Yarmouth School Committee incumbent faces 2 challengers

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YARMOUTH — Three candidates are running to fill two seats on the School Committee this year.

Incumbent Judiann Smith is seeking a second three-year term and is challenged by newcomers J. Philip Jones and Margaret Groban.

Election Day is June 14 and voting will take place at the AMVETS Hall on North Road from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Margaret Groban

Groban, 54, is married and has three grown daughters who attended Yarmouth schools. She said she and her husband, Larry Fischman, moved to Yarmouth 16 years ago from New York because of the quality of the school system and community.

Groban, an attorney, has worked as a federal prosecutor in the office of the U.S. attorney in Portland for nearly 30 years and, as her children attended each school, was an active volunteer in their classrooms. She was also the vice president of the Yarmouth Soccer Boosters. 

She said people may question her decision to run for the School Committee after her children have left the school system, but she said it is the perfect time for her to participate.

“I have the perspective of having seen all four schools and it’s not as personal for me now,” she said. “I hope I am more unbiased and objective, and will bring that perspective to the board. To me, having an excellent school system and an excellent community is what makes Yarmouth a wonderful town.”

She said she would rely on the expertise of the superintendent during budget season. She is comfortable working on policy issues and said she is willing to put in the time and the work.

“I want us to be fiscally responsible, but to me the priority is a strong school system,” she said.

J. Philip Jones

Jones, 47, of East Elm Street, moved from New York City, where he lived for 20 years. He is originally from London, England.

He and his wife moved to Yarmouth 3 1/2 years ago with their two children, now in seventh and fourth grades. He attended Syracuse University, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the business school and is writing a novel.

Jones said he and his family moved to Yarmouth because of the school system and the community. He serves on the library board of trustees, coaches his son’s soccer team and volunteers in his children’s classrooms.

This is Jones’ first political experience, and he said he was inspired to take out nomination papers after reading a paid letter from Town Councilor Steve Woods in The Forecaster encouraging residents to participate in municipal government.

“I have children in the school system and I care passionately about education,” Jones said. “I think it is the single most important issue facing us today.”

He said based on the current economic climate, there will have to be budget cuts in the future, if federal and state budgets are any indication. The School Committee will have to be creative about how to deal with that, he said.

“I feel strongly that this town has to spend money. If we don’t then the services will whither on the vine,” he said “And, I’m certainly sympathetic to people on fixed incomes and certainly think there are things to be done to alleviate those increases.”

Jones worked for 16 years in publishing at the Social Register Association in New York and said he has a fair amount of budget experience. He said he is interested in helping to support the superintendent and administration.

“I am willing and able to help maximize the student experience in the Yarmouth school system,” Jones said. “This is the future we are talking about here. I know on a bigger level, there is not much I can do, but on a micro level I can do something, I can get involved.”

Judiann Smith

Incumbent Smith, 46, of Sandy Brook Lane, is married and has three children, one in each school in the district.

She graduated from St. Bonaventure University in Buffalo, N.Y., and from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

She said her interest in the School Committee was sparked during the school consolidation debate a few years ago.

“We’ve worked through a superintendent search, student honor code issues and teacher negotiations in the three years I’ve been on the board,” Smith said. “I have a leg up in that way. I understand the system and understand the process and know how to do things now.”

Smith has worked at Spurwink Services for 16 years. For 10 years she was the human resources director and is now the director of regulatory and legislative analysis. As a member of the senior team, she reviews budgets for the $50 million agency and serves on the school board’s Finance Committee.

She said she wants to find a balanced budget without hurting people or cutting positions.

“When I make budget decisions I always think about those on fixed incomes,” she said. “I work in a nonprofit world and work to find efficiencies and improvements without spending more.”

Looking ahead, she said the School Committee must continue to find ways to collaborate with the town and other communities.

Smith volunteers at the schools, teaches Junior Achievement and is the committee’s liaison to the Parent Teacher Organization.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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