Only 1 contested race in Portland School Committee election
PORTLAND — There are three seats up for election Nov. 3 on the School Committee.
But only the ballot in District 2, which represents the West End and Parkside, has a contested race.
In District 1, newcomer Jenna Vendil, 25, is running unopposed for the seat being vacated by one-term board member Rebecca Minnick. While this is her first time running for office, Vendil has been involved in local and state politics since graduating from Bates College in 2006. She is currently field director for the League of Young Voters and vice chairwoman of the Southern Maine Worker's Center.
Sarah Jordan Thompson, 39, has no competition for re-election to the at-large seat she has held for the past three years. A Starbird Road resident, Thompson has two children in the Portland schools. She is chairwoman of the Personnel Committee, which led the search that resulted in the hiring of Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. this year.
The District 2 seat, being vacated by one-term committee member Robert O'Brien, has attracted two candidates: Ed Bryan and Anthony Zeli. Neither candidate has prior elected experience.
Bryan, 44, is a West End resident and father of two Reiche Elementary School students. He said he is running for School Committee because he believes Portland needs a strong school system. He is involved with the Reiche Parent Teacher Organization and the West End Neighborhood Association.
"The more families that are involved with the schools, the better kids are going to do and the better it is for teachers," said Bryan, who is married to Suzanne Bryan.
The owner of a company that specializes in finance and budget reporting for municipalities and school systems, Bryan said his professional skills can help guide the School Committee through budgeting. He said the schools should look to combine services and programs when feasible.
"We need to address some facility issues," said Bryan, a Bowdoin College graduate. "There are conditions that really need to be addressed."
Bryan worked with a committee to come up with creative ways to improve physical learning conditions at Reiche. The group was able to do so with limited resources. He said the city's other elementary schools are in need of updates, too.
Bryan said he would also like to see more collaboration between various Portland schools.
"I don't want to see cutting of music, theater and humanities-type programs," he said. "We need to share resources."
Zeli, 29, is a Congress Street resident and broadcast technician for WGME-TV.
He said he wants the schools to invest in energy efficiency, both in its facilities and in green programs within the schools to teach kids about sustainability.
"We need to teach them to be better stewards of the environment," said Zeli, a Marlboro College graduate. He cited composting programs as an example that can be used as a teaching tool as well as a way to cut waste at schools.
Zeli said he supports alternative education programs such as Casco Bay High School.
"Not everyone learns the same way," he said. "We need a diverse curriculum."
Zeli, who lives with his partner, Anna Trevorrow, said he would also like to increase access to school community centers, including the one at Reiche, as a way to create safe havens within neighborhoods.
Zeli is treasurer of the Maine Green Independent Party, which he said has given him experience working with budgets and policy issues.