South Portland School Board vacancy draws 3 applicants

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council will decide Monday, Oct. 17, which of three applicants will fill the School Board seat vacated by Tappan Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald unexpectedly resigned from his District 5 seat in September with two years left on his term. The decision to appoint a replacement falls to the council, but the person chosen will only serve one year of the two left on Fitzgerald’s term.

A special election will be held in November 2017 to fill the last year of the three-year term.  

The council is poised to interview Bruce Bennett, Ryan Edwards and Elyse Tipton in an executive session at 6 p.m. Monday. The council’s choice will be announced at the regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. 

Mayor Tom Blake said Thursday that none of the three candidates have held public office before.

Bennett, of Red Oak Drive, is an office assistant at the Department of Health and Human Services. He said in his application that he wants to serve on the School Board because, “I want to get our kids the best possible education.”

“My unique perspective to share, and the desire to communicate board actions through public discourse and keep the public informed of the district’s progress and challenges” are reasons why he would be a good candidate, Bennett wrote. 

Bennett speaks five languages, including French, Swahili and Kirundi.

Edwards, a native of South Portland, said he is seeking the appointment because he feels a “sense of duty to serve,” following in the footsteps of his father, who served on the board for nearly 20 years. Edwards also has three children, two of whom are in the South Portland school system.

Edwards worked for three years as an education technician at Memorial Middle School and coached soccer and track at the middle and high school levels from 1995 to 2009. Now employed as a long-term disability benefit manager for an insurance company, he lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I am dedicated to to seeing that students in our school system get the things they need to reach their fullest potential,” Edwards said. “I truly want to do what is right for the students and citizens in this great community.” 

Tipton, of Hall Street, is a communications and marketing director for a health strategy center, and was previously the development director at the Center for Grieving Children in Portland.

Although her children are now young adults, she said, “I have kept aware of local school-related issues, even without a firsthand view of a student or parent.”

“As a senior manager in nonprofit communications and fundraising, I have regularly participated in hiring, budgeting and strategic planning, and would bring that experience to (my) Board of Education service,” she wrote.

Her career in family literacy and education-related organizations has “taught me the importance of listening, collaborating and asking good questions when making decisions that affect the lives of others, particularly children and families,” Tipton said. 

She said  her goal, if appointed, would be to enable administration and staff across the district to “create environments of learning that promote student achievement and the development of life skills for success.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.