3 vie for 2 seats on Yarmouth School Board

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YARMOUTH — Three candidates are running for two seats on the School Committee in the June 14 election.

Incumbent Leah Guay is seeking re-election, and newcomers Joan Dollarhite and Anne Fleming are running as well. School Committee member Bob Watterson is not seeking re-election.

Joan Dollarhite

Dollarhite, a legal assistant at the Portland law firm of Norman, Hanson and DeTroy, has lived in Yarmouth for six years. She has a son in fifth grade.

She is a local Boy Scout leader, serves on the Board of Trustees of Merrill Memorial Library, belongs to the PTO, and is a member of the school start time task force. Dollarite said she loves the schools and wants to serve her community by being on the School Committee.

“It’s such a big part of Yarmouth and such a great opportunity to lead young people,” she said.

Dollarhite said she would bring many skills to the committee.

“I could offer the legal professional skills I have in terms of critical thinking, separating emotions, and looking at issues from different angles,” she said.

Being on the school start time task force has given Dollarhite a lot of insight into the school system, and has taught her about the needs of students, staff and parents, she said.

“It gave me a lot of perspective,” she said. “It helped to hear all the different view points.”

The task force has held various meetings over the past year to determine whether the time school starts should be pushed back. Dollarhite said the work has made her want to take a closer look at students’ mental health.

Dollarhite said she supports this year’s contentious school budget of $23.1 million.

“Nobody wants the taxes to go up, but sometimes you have to spend the money,” she said. “We need to make an investment to support the changes in the schools.”

One of those changes is increasing class sizes. School policy says the maximum number of students is 25, but the target is between 16 and 23.

“I think the policy in place is a good one,” Dollarhite said. “I think we need to fund staffing so we can keep to that policy.”

Anne Fleming

Fleming, who has lived in Yarmouth for eight years, formerly worked as a lawyer and now stays at home with her three children.

She volunteers in the schools, is the president of Village Nursery School, and is on the grants committee for the Yarmouth Education Foundation. Fleming said she wants to be more involved by serving on the School Committee.

“I love this community,” she said. “I think this is a top-notch school system and I want to support all the students.”

Fleming said she appreciates the work done by the committee and knows it serves all students, but wants to advocate for the lower level schools.

“I’d like to bring some balance to the board in terms of having support for (kindergarten through fourth grade) students,” she said. “I want to add a voice to the committee that represents those schools and those kids.”

Fleming said she has an open mind and knows how to weigh various issues fairly.

“I think I have things to learn about the Yarmouth school system and I’m ready to learn,” she said. “I won’t be going in with a closed mind or thinking I know all the answers. I want to hear people’s opinions and hear all the sides.”

Fleming said she supports this year’s school budget and doesn’t think anything should be cut from it.

“I am in full support of the school budget,” she said. “I think it’s actually well thought out and I don’t think there are any extraneous items in there.”

She said she knows not all residents agree and hopes to address their concerns.

“I understand that a balance needs to be met and I want to help brainstorm ideas to make that happen,” she said.

Fleming said she’d also like to work on keeping class sizes low.

“Class size is something I’m very aware of and concerned about as they continue to grow,” she said.

Leah Guay

Guay, who worked in insurance for almost 30 years, is running for her second term on the School Committee. She has lived in Yarmouth for 25 years and has two kids.

She has been on the committee’s policy committee and is now the chairwoman of the finance committee. She said the work is rewarding and she enjoys being “a voice for 1,600 kids.”

“I really feel as though the work I do, the questions I ask, make for a better school district for our kids,” she said.

Guay said she understands the importance of balancing the needs of the schools and the town.

“We need to look next year at where the money is going,” she said. “Is it nice to have or is it a necessity?”

She said the needs of students are the most important, though.

“We’re going to have to really look at everything that goes on in the schools and have education be the top priority,” she said.

Guay said there’s “a two-way street with the community and schools,” and she wants more residents to understand the budget.

One aspect of the budget that concerned some residents is having the School Committee – not parents – pay for students to take advanced placement tests.

“In the fall of 2016 I am looking forward to reviewing the advanced placement program, specifically the policy, the courses, and the financial impact to the budget,” Guay said.

She said she also hopes to address increasing class sizes if re-elected.

“I would like to see the class sizes not increase,” she said. “I don’t want to see it get any larger.”

Guay said she takes her role on the School Committee very seriously and hopes to continue her work for another term.

“Whenever there’s a topic up for discussion, I try to weigh both sides, but at the end of the day I do what’s best for the kids,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.