Cape candidates discuss library, gun club, schools

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Candidates for Town Council and School Board discussed a variety of topics Wednesday night in a Town Hall forum organized by the high school’s advanced-placement U.S. government class.

The two council candidates, incumbent Councilor Katharine Ray and Patty Grennon, answered the first round of questions. The race is uncontested because Councilor David Sherman is not seeking re-election.

The two agreed on almost every topic presented to them. When asked if they support the proposed $4 million renovation to Thomas Memorial Library, they both said they did.

“I am very committed to this and I will be voting in favor of the library renovation,” Ray, who is on the library building committee, said.

Grennon said she appreciates the work the building committee has done and that she thinks an updated library will be good for the town.

“A lot of people say the library isn’t used; it’s one of the top used in the state,” Grennon said. “I think it’s important we spend our tax dollars and invest in this place.”

On the topic of the dispute between Cross Hill residents and the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club, Ray talked about the progress that’s been made so far. She said she hopes it will continue.

“It’s been a long, long hard scenario for both groups, but I think we’re making progress and I think we will get there,” Ray said.

Grennon noted the recent $28,000 grant the club received to make safety improvements. Although the gun club recently completed a sound study, she said she wants to see the noise issue discussed more.

“I would hope that as this goes forward that the rod and gun club and the Cross Hill residents would continue dialogue so that they can finally put this dispute to bed and make sure that perhaps even noise is addressed as well,” she said.

The candidates were also asked what they think of Cape Elizabeth’s town center plan. They were asked to talk about the speed limit, building the village green, and creating new sidewalks.

“I’m trying to continue with the sidewalks so that we can have some ability to move between the different buildings in the town center,” Ray said. 

She said the town has looked at the speed limit several times, but that Route 77 is a state road and there is a process to go through to reduce the limit.

“We’re hoping that the state will listen to us about potentially lowering it for safety,” Ray said. “I think a lot of folks talk about the safety issue, about crossing the street, kids walking to school and so forth.”

Grennon agreed and said more sidewalks and a lower speed limit would strengthen the community aspect of the town center.

The three candidates for two School Board seats, incumbents Joanna Morrissey and Elizabeth Scifres and challenger Barbara Powers, discussed several topics, from finances to teaching methods.

When asked about their priorities regarding school funding, the candidates had different ideas.

“First and foremost, any time you’re talking about school budgets, it’s teacher-student ratios and making sure we have highly qualified and well-supported teachers in our classrooms,” Powers said.

Scifres talked more about the overall picture.

“I’d say our budget priorities have to be supporting our strategic plan,” Scifres said. “Our strategic plan is the map of where we want to go and it encompasses everything.”

Morrissey said she would like to remain aware of tax dollars, while still doing what is best for the students.

“My priorities for our school funding would be first and foremost, I think a respect for our taxpayers in our system,” Morrissey said. “That said, with what funding we do have, my priority would be to be able to provide innovative and creative programming in order to meet the needs of our twenty-first century students.”

Candidates were also asked for their thoughts on differentiated instruction, which requires teachers to find different ways to help children, based on the assumption that children learn and understand material in different ways.

Powers said she supports differentiation and said things need to be set up in the schools for it to work effectively.

“I think that the condition that needs to be in place for this to be really successful, in addition to the professional development that’s happening, is really clear learning targets,” she said. 

Scifres also said she believes in differentiation. She said it will depend on mindset and the belief that all children can “get there” and understand the material.

“I also believe that we need to have that instructional goal, those targets,” Scifres said. “That also has to be happening at the same time as everyone being on board with mindset.”

Morrissey said she supports differentiation as well, but understands that some people are concerned that it won’t work once students get to middle school. She said she wants to make sure teachers are trained to use differentiation “right” and “with respect” so that all students can benefit from it.

“The amount of training and technical assistance and support that our teachers need in order to do differentiated instruction to fidelity is something that the board is keenly aware of,” she said.

Election day is Nov. 4. Voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Cape Elizabeth High School gym.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.