FREEPORT — Three candidates are competing for two seats on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors in the Nov. 7 municipal election.
Terms are expiring for Vice Chairwoman Beth Parker, who has decided not to run again, and Lindsay Sterling. Sterling is running for a second term on the board, challenged by neophytes Maddy Vertenten and Tiffany Jones.
Terms on the Town Council are expiring for Chairwoman Sarah Tracy of District 2, District 3 Councilor Peter Anzuini and at-large Councilor Bill Rixon. Tracy is running for her second full term on the Council; Eric Horne is uncontested for the at-large seat and Douglas Reighley is unopposed in District 3.
Terms set to expire on the Sewer District Board of Trustees are held by Sally Leland and Vice Chairman Gerald Kennedy, both of whom are seeking re-election. Their seats are contested by Timothy Whitacre.
Tom Hudak has decided not to run for re-election to the Water District Board of Trustees, but no one has declared candidacy for the seat.
Polls will be open Nov. 7 from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Freeport High School gymnasium.
Born in Wisconsin, Sterling, 43, of Cove Road, has lived in Maine for 16 years. She is a chef and author of “Immigrant Kitchens,” an online cookbook and live series of cooking classes. She also founded and led Friends of Freeport High School to promote the recent high school renovation.
Sterling said she decided to run for re-election because she was inspired by the progress she’s seen in the district over the past three years and feels she has more to offer to keep that positive momentum going.
If elected, Sterling would like to resume the board’s work on what she feels is the biggest challenge facing the district: differentiated learning.
“There is a wide range of abilities in each class,” Sterling said. “I think we can continue to improve on … how (to) help teachers inspire and engage every single student in the classroom.”
Sterling has applied to be a member of the district’s Strategic Planning Advisory Committee, which was approved by the board of directors on Sept. 27. The committee will meet monthly to oversee the process of updating RSU 5’s 2010 Strategic Plan.
The RSU 5 board will appoint individuals to the committee on Nov. 8. If not appointed, Sterling said she hopes to be involved in the process on some level.
“I’m passionate about positive long-term growth,” she said. ” I really understand the history of the district and (its) stakeholders.”
Sterling said she felt the board did an excellent job building the district’s budget, which passed in June.
When asked what the board could do to strike more of a balance between all three towns in the district – which includes Pownal and Durham – in terms of unity and the budget process, Sterling said she feels like the district is “beyond the point of talking about unity.”
“We’ve done a lot of work at the board level to make sure we’re not highlighting different towns unnecessarily,” Sterling said. “We’re in it now and we’re all benefiting.”
Vertenten, 49, of Bartol Island Road, grew up in Bangor and moved back to Maine in 2012 after living in Texas. She is a board member of the Tri-Town Track and Field Project and Friends of Wabun, a youth outdoor program. In 2006, she joined USANA Health Sciences – a multi-level marketing company that produces various nutritional products and dietary supplements.
Vertenten said she decided to run for a seat on the School Board because she is more comfortable voicing what she is passionate about than most people. She said she isn’t running to promote a particular agenda, but says voters can count on her to advocate for whole and healthy kids – beyond physical wellness, public education, building relationships, authentic communication, and community engagement.
When asked what she thinks the biggest challenge facing the district is, Vertenten said the district has a difficult time building a budget suitable for different financial considerations in all three towns included in RSU 5.
“We have a lot of economic diversity in the three towns and that can make for a lot of bitter feelings during the budget process,” she said. “I think (the board) can do a better job of hearing the concerns of our constituents, not just in the smaller towns, but in Freeport too.”
Vertenten said she is very excited to contribute to the update of 2010’s Strategic Plan.
“I’m definitely a strategic, big-picture thinker … that’s kind of my strength in business,” she said.
Vertenten said before the budget passed in June, she and her daughter spoke at a public meeting in favor of allocating additional funds towards a new teacher position at the Freeport Middle School to offset large class sizes in sixth and eighth grades.
“I was disappointed that the subsequent board vote was to not fund (the position),” she said. “… We do need policy around (class sizes).”
Vertenten added she attended many board meetings this summer with the hope that, if elected, she’ll be able to hit the ground running in November.
Jones, 46, of Justin’s Way, has lived in Freeport for 11 years and teaches at St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick. Previously she taught at public schools in Falmouth, Lewiston, and Durham for 13 years.
She said becoming involved in her 5- and 10-year-olds’ school district is the main reason she decided to run for a seat on the board.
She believes her experience as an educator would make her a valuable asset to the board in terms of helping them understand proficiency-based learning and the teacher evaluation process.
If elected, Jones said she would like to see foreign language classes start at an earlier age for students in the district.
“Language development happens at a younger age,” she said. “Getting some exposure at an earlier age to foreign languages would help (RSU5) be (academically) competitive.”
In terms of unifying all towns represented in the district, Jones said she did not think last year’s proposed name change of Freeport High School was done the right way, but thinks action should be taken.
She would like to see students and teachers from each town brought together more often to meet and get to know one another before students enter high school.
“I think the school board can do some cool things to help initiate that process,” Jones said.
Like Vertenten, Jones said she would’ve liked to see funding for another middle school teacher approved in the school budget.
“I think it’s an issue that is going to come up over and over again,” Jones said. “I think it is important to come up with policies that are fair and equitable throughout the entire (district) to make sure the student to teacher ratio is maintained.”
Jones noted that she felt inclined to run for a seat on the school board during last year’s discussions around building a new track and field at the high school.
Jones’ house abuts the new track and field. She said while she was always in favor of the project, some of her neighbors were not. Still, during discussions, she said the board often grouped the entire neighborhood together, regardless of differing opinions.
“There were a lot of generalizations made (about abutters at school board meetings) that went around and that I was affected by,” Jones said. “I want people on the board with open minds … there didn’t need to be a (neighbors) versus (board) dynamic.”
On Oct. 12 Jones had not yet seen 2010’s Strategic Plan and was not aware of the revision process, but said it is critical to have the district’s policies, goals and objectives stated clearly.
Tracy, 42, of Pettingil Road, was first elected in a 2013 special election held after former Councilor Kate Arno resigned a year before her term was set to expire. Tracy then won a full term in 2014.
If elected to serve, Tracy said she looks forward to continuing to responsibly manage the town by “maintaining quality services and carefully reviewing the budget to minimize tax increases. ”
She also hopes to continue to enhance communication between the Council and town residents and businesses and explore how the town can support residents by continuing low-income home weatherization efforts and starting new initiatives, such as aging in place.
“We have a great Council that works collaboratively and respectfully, even when we do not agree (and) I do not expect that to change in November,” Tracy said. ” I am looking forward to having the opportunity to continue to serve with such a dedicated group of people and to give back to my hometown.”
Horne, 48, of Pine Street, moved to Freeport from New Hampshire in 1975. He and his wife have been operating Maine Oyster for 18 seasons. Horne is also a South Freeport Water District trustee and has served on the Freeport Shellfish Conservation Commission and was a board member of Maine’s Aquaculture Association.
He says he is not going into the election with a set agenda, but is running in hopes of giving back to the community he grew up in.
“I like the direction the town has taken over the years,” Horne said. “It looks like a great team on the Council now (and) I’m looking forward to working with that group.”
Reighley, 73, of Harbor Ridge Road, has lived in town since 1984. He is a window cleaner, a licensed massage, polarity, and ortho-bionomy therapist in Yarmouth, is active in Yarmouth’s Chamber of Commerce, and has served on Freeport’s Zoning Board of Appeals on and off since 1985.
Reighley said he is not running for with a set agenda, but chose to run for District 3 because he is willing to listen to members of the community and has gained a good understanding of the workings of the town through his time with the Zoning Board of Appeals.