HARPSWELL — Three women – a Realtor, a retiree, and a TV assistant/spiritual counselor – are competing for two seats on the board of School Administrative District 75.
Incumbent Jane Meisenbach, who has served on the School Board for the past six years, is being challenged by Debbie Levensailor and Kay Ogrodnik.
The SAD 75 election will be held during Town Meeting on March 12 at Harpswell Islands School. Voting will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Meisenback said she has enjoyed her tenure, “but it hasn’t always been easy.”
If re-elected, Meisenbach said, she would like to dedicate time to finding a new superintendent to replace Michael Wilhelm, who is retiring after 22 years in that position.
“That’s going to be a big focus of this year,” she said, “I’d like to find one that would serve our district very well.”
She said another goal is to move towards “implementing a more standards-based system of grading and assessment.”
One aspect of the school district Meisenbach said she would like to improve is Mt. Ararat High School, which she called “the weakest link in our system.” She said the classrooms-without-walls arrangement creates “a challenging environment for students to learn in and for a teacher to teach in.”
Meisenbach, of Harpswell Neck, voted to keep West Harpswell School open. She said she wanted to wait and see if school enrollments increased as new businesses move into Brunswick Landing. Even though she was disappointed with the decision to close the school, she said she does not favor withdrawing from SAD 75.
“The district does a very good job educating the kids of Harpswell,” Meisenbach said. “Unless I thought there was something concrete on the table that did a better job (of educating Harpswell’s children), I wouldn’t support it.”
“I think it would be ludicrous to be running for School Board and at the same time want to withdraw from it,” she added.
Meisenbach is a Realtor and used to be a Montessori teacher. She said she is especially interested in supporting early childhood education.
Levensailor, of Great Island, is an assistant at Freeport TV and is self-employed as a spiritual counselor and writer.
If elected, she said, her priority is to do what is best for Harpswell students, including considering having the town withdraw from SAD 75.
“It’s time to look at some of our other options we have as a town,” Levensailor said. “We need to take more control of our own school issues.”
Unlike Meisenbach, Levensailor said she sees no conflict in running for the board and supporting withdrawal from the district. “I always represent my town while doing my full job on the board,” she said.
Levensailor said she was upset by the decision to close West Harpswell School, and if elected, would encourage the board to look for other ways to save money.
“I would like to find ways to balance the budget where we do not have to close any of our schools,” she said. In particular, she said she would like to decrease energy costs at schools with simple fixes using energy-efficient light bulbs and buying insulating blinds.
She said she is also concerned that some students may be getting “lost in the shuffle” and would like to develop “a more diverse curriculum that allows students to learn at their own pace, while also meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind.”
This is Levensailor’s first campaign for election to the School Board.
Ogrodnik has never run for elected office before. She is retired, serves on the town’s pipeline committee and has taught Sunday school for many years.
Ogrodnik said she wants to make the jump from volunteer to elected official because she believes “Harpswell needs a strong voice and vote on the School Board.”
She said her decision to run for the board was partly influenced by the decision to close West Harpswell School, which she voted to keep open. After witnessing the school closure process, Ogrodnik said she began to think that the town had lost control of its schools.
“(The SAD 75 board) has gotten to be a club that controls the school without enough consideration of the local people’s interest,” she said.
If elected, she said she would listen to Harpswell parents and taxpayers and relay their views to the board, as well as increase communication between the Board of Selectmen and the board.
Ogrodnik said she signed the petition to consider withdrawing from SAD 75, but believes that if Harpswell is adequately represented on the board, it could remain in the district. If elected, she said she would like to improve how the board communicates with the public.
“The culture has to be changed so there is open exchange so people can express their opinions,” she said.
Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Meisenbach is running for re-election as one of Harpswell’s representatives to the SAD 75 school board.
Debbie Levensailor is vying to represent Harpswell on the SAD 75 school board.
Kay Ogrodnik is running for the SAD 75 school board.