Petit in, Johnston out as South Portland School Board write-in candidate

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A new write-in candidate has emerged for the District 2 School Board seat, while two others have dropped out of the race.

The seat will go to a write-in because there are no candidates on the ballot for the position, which opened when Otis Thompson resigned Aug. 28.

The deadline was Sept. 8 for candidates to file nomination papers to appear on the ballot.

Five of the seven seats on the School Board are up for election Nov. 7. 

The latest write-in candidate is Nicole Petit, 41, of 202 Cottage Road, who filed paperwork with the city Oct. 12.

Petit is a program coordinator and advocate at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging in Scarborough. She was previously a patient liaison at Maine Medical Center, and a researcher for the nonprofit Every Child Matters and at Hornby Zeller Associates, a child-welfare firm, both in Washington, D.C.

Petit also worked as an advocate at Alpha One in South Portland, helping community members with disabilities with various resources, and was a substitute teacher while attending graduate school.

While Petit does not have children, she said she is familiar with the school system through a niece who is a kindergarten student at Brown Elementary School and a second niece who graduated from South Portland High School.

Petit said answering the question of what to do about the city’s two aging middle schools requires a long process of collecting data before decisions can be made.

Mahoney and Memorial schools have infrastructure problems, space constraints and need upgrades, which could require significant investment. Fixing both schools or consolidating them has been discussed, and the state has agreed to fund improvements to Mahoney, but could fund a new consolidated school instead, possibly with a different grade configuration. 

“I would want to hear from teachers, parents, students, residents and local business,” Petit said. “It will have a financial and educational impact on the community. …  The needs of students should come first. I  think whatever is the best option for them will be done.”
 
Petit said she would also like to see South Portland students’ math scores improve.
 
“It sounds like we have math coaches in place to help, but it will be something to focus on in the next few years,” she said.

Petit calls herself a “strong community advocate” and someone who is “very passionate about helping people.”

“I’ve been in some capacity been an advocate for the last 15 years for seniors, children, and for peoples with disabilities,” she said. “What I’m really passionate about is for everyone to have an equal opportunity.”

Petit is the only declared write-in candidate because Gracie Johnston, who was the first write-in, is precluded from serving on the board because she has an immediate family member who works in the School Department.

“Maybe in the future,” Johnston said, “the City Council might be an option.”

A third potential candidate, Thomas Crockett, filled out paperwork to run, but he said he is “ultimately not going to pursue any sort of write-in campaign.”

Five candidates will be on the ballot, including incumbent Mary House, Stanley Beretsky, and Heather Johnson for two at-large seats. Incumbents Matthew Perkins and Elyse Tipton, both of whom were appointed by the City Council, are unopposed in District 4 and District 5, respectively.

 Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

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