SCARBOROUGH — In the largest number of School Board candidates to be fielded in the town’s history, 10 residents are seeking three, three-year seats on Nov. 6.
Two of the positions are held by current Chairwoman Mary Starr, who is not seeking re-election, and long-time board member Jackie Perry, who is termed out.
The third is open because former Chairwoman Donna Beeley was recalled in May, although her term is expiring.
The Forecaster is profiling the 10 candidates in two groups of five; the first ran on Oct. 5 and featured John Cloutier, Leroy Crockett, Nicholas Gill, Betsy Gleysteen and Lori Lavoie.
Leighton said she felt a “sense of motivation and inspiration” to get involved in the community after moving back to Scarborough from London last year. She was not in town in June for the recall of Beeley, Lyford and Shea, but said she watched from afar and was “proud of the town for following through (and) taking advantage of the democratic process.”
“There’s still a lot of frustration and anger, but the positive side is that the town is engaged and people are paying attention,” Leighton said. “Although the process was divisive and polarizing, the end result was positive. People have woken up.”
Her absence at the time of contention amongst the board and town makes her candidacy “unique,” Leighton said. Because she didn’t have a “personal connection” to the recall, Leighton said she’d like to focus on “being an independent voice (and) bringing a fresh perspective” to the board.
One priority she’d like to tackle “right out of the gate,” Leighton said, is re-examining the board’s “operating principles,” including how meetings are run, how board members conduct themselves, and how they interact with and engage the public.
“We need to focus on community engagement and really ask the parents, teachers and students how they want to communicate and partner with the board going forward,” Leighton said.
Marcello said his “outrage” about what’s happened to the board this past year and in previous budget seasons motivated him to run, noting “major leadership problems” on the board and from the superintendent.
During a recent candidate forum, Marcello said he was the only one to say up front that if he’s elected, he would like to immediately replace Superintendent Julie Kukenberger.
“Nothing with the school system will move until we have a change in leadership … It’s hard to focus on other priorities until those are cured,” Marcello said. “I was the only one who would say that … Others were afraid.”
For this reason, Marcello said he was in favor of the recall.
Marcello was also adamant about “holding the line on property taxes,” and would not support any budget increases other than teacher salaries. He said it’s impossible for residents to predict what property taxes will be year after year. The district, he added, can “do better than that.”
He’d also like to re-evaluate the proficiency-based grading system, saying that “teachers on the front lines” should decide if/how it’s implemented.
Rosenblatt, who previously served two terms on the board, said she would bring “experience, history and perspective” to the position. With 38 years of volunteer service while living in Scarborough and two children who went through the school system, Rosenblatt said she’s “committed” to the town and its schools.
“As a senior member of this community, although still working full time, as I look ahead to my retirement years I understand the concerns of our residents on fixed incomes and their worries about being able to stay in their homes.”
While watching meetings last spring, Rosenblatt said she was “concerned” with the board’s public input process and felt they were “totally unresponsive” and “tone deaf” to audience members.
Rosenblatt also supported the recall because she said the way the board’s process and the way it interacts with the public “needs to change.”
If elected, Rosenblatt said she’d like to evaluate the district’s proficiency-based grading system. She’d also like to review the attendance policy and cell phone use as a means of preparing students for life after high school. She said the district should encourage students to consider a future in the trades, as well as college.
Another priority, Rosenblatt said, is fiscal responsibility, by keeping all stakeholders in mind when preparing a budget and examining each line item by “seeking justification and separating needs from wants.”
Sither, a founding member of the Road to Renewal group, said she is a fourth-generation Scarborough native who first got involved in local politics through the petition and recall process.
She said through speaking with hundreds of people in the community about school issues, she reconnected with her home community. Sither said she is heavily interested in the future of the district and is seeking the seat because she brings a community perspective she believes the board is lacking.
Sither said she is not necessarily interested in focusing on new initiatives, but working on current deficiencies, such as enabling more teacher participation in decision-making.
“It is my feeling the board’s primary focus needs to be rebuilding the foundation of the school board’s relationship with the community and the teachers. Doing so is essential to ensuring that future initiatives will be successful,” she said.
Sither would like to change the board’s workshop practices to be more open and increase teacher involvement.
Stewart, a 2017 graduate of Scarborough High School, said he is uniquely qualified to sit on the board because he realized through the conflict at the leadership level how much students’ needs were pushed to the side.
He returned home after one year of college to support his family after his father died and will return to college next year.
Stewart said he understands what issues impact students in their day-to-day lives.
He was originally skeptical of the recall movement because he feared it would lead to less participation and stagnation, but was glad to have been proven wrong by the influx of candidates seeking election to the board of education.
One issue Stewart said he would focus on is re-integrating “at-risk” students, who, he said, are separated from the normal school environment in what he called a “basement program” with little interaction with the school community.
Stewart would also like to work on bolstering the school budget by working with representatives in Augusta to get state funding to match the mandated 55 percent level.
Residency: Maple Avenue
Occupation: Program manager
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Quinnipiac University
Political/civic experience: Paul Harris Fellow
Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/sleightonBoE
Residency: Snow Road
Family: Married, one child
Occupation: Director of Strategic Partnerships
Education: Attended Marquette University and University of Southern Maine
Political/civic experience: Fundraising for Wounded Heroes Ride and Center for Grieving Children
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/marcelloforscarboroughschoolboard/
Residency: Tall Pines Road
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Labor relations and human resources consultant
Education: Bachelor’s degree in 6-12 education and Master’s degree in Counseling, Certificate of Labor Studies New York School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell
Political/civic experience: Two terms on Scarborough Board of Education, one as chairwoman; member of Scarborough Buy Local and Chamber of Commerce boards of directors; chairwoman of Maine State Civil Services Employees Appeals Board; vice chairwoman of Cumberland County Selective Service Board; past president of the American Business Women and National Public Employers Labor Relations; treasurer of Maine Chapter of the Labor Employers Relation Association; founding member of Scarborough Special Education Parent Association; former chairwoman of Scarborough 350th Committee and Charter Review Commission; member of the 2006 Comprehensive Plan Review Committee; chairwoman of Kiwanis club and Girl Scout leader; former substitute teacher; Mainely Character board member
Website/social media: http://www.facebook.com/Annalee-For-Schools
Residence: Huntley Road
Family: Married, four children
Occupation: Former teacher
Education: Master’s degree in Education
Political/civic experience: Founding member of Road to Renewal, served on the Start times implementation planning Committee.
Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/SitherBOE/
Residence: Gorham Road
Family: Mother and sister
Occupation: Sales associate, speech and debate coach
Education: One year at Orono, taking a year off.
Political/civic experience: Volunteered on local and national political campaigns since he was 14.
Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/Stewart4Board