2018-05-25 / Front Page

Candidates lined up for RSU 21 board

It’s a time of transition for the RSU 21 school board, with three new faces guaranteed on the 12-member board for the coming fiscal year.

In Arundel, incumbent Catherine Rush is not running again. Nor is Peter Fellenz, in Kennebunkport. However, in both of those towns, a replacement is running unopposed on the ballot. In Kennebunk it’s a different story, with six candidates vying for two open seats.

Brad Huot is not seeking another term, meaning one of the new hopefuls, for sure, will get a shot. Joining incumbent Mike Mosher on the ballot are five women: Kendra Connor, Susannah Hamblin, Rachel Maloney-Hawkins, Erin O’Reilly Jakan and Merrilee Paul.

The name of a seventh candidate, Dean Auriemma, will appear before voters. However, Auriemma advised the Post on May 6 that he had withdrawn from the race. According to Town Clerk Merton Brown, Auriemma pulled up his political skates too late to get his name off the ballot.

The remaining candidates are listed below in alphabetical order

Name: Kendra J. Connor

Age: 46

Address: Patterson Drive (18 years) — native of Reading, Massachusetts.

Contact: email: kendra@voteforkendra.com; Facebook: Search “Vote for Kendra Kennebunk School Board.”

Occupation: President, in-house operations, Connor Enterprises (since 1998).

Family: Married to Gary Connor, eight children school-aged to adult.

Education completed: Studied early childhood education at Salem State College, Massachusetts (completed through junior year).

Political experience: None.

Organizations and activities: Member, Kennebunk Hockey Boosters Board of Directors; Secretary, Jacob Gould Memorial Scholarship Committee; Past Board Member, Kennebunk-Kennebunkport Little League.

Why are you seeking elected office at this time?

First and foremost, the election is June 12, so running now felt like the best time to be a part of that election. I feel very fortunate to raise my family in Kennebunk. With my oldest two sons having graduated KHS, and presently in college, and my youngest son starting kindergarten this past fall, I am finally in a position to serve. I have had the view of a Kennebunk school district parent since 2003 and have watched great growth during that time. I have witnessed teachers and staff being asked to do more with less, had great happiness when our students have succeeded academically and in competition, and shed tears when things haven’t gone as we would hope. My major focus as a school board member will be to bring a voice of experience that is tempered by the feedback of those in our community. Due to the wide-range in ages of my children, I have relationships with empty-nesters and parents of newborns. I have my retired mother living on a fixed-income at The Farragut and speak with our teachers on a daily basis. All of these voices will be represented in every action I take as a board member. I think Pedro said it best, “If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true.” I would be honored to have your support.

Top three issues:

1. Wise spending — RSU 21 has made an enormous investment in infrastructure with the recent construction efforts at KHS, M. L. Day and Consolidated. While we certainly want the best environments for our kids to learn, we also have to balance those needs against the needs to make sure we are hiring and retaining the best teachers. The success of students is linked directly to our great teachers. When my now college sophomore was at KES, I am told our district was one of the best paid in the state. We no longer hold that distinction. As the towns around us see our success, they will compete to draw our teachers away. Being certain that our district positions spending in a way that accounts for our citizens to be able to cover the cost and keeps us in strong competition with area districts to retain our great staff is a key component of why I am running.

2. Safety and wellness — The world is ever-evolving and sadly not always for the better. Aside from the recurrent gun violence we have seen across the country, we have also had tragedy hit too close to home with the sudden passing of a KHS freshman earlier this year. Having two girls currently at the high school, I am keenly aware of the pressures facing our teens today. Discussion of possible self-harm by their peers has been an unfortunate but common kitchen table conversation in our home of late and it is clear that we have much work to do. The district’s own data shows a disturbing trend that nearly half the kids responding do not feel “connected” to the school or community. In fact from 2015/16, where approximately 74 percent felt connected to school, a drop of 30 percent was reported to a staggering 44 percent in 2016/17. It is critical that our community and all organizations within involved with serving children come together to make sure our kids understand how much we love and support them. All kids will have struggles. Our role as a community is the make sure they know they are not alone.

3. Strategic Planning — The numbers of students will ebb and flow from year to year throughout our towns. Beginning and continuing the community conversations about how to best use all of our resources across the district will be very important. Particularly at the younger ages, small class size increases the touchpoints that a teacher is able to provide. Having flexibility in where we site our students will be key in establishing the best teacher: student ratios for learning. We must go into such discussions with an open mind and be willing to work together to foster a strong sense of community regardless of address. RSU21 has consistently been a very high performing district, my goal in joining the school board is to make sure we are able to sustain that greatness for generations to come.

Name: Susannah Hamblin

Age: 33

Address: Middle Road (one year). Hamblin is a Portland native.

Contact: email: susannahhamblin@gmail.com.

Occupation: Product Manager at Stan- ley Black & Decker (four years)

Family: Engaged to Ryan Coffin.

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (2007); Master’s of Business Administration from the Simmons College School of Management in Boston (2012).

Political experience: None

Organizations and activities: New England Chapter Chairman, Stanley Black & Decker Women’s Network.

Why are you seeking elected office at this time?

Throughout my life, I have actively sought out ways to engage with my community and bring people together. I am new to Kennebunk but I am not new to leadership roles that involve rolling up my sleeves and getting things done with others. I believe the first responsibility of a school board member is to listen to the needs and perspectives of the students, teachers, parents and citizens she serves. If elected, I know my enthusiasm, leadership skills, track record of delivering results, and my personal connection and investment to this community and in its future will bring great value to RSU 21!

Top three issues:

1. Cognitive diversity — I believe that standards and set processes play a crucial role in the organization and success of our school district. I also believe that we must find ways to be flexible and creative in order to serve the needs of the district’s diverse student body. This flexibility requires a curiosity to learn about unique goals and passions, and creativity to provide our students the opportunity to learn how to reach their goals and nurture their passions. I believe we must tap into the talent and potential of our student body, whether that be through music and theater, outdoor education, or other interests outside of the more standardized subjects. No matter their skills, abilities or interests, teaching our students how to find what they love, to believe in themselves and to pursue their goals is the best thing we can do for them and for our dynamic and growing community.

2. Opiate crisis — My fiancé and I, like many others, have experienced first-hand the tragic loss that has followed our state and country’s opiate crisis. We are both passionate about understanding and contributing to initiatives that bring this crisis to the center and genuinely help those impacted by opiate addiction. This starts in our schools and I will work hard to help raise more awareness and provide resources to the RSU 21 community so we can face this crisis together.

3. School security — I manage an innovation team in the security industry, which means I have done extensive research and testing around security solutions for campuses, including schools and workplaces. I will bring my expertise to those initiatives that make our schools safer and empower students, teachers and parents to protect themselves and each other.

Name: Rachel Maloney-Hawkins

Age: 34

Address: Ross Road (five months) — Maloney-Hawkins is a native of Arundel. She has lived in Kennebunk since January.

Contact: Phone: 423-9747; email: rmaloneyhawkins@gmail.com; Facebook: rmaloneyhawkins.rsu-21schoolboard.

Occupation: Math teacher at King Middle School in Portland (four years). Has logged 10 years total as a public school teacher.

Family: Engaged to Hermenegildo Paulo.

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in secondary education in math from the University of Maine (2006); Master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of New England (2009); Master’s degree in mental health counseling from the University of Massachusetts in Boston (2014).

Political experience: None

Organizations and activities: None listed.

Why are you seeking office at this time?

I’m running for the RSU 21 Board of Directors because I care about helping our community’s children meet the ideal set forth in the district’s mission statement, “developing productive global citizens by building knowledge and character.” As an educator and KHS alumna, I have valuable experience that will support the district through this impressive transitional phase and continue to foster growth and improvement. I am also excited to give back to the community that cultivated my educational growth as well.

During my time as a RSU 21 student, I was privileged to have had some exemplary educators who modeled great teaching and leadership for me; their early support fostered my desire to positively impact my local and global community to become an educator as well. I’m proud of the work that RSU 21 students, educators, leaders, board of directors, and the community have done to continue to support positive growth in the district and hope to have the opportunity to represent Kennebunk citizens, educators, and students on the board of directors to continue this innovative work.

Top three issues:

1. Develop Productive Global Citizens — What tools or experiences do our students need to become productive global citizens? In a state, country, and world that is becoming increasingly globalized, our children are going to need awareness and skills to succeed in a world with a great deal of linguistic, cultural, and economic diversity. I hope to work with the board and schools to identify and enhance programs that focus on providing cross-cultural communication skills, promote diversity awareness, and build understanding between different groups of people. I hope to support policies that ensure that all students feel like they belong in the RSU 21 community, whatever their needs, backgrounds, or experiences might be. I hope that my experiences teaching at International Baccalaureate schools in Spain, Italy, and China as well as with the diverse students at King Middle School in Portland (where nearly 25 different languages are spoken), will help enrich these necessary conversations.

2. Building Knowledge — As a math teacher, I know the importance of providing hands-on access to STEM activities, connecting kids with the newest technology, and providing physical spaces and resources for students to be successful. Building on the great steps the district has already taken, I hope to continue to advance efforts towards providing students with the most cutting-edge technology and forward thinking educational practice. I hope to work with the board to expand students’ thinking by exploring problems in our community we can trust our students to solve, enhancing our academic achievement with real life experiences, and ensuring that we are truly meeting the needs of every student. There is a wealth of expertise in our community, and I hope to continue to build partnerships with community members and businesses so that our students can truly thrive.

3. Building Character — As an educator and former mental health counselor, I feel that social and emotional learning is not only the key to student success, it is imperative in cultivating school safety. All students need pathways built within schools so they can feel connected and successful. I will work to support and expand programming and personnel that work to ensure that students’ socio-emotional needs are met. One of the most valuable experiences I had as a KHS student was participating in service learning, and I hope to continue to support our school and community through service learning partnerships.

Name: Mike Mosher

Age: 53

Address: Abbey Road.

Contact: email: mmosher@rsu21.net.

Occupation: Vice President of sales & marketing at Northeast Coating Technologies (20 years total with the company).

Family: Married with two children.

Education completed: Attended Southern Maine Technical College for electronics technology and the University of Southern Maine for business administration.

Political experience: RSU 21 Board of Directors.

Organizations and activities: Outdoor enthusiast.

Why are you seeking elected office at this time?

I think my background in business and helping to create a successful local business has brought a different perspective to the board that has provided a different approach and insight. I would like to follow through to completion of the work we started on the long-term maintenance plan for our facilities. This includes developing a plan for funding that will minimize the impact on taxpayers as much as possible. In addition, we have been working on a plan to improve our athletic fields and I would like to follow through and complete that plan.

Recently there has been discussion in our community about bullying, both cyber and traditional. I would like to sit with the administrators of our schools and understand how many complaints they receive related to bullying. I feel our administration does a wonderful job of dealing with the daily challenges they face and I do not feel our district is any different than many across the country. This is a difficult discussion but an important discussion. My hope would be that this discussion would expand to involve the community and parents. While the RSU can always improve our approach to any situation, I fear that too often we rely on our administrators and teachers to fill a void that is better filled by parents. This is a problem that impacts all of us and to be successful the RSU and parents will both need to work together to have a meaningful impact.

Top three issues:

1. Declining Enrollment at KCS — The trend of declining enrollment at Kennebunkport Consolidated School is reducing class sizes to a critical level and enrollment does not appear to show any signs of increasing in the near future. I would support forming a committee that would be charged with bringing recommendations to the board on how we can increase enrollment at KCS. One immediate solution could be to look at how we can encourage parents in areas in Kennebunk and Arundel that border Kennebunkport to consider sending their children to KCS. Some of these areas are closer to Kennebunkport Consolidated School than the other elementary schools in our district and would reduce travel time for the parents and kids.

2. Capitol Maintenance Plan — The board promised the residents of all three towns if they supported the building projects, we would maintain the facilities. We have kept that promise and have started to develop the first ever long-term maintenance plan for our facilities. This plan looks out 30 years with a fiveyear focus. This plan grades the condition of critical systems at each facility so we can understand the current condition of each system. While this is a good start, we need to further refine the plan to create a more uniform yearly need and reduce the peaks and valleys. In addition to determining what the needs are, we have been developing a plan to finance the maintenance which will minimize, as much as possible, the impact on taxpayers. We need to complete this work.

3. Alternative opportunities — It has been three years since we have conducted a program review. I would request that within the next three years, we conduct another full or partial program review. I feel this review creates awareness among the board members and the public of the large variety of programs offered to our students. It also allows board members to provide input and feedback on each program.

While we need to continue to challenge our students who seek a four-year college path with our course offerings in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and the UNE partnership, I would also like to review how we continue to expose our students to our alternative paths and our vocational program and the extensive offering available to them from this path.

Name: Erin O’Reilly Jakan

Age: 37

Address: Not provided. A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, O’Reilly Jakan has lived in Kennebunk for five years.

Contact: email: erin.o.jakan@gmail.com; Facebook: @ voteforerin

Occupation: Attorney at own practice, O’Reilly Jakan Law Office (since 2010); guardian ad litem for York and Cumberland counties (since 2009).

Family: Married to Josh Jakan with two school-aged children

Education completed: Bachelor’s degree in psychology and justices studies from the University of New Hampshire (2002); Law degree from The University of Maine School of Law (2008).

Political experience: None.

Organizations and activities: Coach, Old Vines T-ball team, Kennebunk Kennebunkport Little League.

Why are you seeking elected office at this time?

I am a firm believer in serving your community. By having unique educational and employment experiences I believe I can best serve our students, our schools and our community through a seat on the school board. As a business owner I work to reduce overhead while ensuring that corners are not cut nor needs sacrificed. As a litigator I decipher when a situation calls for either aggressive advocacy or neutral mediation. These are skills that I believe will enable me to be a productive member of the board. Lastly, with both my children now of school age and enrolled in the RSU it seemed an appropriate time to get involved in the school community.

Top three issues:

1. Budget Accountability — I strongly believe that we can achieve more without spending more. I am always amazed at the generosity of this community when it comes to the support of our schools. However, it would be inappropriate to take advantage of that generosity. Therefore, I would work to maintain accountability to the community while continuing and improving on the level of academic excellence this community and its students have come to expect.

2. Safety Measures — I have had the opportunity to visit multiple schools in several districts within our state. I also enter and exit several secure facilities per week. Ensuring the safety of our students while preserving the comfortable and nurturing atmosphere that we are used to and they are entitled to is something I am very invested in.

3. Play-Based Education — Studies have shown that play is incredibly important to the overall physical health as well as the educational development of our young scholars. Places such as New Hampshire and Boston are following the example of high-performing countries such as Finland and the Netherlands by re-establishing play-based curriculum in the primary grades. I would like to explore what our town can do to increase the opportunity for play based curriculum, additional recess and more experiential learning within our elementary grades.

Name: Merrilee Paul

Age: 45

Address: Cranberry Lane (five years) — Paul is a Kennebunk native who also has lived in Key Largo, Florida and Boston.

Contact: email: merrileep@gmail.com.

Occupation: Owner/ operator of downtown restaurants 50 Local (nine years) and Owen’s Farmhouse (seven years).

Family: Married to David Ross (10 years) with two school-aged children.

Education Completed: Bachelor’s degree in business. (school and year not provided).

Past Political Experience: None.

Organizations and activities: None listed. Why are you seeking office at this time?

After the recent elections and appointment of the current secretary of education, I have been thinking that I needed to do “something” to help bring positive change. I believe in the importance of public education and I have seen our schools and teachers do remarkable things for our children, but know we can do better.

Top Three Issues:

1. Student Health: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and the same poor eating habits that led to the obesity problem may also be contributing to lower student achievement. Obesity also increases a student’s risk for other conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, which could result in higher absenteeism and more academic issues.

2. School Safety: The school board should take a proactive, comprehensive approach to school safety by discussing the topic regularly with the police chief to ensure the district is implementing best practices, communicating with parents about safety measures and improvements taking place, and working to ensure mental health services are available to students.

3. Bullying: This is not a new problem, but it is one that has a profound impact on the learning aptitude of many students today. Technology has given bullies even more avenues to torment their victims — through social networking, texting, and other virtual interactions. Cyber bullying has become a major issue for schools, as evidenced by the number of suicides that can be directly traced to bullying events. The fact that laws are still fuzzy regarding cyberbullying adds to the challenge, since parents, teachers, and administrators are unsure of how to legally handle such issues. I think that implementing a monitor on buses would be a good start in helping to police the students and alleviate the bus drivers’ responsibility, allowing them to concentrate on safely driving our children.

Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington. He can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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