Scarborough School Board election: 3 seats, 5 candidates
SCARBOROUGH — The Board of Education election ballot in Scarborough is populated by candidates with experience.
Jacquelyn Perry, Annalee Rosenblatt and Jane Wiseman are incumbents, each with at least three years of service on the board.
Robert Mitchell is a former School Board chairman.
And James Shields, who has never served on a school board, has volunteer experience in the community, professional involvement running regional conferences and other work experience.
An actuary and a vice president at Unum, Mitchell, 49, of 39 Willowdale Road, is married and has one daughter. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
He said he's running for the School Board because he thinks the town needs financial people looking out for it and the schools.
"In some ways I believe our council is way too political," he said. "I hope I can bring value and enhance our schools with a balance between quality education and fiscal responsibility."
Mitchell said his experience on the board from 2000 to 2006, his service as chairman for one of those years, his work on several town committees and as a community volunteer, his financial knowledge and his commitment to the town qualify him for another three years on the board.
The most critical issues the schools face, he said, are the budget and curriculum. With only so much allocated from the council, Mitchell said the board must make sure people are aware of the value of education, relative to surrounding York and Cumberland county towns.
He said the board must make sure the schools continue to be in the upper quartile – "something above average but not necessarily at the top" – and that they "maximize educational quality with the dollars available."
Curriculum must include all the courses students need to get into good colleges, while ensuring good vocational training, he said, and language and technology course offerings must be expanded.
With tough budget decisions ahead, he said the board must look at everything when considering cuts: "There's only so many places you can go so you've got to look at staff."
Mitchell said he believes a referendum to replace Wentworth Intermediate School should be put on the 2012 ballot, because a 2010 referendum wouldn't give the board sufficient time to prepare.
Mitchell said people should vote for him because of his financial background, his former service to the board, his moderate approach and his desire to provide a high-quality education for the long-term at a manageable cost.
Perry, 72, of 215 Black Point Road, has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Maine and a master's in education from what is now the University of Southern Maine. Single with no children, she's "mostly retired," she said, but works two days a week at Pond Cove Millwork.
Though she's lost track of how many years she's served on the Board of Education, Perry estimated it must be close to 20 since she was first elected in the 1970s. She said she's running again because she wants to see through a couple of unresolved issues: negotiating a new teachers contract and increasing the length of the school day.
"Those are the two basic reasons, but the more personal one is I love doing it – education is a passion of mine and I like the idea of giving back to the town by making a contribution in the area I love," she said.
Perry said the budget is the biggest issue facing the schools. One challenge, she said, will be to convince people why the board needs the money it requests. She said she's worried that concerns about overspending will cause significant compromises in education, such as the inability to pay employees or to maintain current levels of service and an increase in class sizes.
Regarding her desire to increase the school day, Perry said there isn't enough time to provide adequate instruction now that additional classes are required for graduation. She believes the board must find the money to extend the day so that students will have the 20 to 30 minutes more instruction time.
With the town continuing to spend more than what is "reasonable" for maintenance to the aging Wentworth Intermediate School, Perry said she would like to see a new school referendum on the 2010 ballot.
"I just think we've gone by its usefulness and, how many Band-Aids can we apply?" she said. "We've got to show what savings there will be in the long haul."
Answering any question honestly and advocating unwaveringly for the children are the reasons Perry said residents should vote for her.
A management consultant labor negotiator and a part-time L.L. Bean employee, Rosenblatt, 65, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Arizona State University and a certificate of labor studies from Cornell University. She is the mother of two grown children and resides at 18 Tall Pines Road.
Rosenblatt said she's seeking re-election because she wants to complete unfinished business that includes rewriting and creating School Department job descriptions. Her experience in labor negotiations makes her well-qualified to continue in her multiple roles on the board, she said.
"It's always been in my life to give to the community and the state in a variety of ways," she said. "It takes a lot of time and energy and I think I've demonstrated I have that."
The three most pressing issues the board faces, according to Rosenblatt, are funding sources: "Doing the same or more with fewer resources," how to deal with Wentworth School and labor management relations.
Last year, Rosenblatt went through the budget line by line to determine areas of potential savings, she said. She said she discovered one area was double-budgeted and in another there was a failure to reduce the budget to reflect reductions in energy costs.
As the board faces a challenging year financially, she said possible cuts could be made by consolidating administrative positions and considering alternative means of instruction, such as computer-based learning, for student courses and teacher training. Other savings might be found by combining bus routes and increasing class sizes, she said.
As for a new school, she said a referendum should be on the ballot within the next three years.
Rosenblatt said she also has concerns about the lack of transparency and communication between administration, the board and parents. She said she believes the board is not always informed fully or in a timely matter on "issues that impact the school, the kids and the staff."
"We represent the parents and the public," she said. "We should be informed."
Her commitment to fiscal responsibility, balanced with her judgment, Rosenblatt said, are the reasons Scarborough residents should vote for her.
Shields, 48, of 6 Bridle Court, is a statistician working as a marketing analysis manager at Idexx Laboratories. Married, with two children, he earned his master's degree in statistics from the University of New Mexico and his bachelor's in mathematics from the State University of New York at Potsdam.
"Because I'm a parent of school-aged kids, this is one way I think I can contribute the best," he said. "I really think we're at a crucial point. We have an excellent school system ... but I think for the long term, we're pushing it with the lack of support from the community."
With Scarborough teachers' salaries lower than in surrounding areas and a lower-than-state-average town contribution per student, Shields said he is concerned about the district's ability to maintain excellence.
Though he has not previously served on a school board, Shields has volunteered with his daughter's Girl Scout troop and as a science teacher at the Chinese School in Portland. He has also run professional conferences throughout New England.
The biggest issues for Shields are finishing teacher contract negotiations, replacing Wentworth School and improving curriculum.
Teacher funding can impact the town's future, he said, by moving it past what he called a crossroads between higher-end jobs and "almost facing stagnation." Progress, he believes, will be affected by improving the schools.
"To help keep our educational excellence where it is, if not grow it, the last thing we want to do is cut teaching staff and increase student-teacher ratios beyond where they already are," he said. "This economic downturn is temporary and recovering from teacher cuts takes longer."
He suggested the board look at cuts to transportation, reducing the number of bus runs per day from three to two.
With its ventilation problems, asbestos and overcrowding, Wentworth School needs to be replaced, Shields said. He believes a school referendum should be placed on the 2010 ballot.
And curriculum in Scarborough needs to be more diverse, he said, offering a wider variety of courses that will help students get into the colleges of their choice.
Because of his listening skills and his determination to improve the system, Shields said, he would be a good representative of the town's parents.
Wiseman, 49, of 61 Ocean Ave., is a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer. Married and the mother of two, she refused to share her educational background.
"I have a strong interest in the quality of education," she said. "I'm running for re-election because I'd like to finish my work on the Policy Committee."
She listed her three years of experience on the board, coupled with her ability to be open-minded and willingness to listen to both sides before making decisions, as her qualifications for re-election.
The budget, the future of Wentworth School and teacher contracts are the big issues that the town faces, Wiseman said.
Though last year's budget process was difficult, with state funding cuts and the tough economic times, this year will be even more difficult, she said. Her plan is to look at the budget from the perspective of the classroom to make sure the teachers have the resources they need, she said.
While she couldn't identify specific areas to cut at this point, she said maybe some money could be found in transportation or facilities maintenance. But she stressed that curriculum must be kept up to date and she would try to keep class sizes down.
Wiseman said "it's obvious Scarborough needs a new intermediate school" to replace Wentworth but, with the uncertain economic climate, she does not think a referendum question should be on the ballot right away. Though the building is less than ideal, she said the board has continued to address safety and environmental concerns to keep the children safe. She recommends the board work hard to educate the public over the next couple of years to help them understand the need for a new school and predicted if the referendum is placed on the ballot in two to three years, it will pass.
Teacher morale is affected if the district continues without a new teacher contract, Wiseman said.
"It's to everyone's benefit to come to a resolution as soon as possible," she said.
Wiseman said she makes her work on the Board of Education her "top priority. I truly care about the quality of education and the best interest of the children – and I worry about the money."
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, with voting from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Scarborough High School gymnasium. In addition to the School Board, voters will be asked to choose two town councilors from a field of four and two candidates in an uncontested race for the Scarborough Sanitary District seats.
They will also be asked to weigh in on a local referendum asking approval for up to $1 million in land bonds for the possible purchase of conservation properties.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.