Portland School Committee chairman won't seek re-election

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PORTLAND — School Committee Chairman Peter Eglinton announced Thursday afternoon that he will not seek re-election.

Eglinton, who represents District 3, said he wants to focus on his career as an environmental consultant with Abt Associates, a public policy research and consulting firm, and to spend more time with his family.

Eglinton said he made his decision with with mixed emotions.

“As rewarding as the past few years have been,” he said in a letter, “I am choosing to refocus my time on my family and career, to give greater attention to activities I have missed.”

Eglinton, who will finish his first term in December, said he was originally motivated to run for School Committee out of frustration. He eventually played a significant role in trying to lead the district out of a period of financial instability and a loss of public confidence.

From 2007-2008, his first year on the committee, Eglinton served as the chairman of the finance team as the district struggled to overcome a $2 million budget deficit that led to the resignation of the superintendent of schools and School Department finance director.

“We worked with school administration and city staff to address deficiencies in the school district’s accounting systems and operations,” Eglinton said. “As a result, three years after the $2 million budget deficit, our fund balance is projected to have a surplus.”

For the last two years, with Eglinton as chairman, the School Committee has implemented a multi-year budgeting process and hired a new superintendent, James C. Morse Sr.

Eglinton said the district now has the proper leadership to continue the make progress, despite the projected challenges of a lingering recession.

“I am confident we have the right team and procedures in place to pull through the coming months and years stronger than we are today,” he said.

In his letter, Eglinton noted the committee has pushed for a more data-driven budget process for determining priorities, as well as its use of independent consultants to guide decisions.

He said there has been increased cooperation and communication with city officials, and noted efforts to address inequity within the school system and increasing resources to the district’s multicultural students.

But ultimately, Eglinton said, the position simply required too much of a commitment and too many personal trade-offs.

“I do not regret any of it,” he said. “The past three years have truly been a challenging, yet deeply rewarding experience.”

Eglinton has two children in the public school system and said he will remain involved as a parent.

As of July 22, only one resident, Laurie Davis, had taken out nomination papers for the District 3 seat.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net