, Hogan worked as a teacher and assistant principal at Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School.

Hogan is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life and has been a vocal supporter of abstinence-only education. In February 2006, Hogan was one of several people who protested an event hosted by Planned Parenthood at Hollis/Brookline High School.

Both candidates said they were undecided on whether they would run for election for a full four-year term in 2009.

Those who want to vote in today’s special election will have to request a separate ballot.

City Clerk Paul Bergeron said there would be two separate checklist tables at each polling place – one for the state primary and one for the special election. Voters must check in at both if they wish to obtain both ballots, he said.

Voters may choose to vote in the special election only and not participate in the state primary, he said.

Bergeron predicted an 8 percent turnout for the special election, which would be 3,278 ballots cast. He predicted a 10 percent turnout for the primary, or 4,660 ballots cast.