Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock personally met with conservative radio talk show host Rich Girard to discuss Manchester West High’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Ahead program, Girard revealed on his Girard at Large radio program. Also present were two of Girard’s children, who are enrolled in the STEAM program. Girard denied that he asked Hitchcock to terminate Dyn’s funding of the program, which is a pet project of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
On his radio show, Girard continued to deny the charge made by Manchester Ward 11 School Board Committee Member Katie Desrochers at the February 29 special meeting of the Board of the School Committee (BOSC), that he had asked Hitchcock to withdraw the cloud-based Internet performance company’s funding of West High’s STEAM Ahead program. Girard was elected as an at-large member to the BOSC in November 2015, when he beat long-serving Kathy Staub by 648 votes. Staub’s defeat at the hands of Girard, who had not held an elected office for 16 years, was entirely unexpected.
Desrochers’ charge that Girard lobbied Hitchcock to cut off Dyn’s funding for the program came after Girard’s presentation of a school redistricting plan to the BOSC. The charge by Desrochers elicited a startled reaction from Mayor Gatsas, who made the STEAM program one of the hallmarks of his 2015 re-election campaign, when he eked out a 64-vote victory over former Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig.
According to Desrochers, Hitchcock personally told her that Girard asked him to cut off the funding in a letter. At the time of the BOSC meeting, Girard denied that his letter to Hitchcock contained any such suggestion. Speaking about Desrocher’s charge on Tuesday’s radio broadcast, Girard said, “That’s flatly not true.”
Girard said that he had put a call in to Hitchcock at 8pm, after the BOSC special meeting had adjourned, but was still waiting for an answer. Describing Hitchcock as one of the “prime financial backers of the STEAM Ahead program,” Girard said on air that he would hold off on describing his meeting with Hitchcock until he heard from him about what would lead Desrochers to make her “wildly false accusation” in a public session of the BOSC. Contradicting himself, Girard then went on to describe the meeting.
The radio host cum politician said he met with Hitchcock as a “concerned parent about things happening within the STEAM Ahead program that I believe are going to endanger its long term success as a program that attracts highly capable kids who want career in the STEM fields.”
Girard’s reference to STEM, dropping the “arts” out of West Side’s program, was a repetition of his use of the term during the special meeting of the BOSC, which had irritated Mayor Gatsas. STEM is a U.S. Department of Education program that had had the “Arts” added to it to create STEAM Ahead New Hampshire. The at-large school committeeman then made a curious statement that likely revealed why he had approached Hitchcock, that he had some philosophical or political objection to the STEAM Ahead program.
“By the way, I took my two kids who were in the STEAM program to meet Mr. Hitchcock so he could get an understanding of whether or not he was getting what he was paying for by the dogma that dominates that program at the time,” Girard stated.
Dogma is a word indicating an article of faith, or ideology, held as undeniably true by a group or person, which when used in the pejorative sense as Girard did indicates the user’s distaste and mistrust of the underlying doctrine or principles supporting a religion, program or agenda. That Rich Girard has, two days in a row, dropped the “A” from STEAM Ahead and used STEM may indicate his displeasure that the original STEM program was expanded to include the arts.
On his radio show, Rich Girard has made himself prominent in Queen City political circles as a warrior in the culture wars, taking on such conservative bugaboos as the Common Core education standards that Girard and his supporters despise as shibboleths of the liberal nanny state. There is a possibility that Girard may have been lobbying Hitchcock to use his financial clout to exert pressure on the STEAM Ahead program to reform itself in ways Girard, in his self-appointed role as Manchester’s cultural czar, deemed appropriate.
Girard appealed to his children as authorities to prove his innocence of Desrochers’ charge. “One of the things I did when I got home last night was I went to both my kids separately and said, and asked them, ‘Did I say anything in the meeting with Mr. Hitchcock that even remotely sounded like you should pull your funding and stop funding the STEM program?’ They both looked at me and said, ‘No.’ I said ‘OK. Just double-checking,’ not that I needed to.”
Girard seemed to be unaware that his narrative planted a seed of doubt in his listeners as to the veracity of his memory. He never clarified whether the exact verbal exchange occurred between Girard and each of the Girard children separately, or whether the children actually were addressed in tandem, or whether the three family members had come together to puzzle out what actually did occur at the Hitchcock meeting.
A source close to the School Board with a long history of government service said there isn’t a single person on the BOSC, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen or at City Hall who doesn’t believe that Rich Girard was “probably on the make” when he approached Jeremy Hitchcock. That includes the man the source called “Mayor 64”. By “on the make”, the source meant that Girard was looking out for Girard and acting as a free agent.
“You’ve got a guy, Gatsas, with ambitions to be the next governor of the Granite State who’s won a whopping landslide this past November,” the source said facetiously, “and he’s got his unofficial minister of propaganda, Girard, out negotiating behind his back with the very kind of people he needs to get behind him in a race against Chris Sununu. As you can see from Mayor 64’s reaction when Desrochers blew the whistle on Girard, he had no idea what Stinky was up to.”
“Stinky” is the nickname that Rich Girard was given when he served as assistant to Mayor Ray Wieczorek, according to Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann.