SCARBOROUGH — Four candidates are competing for two seats on the School Board in the Nov. 7. election.
The candidates are Rebel Douglas, of 183 Pine Point Road; Hillory Durgin, 9 Sequoia Lane; Leanne Kazilionis, 11 Orchard St., and Christie McNally, 9 Thomas Drive.
The two seats are open because Kelly Murphy has chosen not to run again, while Christine Massengill resigned in June. Since Massengill resigned less than six months before a scheduled election, a special election was not held to fill her seat.
Candidates were asked about what they believe is the biggest challenge facing Scarborough schools, their goals for the board and if there is a way to make the budget process less contentious and more successful. The fiscal 2018 school budget failed twice earlier this year before voters approved it by only 176 votes Sept. 5.
Douglas, 28, is married with one child. She works as deputy field director at OneLA, working on a campaign to unite the municipalities of Lewiston and Auburn.
She is an engineman in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and volunteers with the Southern Maine Workers’ Center in Portland on its campaign for paid sick days.
Douglas, who has a degree in environmental science and policy, said she is also working to form a climate action team, mostly with the Sierra Club.
“I am passionate about education and policy,” she said.
Douglas said she and her husband moved to Scarborough for the good schools, and would like to continue the work the schools have been doing.
Douglas said she wants to bring people together to make sure Scarborough has the top schools in the state, which will attract more young, taxpaying families to town.
She believes the schools have been doing a good job overall, but has heard from residents that not enough emphasis is put on vocational education and would like to examine the issue.
Douglas said she feels like the town has been doing a lot of work to get budget information out, but she thinks some information “gets lost in translation,” leaving voters confused.
She said she would like to emphasize line items on the budget, so taxpayers will better understand where money is going.
Durgin, 41, is married with three children. She has a degree in elementary education and worked as a kindergarten teacher.
Durgin volunteers in classrooms and with the Primary Parents Teacher Association and the Wentworth PTA. She is the former treasurer at Supporters of Scarborough Schools, which advocated in favor of the school budget.
“I would really work hard to do the best I can for our students and community,” Durgin said. “I have a lot of energy and ideas to offer. I think the biggest challenge is to maintain a high quality of education in the face of decreased funding from the state.”
She said it is important to everyone in the community to maintain and grow a high level of education standards. She said technology and education continue to change, and it becomes more difficult to maintain without adequate state funding.
At the same time, however, she said the board needs to “keep an eye on reasonable taxes.”
Durgin said she favors breaking down the budget so people have a better understanding of its major components.
Durgin also said there are misconceptions about the budget, which makes it difficult to pass. She would concentrate on getting budget information out using tools like roundtable discussions, small-group talks with residents in the community, and senior-citizen events.
Kazilionis, 47, is a single mother of one child, and works as a business systems analyst at WEX. She is president of the board of directors at Community Bicycle Group, a non-profit in Biddeford.
She also serves as committee chairwoman for the Boy Scouts of America Troop 47 and is on the development committee for Bowl for Kids Sake, a fundraiser for the Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I am really passionate about the children. I always gravitated towards and chose organizations that focused on youth,” Kazilionis said. “Children deserve to have an education that is top notch. It has been happening and I would like to see it continue.”
Kazilionis said Scarborough is now a minimum-funded town in terms of the state school subsidy and it lost $1.4 million in funding. She said the biggest challenge to the schools is making up the shortfall without burdening taxpayers.
“My goal is to bring balance to the two sides of Scarborough,” she said. “… I want to get the right information out. It has been a struggle to pass the budget.”
She said there has been a lot of fear and misinformation in the community and she wants to make sure residents know where their money is going.
“If people knew we were spending the money on teachers and the books that will make the children so much more successful in the world, we wouldn’t be having these hardships,” Kazilionis said.
She said she would advocate for getting the information out in a way that “doesn’t glaze people’s eyes over.”
Kazilionis also said she wants to look at multi-year forecasting for the future which might make people more confident about the budget.
McNally, 45, is a divorced mother of two and president of Raven Strategies, a lobbying and communications group that runs grassroots campaigns.
She was the Maine state director for Donald J. Trump for President 2016 and founder and executive director of Free Our Internet, which a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “educate citizens about the secret war the tech-left has been waging on the citizens of the internet for almost 20 years … and giving them the tools and resources to finally fight back.”
She said she is also a certified Olympic weightlifting coach.
McNally said there are several big challenges facing Scarborough; one is the budget, which everyone talks about, while the other is bullying. She said Scarborough schools have a significant bullying issue that is “swept under the rug” and that only “lip service” is paid to the problem.
She said her daughter was bullied in the seventh grade and when McNally complained it was her daughter who was removed from the class, not the boy who bullied her. She said the same thing happened again in the eighth grade, and that her son, who has special needs, has also been bullied.
She also said there is a lack of communication between teachers and school social workers, which makes it difficult for students with disabilities to get the services they need.
“My goal is to be an advocate for parents that are having issues at the schools and to help them navigate the system,” McNally said. “I want to be the person they can go to get help.”
McNally said there are items in the School Department budget that are not necessary that make people wonder what else the schools are spending money on that is not necessary. She cited the laptop computer program as an example and said it should be treated like the school lunch program – provided only to students who need it. She said most children already have their own computers and don’t need one provided by the schools.
“We don’t need to have every new or fancy product out there,” McNally said. “… Let’s stick to learning. We don’t have to fancy it up every year. Maybe when we get the taxes under control, then maybe we can make a case for it.”