HAMPTON — Les Shepard and Ginny Bridle-Russell were re-elected to the Hampton School Board at Tuesday’s election.
Shepard received 1,443 votes, while Bridle-Russell had 1,3,14 votes. They defeated challenger Kelly Martin, who had 1,181 votes. Shepard, a retired Seabrook Middle School principal, will serve his second term, Bridle-Russell, who runs Village Preschool in town, her fourth.
Bridle-Russell said she looks forward to overseeing the completion of a $25.9 million renovation and addition to Hampton Academy, which will be finished for this school year according to SAU 90 officials. She also said the board will need to address growth in demand for special education services.
"We've got stuff to do," said Bridle-Russell. "We need to figure out what's going on and what we're doing, and we have to make sure that every child gets the best education."
Bridle-Russell's win means she will enter her 25th year of public service, also previously serving on the Board of Selectmen. Voters who supported her said she is a trusted voice for Hampton Schools, some having sent their children to Village Preschool.
"You could tell she's a dedicated educator," said Michael Baldassarre, whose children went to Bridle-Russell's preschool.
Voters also approved the school district’s $23,585,440 budget as well as a $100,000 article for a third school resource officer. The new position was approved by a vote of 1,338 to 1,331, allowing an officer to be at each of the three SAU 90 schools. Currently, two officers monitor all three, one focusing on Hampton Academy while the other watches Marston School and Centre School.
Voters who supported the article said they believed school safety was a priority, even some who came to the polls with the goal of keeping spending down. Betty Lavallee said she generally voted against articles not recommended by the Budget Committee, but she voted "yes" on the SRO warrant article because she trusted town officials who said it was needed. The Budget Committee voted 3-4 to not recommend the article, some members concerned the need for an extra officer had not been demonstrated by school officials.
School officials have made safety in school buildings a priority in the last couple years, also using grant money to fund improvements to door security, surveillance cameras and other protective infrastructure. They have said an observed rise in violent acts across the nation like school shootings has heightened the need for schools to strengthen their security measures.
"We wanted three (SROs) that could work together," said Bridle-Russell after the election. "I think it will ensure safety for our students."
Voters also passed a contract extension for SAU 90 paraprofessionals, $300,000 to continue maintenance of Marston and Centre School and $38,925 to go towards child benefit services for Hampton students that attend Sacred Heart School.