SCARBOROUGH — In one of the most anticipated municipal elections in the region, Nicholas Gill, Sarah Leighton, April Sither, Amy Glidden and Alicia Giftos prevailed among 15 candidates vying for seats on the Board of Education.
It was the largest pool of candidates the town has ever seen.
In addition, Scarborough was the only municipality in the area where voters opted not to join the Greater Sebago Educational Alliance regional service center. The question failed 4,751 to 4,534.
According to unofficial results, Sither led the pack of those seeking a three-year term on the School Board with 4,311 votes; Leighton and Gill followed with 4,085 and 3,875 votes, respectively.
Glidden, who had 5,757 votes, and Giftos, with 4,529, will each serve one-year terms.
All said they’d like to focus on a positive and productive path forward for the board and School Department, in part by evaluating Superintendent Julie Kukenberger’s contract, which expires next June.
Chairwoman Mary Starr decided not to seek re-election and longtime board member Jackie Perry is termed out. Donna Beeley, who would have been termed out this year, was recalled in a special May election, when the two, one-year unexpired terms were created by the ouster of Cari Lyford and Jodi Shea.
Sither, Leighton and Gill ran for Starr, Perry and Beeley’s seats. They were challenged by Jonathan Cloutier, who received 3,275 votes; Lori Lavoie, 2,801; Annalee Rosenblatt, 2,726; Betsy Gleysteen, 2,430; Leroy Crockett, 2,179; Quinn Stewart, 1,585; and Michael Marcello, 1,130.
Glidden ran against Emily Read, who trailed with 4,028 votes, for Lyford’s seat. Stacey Neumann and Benjamin Howard challenged Giftos for the remainder of Shea’s term, but fell short by 3,447 and 1,739 votes, respectively.
Gill, Sither, Glidden and Giftos were endorsed by Road to Renewal, the group that pushed for the recall of Beeley, Shea and Lyford.
On Wednesday morning, Gill said he was “exhausted but elated,” noting the high voter turnout he saw while greeting people at the polls on Tuesday.
“It was such a long and amazing day … I’m completely overwhelmed,” he said. “This is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Gill would like to hit the ground running by working towards “healing wounds” left on the board and throughout the community by increasing transparency and helping the public understand and be more involved in board processes.
“It’ll be tough to accomplish anything until that’s done,” he said.
This priority was followed closely by reviewing Kukenberger’s contract, which he said should be done within the next few weeks. Gill said his opinion could change, but the way he sees it now, “it’s difficult to see Scarborough move forward with her at the helm.”
If the board took no action on Kukenberger’s contract, it would simply expire next spring. Members could, however, vote to extend it.
Leighton said she doesn’t have a stance on Kukenberger’s contract, but agreed that a review is “imperative.”
Leighton said Wednesday she feels “energized and humbled.” She looks forward to getting together with other board members and figuring out how they’ll work best together.
An “excited” Glidden said she’s looking forward to working with the board to ensure they’re working in the best interest of Scarborough schools, in part by making sure all stakeholders’ voices are heard.
She said she’s been outspoken from the start about what she called “serious concerns” with leadership, but agreed that a review should be among the board’s top priorities.
Sither said in an email Wednesday that she was “thrilled” by the election results.
“It has been a turbulent year for Scarborough and I am grateful for the opportunity to restore open communication and trust throughout the community,” she said. “I am eager to get to work with my fellow board members to tackle existing issues with board policy, as well as discussing the future of our district’s leadership.”
Giftos was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.
Voters in Portland, South Portland, Gorham, Westbrook, Brunswick, and Cape Elizabeth all voted in favor of joining the Greater Sebago Educational Alliance Regional Service Center, which is designed to create efficiencies and save money on a variety of administrative costs.
Creation of regional service centers across the state is an initiative of the Maine Department of Education that’s specifically designed to foster improved partnerships and sharing common functions among school districts.
April Sither, left, Amy Glidden and Alicia Giftos were three of the five elected to the Scarborough Board of Education out of 15 candidates who ran Nov. 6. All three stood outside the high school for most of the day Tuesday, greeting voters as they arrived.