3 seek 1-year Freeport term on RSU 5 board

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FREEPORT — Three candidates are competing for a one-year term on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors..

The vacancy, created by the resignation effective Nov. 7 of Sarah Woodard, has attracted Christopher Grimm, Tiffany Jones and Maura Pillsbury.

Terms are also expiring for board members Jeremy Clough and John Morang. Both are running uncontested for re-election to three-year terms.

Mike Ashby, of South Street, Adam Morse, of Litchfield Road, and Sara Randall, of Starboard Lane, are running uncontested for three seats on the Sewer District Board of Trustees. Clifford Anderson, of Prout Road, is the only candidate on the ballot for a seat on the board of the Water District.

Polls will be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 6 at Freeport High School.

Christopher Grimm

First-time candidate Grimm said he is running to be a “rational voice for the kids, the parents and the taxpayers of Freeport.” He said he decided to run after watching “RSU 5 administration implementing (proficiency-based grading, and) a lack of common sense in doing so.”

“I’m 100 percent opposed to (proficiency-based grading) because I think it’s de-motivating and lowers the bar,” Grim said.

The board voted last spring to go back to standard grading systems at Freeport High School.

Grimm said he feels this vote was “lip service,” because he still sees his children come home with papers that include a proficiency-based rubric for grades.

“I would love to continue the discussion around the removal of PBE and the implementation of true, best teaching practices,” Grimm said.

He said he’d also love to “balance traditional teaching methods with the incredible onslaught of digital (tools)” that kids are using today.

Grimm said he’d also like to see the board do a comprehensive look at the need for specific budget lines, such as administrative staffing.

“The school budget makes up about two-thirds of the town’s budget so people ought to be concerned,” he said. “We have a superintendent and an assistant superintendent. I’m not sure why … I’d just like to validate what seems like a significant portion of the town’s tax dollars.”

Tiffany Jones

Jones ran for a three-year term on the board last year, but was defeated by Maddy Vertenten and Lindsay Sterling.

Jones said she’s running this year for the same reasons: 18 years of experience as an educator would be an asset to the board and she’d also like to be more involved in her children’s’ school district.

“As a teacher, I feel strongly about supporting teachers and creating environments for teachers to feel valued and respected as educators,” she said.

Jones said she decided to run for the one-year seat, rather than a full three-year term because she “ran against an incumbent (Lindsay Sterling) last year” and Clough and Morang are both running for re-election.

“I feel really strongly that I can use my experience as far as how decisions can really impact the classroom,” Jones said. “… A one-year position will be a great way to get an intro in and have that experience so next year I can run for a full term.”

Like last year, Jones said she would like to see foreign language classes start at an earlier age, which she would advocate for if elected.

Jones said she’s been attending meetings of the Strategic Plan Advisory Committee, which is charged to oversee the process of updating the district’s 2010 plan.

She’d also like to help strengthen communication and outreach between the board and all three communities represented by the RSU as decisions are made, in part by “utilizing the technology that we have to its greatest potential.”

“Instead of making people go find the information, it would be great if there was more bringing the information to the people,” Jones said. With a master’s degree in educational technology, Jones said she felt she could help bring the district “into the technological age.”

Watching the board weigh the pros and cons of proficiency-based grading, Jones said, reminded her of how important “communication is between the School Board and community.”

“I think that was a great decision and showed that people’s voices are heard,” Jones said of the board’s vote on PBE at the high school.

Jones added that watching plans for the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track & Field come to fruition showed what can be accomplished when everyone in the district works together.

Maura Pillsbury

Pillsbury is a first-time candidate, but given her experience in public policy, she said she could lend a valuable perspective to the board.

“Everything I do I view through that lens,” she said, noting that if she’s elected, she’d likely run for a full, three-year term next year.

If elected, Pillsbury said her top priority would be bettering communication between stakeholders in the district, especially when it comes to how PBE is implemented and what elements are maintained by the district, and for an increased presence from the board in the schools.

“Engaging stakeholders and hearing parents is an effort the board is undertaking,” she said, noting that she’s in favor of grading on a scale of 0-100 as opposed to 1-4. “… I do have concerns about how the board has engaged with and listened to stakeholders in the past. I applaud efforts they are now undertaking to improve how they do this in the future.”

She’d also like to see the schools incorporate programming to facilitate discussions with students and staff around gun violence, specifically regarding how to recognize the warning signs of a potential threat.

If elected, Pillsbury said she’d also like to explore grant funding from the state’s Volkswagen Clean Air Act Settlement, which would help districts upgrade to “clean electric school buses.”

“I’d love to see the school district apply for or at least consider that … (to) do away with diesel, which I don’t think is healthy for our children,” she said. “I would certainly be willing to help lead that effort.”

Finally, Pillsbury said she’d also prioritize cost-sharing between the towns.

“It’s important that we make sure all that the cost-sharing between (Freeport, Durham and Pownal) is fair and equitable,” she said. “I think I would have some skills to bring to the table to help with that.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Age: 53

Residency: Fiddlehead Lane, Freeport

Family: Married, two kids

Occupation: Property manager

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University, Master’s degree from the University of Vermont

Political/civil experience: Chairman of the Shellfish Commission, previously on the Conservation Commission.

Website/social media: None

Age: 47

Residency: Justins Way, Freeport

Family: Married, two children

Occupation: Science and technology teacher

Education: Master’s degree in Educational Technology

Political/civic experience: C. Wood Association president

Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/RSU5SchoolBoard/

Age: 38

Residency: Todd Brook Road, Freeport

Family: Married, two children

Occupation: Public policy evaluator

Education: Master’s degree in Public Policy

Political/civic experience: Freeport Conservation Commission, Maine Legislature analyst, U.S. Government Accountability Office analyst, Peace Corps

Website/social media: fb.me/pillsbury4ME

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