Portland School Board panel wants input from people without kids in schools

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PORTLAND — The School Board’s newest committee will hold its first quarterly public forum on March 12 in an effort to increase dialogue between the public and the board.

Board member Jon Eder, chairman of the public affairs committee, said the goal of the panel is to engage segments of the population the board doesn’t always hear from, specifically people without children in the schools.

“There’s a lot of folks who don’t have kids in the schools … who really have a voice that we would like to hear from about how to improve education in the city,” Eder said.

The forum, which will run from 10-11:30 a.m., will be held in the Cummings Community Center, on the second floor of the Munjoy Hill fire station at 134 Congress St. Eder said it is important to meet in a “neutral space,” outside of the schools, to make everyone feel comfortable.

“We’re looking to outreach as the board and hear some ideas about how to get people more involved,” he said.

Eder said one issue he hopes to discuss is the “serious crumbling infrastructure” of some of the city’s schools. He said there could be a November bond referendum to improve school infrastructure, so he hopes to hear ideas about what improvements residents want to see in the schools.

He said this is also a way to let the public know what the board is doing. He cited last year’s debate between the public and the board about changing class times, where the board was surprised by criticism from residents and had to revise the schedule a number of times.

“What we heard is that people want better communication ahead of time,” Eder said.

Other members of the committee, which was established at a Feb. 2 board meeting, are Sarah Thompson and Pious Ali.

Eder said the hope is the committee will have three additional forums before the end of the year.

“We’re really sincere in saying that we want to hear from everybody,” he said. “This is an attempt to engage that broad segment of the population that we don’t always hear from.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Portland Public Schools’ public affairs committee will hold its first quarterly public forum March 12 at 10 a.m. in the Munjoy Hill fire station.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.