Scarborough School Board: 2 first-time candidates challenge incumbent
SCARBOROUGH — Two political newcomers are challenging incumbent John Cole for seats on the Board of Education.
Retired Marine Bill Armishaw and Aymie Hardesty, a mother of six, say they are ready to take on what promises to be a difficult budget year and how to deal with the aging Wentworth Intermediate School, which has been plagued by air-quality issues.
Armishaw, 57, was a pilot and operations officer of a 500-person squadron in the U.S. Marine Corps until his retirement in 1997. He has lived in Scarborough for about 16 years and currently flies planes for FedEx.
He and his wife, Dianne, have two daughters attending Scarborough High School and a son who graduated two years ago.
Armishaw said that although he has never worked on a school budget, his goal would be to keep teaching staff in place as much as possible.
"I think the last place there should be cuts is staffing of teachers," he said.
He suggested the town consider creating two middle schools for grades four through eight on different sides of town, to reduce transportation costs.
Armishaw said his support of a bond for Wentworth would depend entirely on how much would be borrowed and whether it's a reasonable design that the board could defend to voters.
When looking for a new superintendent of schools, Armishaw said he wants someone who has been trained to deal with personnel issues.
"We need someone to support teachers," he said. "Every job you go to there are some politics involved. We want someone who will take away roadblocks."
Armishaw said he does not know much about the issue of therapeutic restraint, but that a friend who is a special education teacher explained it to him.
"She said it was a traumatic experience and that it has to be the last thing you do," he said, adding that parents should be as involved as possible in the process and should be required to give permission for the school to use restraints.
"Everyone should know what's going on," he said.
Armishaw said he has some concern about gate fees being charged at sports events to support the boosters. He said he'd like to see that program aligned with the Sports Done Right recommendations of no boosters, or that the current booster programs be restructured so parents paying $100 for their children to play a sport don't also have to pay to watch them play.
Cole, 58, is seeking a second term on the School Board. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Southern Maine and is an information technology programmer for UNUM.
He has lived in Scarborough since 2000 with his wife, Beryl, who is a dental hygienist. They have five grown children and two grandchildren.
Cole sits on the Capital Improvement Committee and Policy Committee and is the board liaison to vocational schools.
Cole said the budget will be the hottest item this year and that the board would have to balance parents' requests for more spending with an understanding that many senior citizens are not getting Social Security cost-of-living increases this year.
He said he did not want to sit on the board's Finance Committee because he has wanted to be a consumer of that committee's report.
"I want to be able to get my arms around it, to step back," he said, adding that he advocated that a sortable spreadsheet be used to distribute budget information to the board, which, he said, helped members get a broad and detailed view of the budget.
He also said the School Department does not do enough with technology and that, depending on budget constraints, he is hoping to again pursue the one-to-one laptop computer program for high school students.
"Technology will challenge us as a community," he said. "I want to see the high school kids challenging the teachers."
Cole said he wants to see transparency and visibility during the Wentworth building committee process, something he said did not happen during the last attempt in 2006 to bring the issue to the voters.
Cole said face-down, or prone, restraints should not be allowed and that the schools must make sure all teachers performing restraints are properly trained. He also advocated more communication between teachers and parents, who, he said, would be able to explain a child's triggers and how to manage them.
When choosing a new superintendent, Cole said he does not want to see a bureaucrat, but rather a visionary, someone with excellent communication skills who works well in collaborative settings and has a proven track record.
Hardesty, 40, has lived in Scarborough for 12 years and was previously an economic development officer for the city of Portland.
After her fifth child was born, she became a child-care provider and ran a home day-care center. She and her husband have six children, all of whom are in the Scarborough school system.
Hardesty said she would like to see the schools work closely with teachers to determine ways to make cuts without cutting more teacher positions. She said she was happy to see the district go paperless on things like menus, and would like to see similar cost-saving measures.
She said she would like to see a bond for Wentworth that does not include "all the bells and whistles," but just a simple, safe building.
Hardesty said she is deeply concerned about making sure Wentworth is safe for students and teachers in the meantime and that she has a vested interest, because two of her sons are students there.
"I think transparency is key," she said. "We've got to close the gap between the public and teachers and the School Board. There seems to be a block at the administrative level."
When considering what she would look for in a new superintendent, Hardesty said she wants to see new blood and fresh ideas.
"Someone who can be the bridge between the School Board and the public and the teachers," she said, adding that she hopes the new superintendent will change the way the administration looks at the board and keeps them better informed.
Hardesty said in some cases, restraints can be done therapeutically, and that she occasionally held children who found a hug comforting. However, she said sitting on a child and holding them face down should only be used in a case of life or death. She said she would like to see parents more involved in making decisions about a child's education plan.
Hardesty said she is running because she wants to get people more involved in the schools.
"We have a lot of services that would be available for free if we pulled together a community," she said. "We need more awareness and more transparency."
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org