Ward 5 — Farwell, Longley and Montello schools area

Sonia Taylor

Age: 40

Address: 291 Bates St.

Occupation: Sales and account receivables for Original Pizza Co. in Auburn.

Education: Attended Lewiston schools K-12, graduated in 1989 from Lewiston High School.

Political experience: Lewiston School Committee representing Ward 5 for the past two-year term.

Community organizations: Since 1995 I have been director of the Urban Youth Outreach, the Jesus Party, a faith-based domestic, nonprofit organization. The Jesus Party confronts issues that affect children and offers youth suggestions on how to deal with school bullies, peer pressure and skills to deal with common situations.

What is the biggest problem you perceive in Lewiston schools, and how will you work to correct it?

The biggest problem I see is the issue with over-population in our schools. The teachers are responsible for too many students and it is affecting the overall education of all students. The average student who may need just a bit of time or reinforcement is being overlooked by teachers because of the focus on more needy students. During budget time I support an increase in teachers, and I support any upgrades and expansion plans to our schools.

What do you think is going right in Lewiston schools, something you want to support?

I am very excited about Lewiston High School, the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and the Adult Education. I believe that the faculty has the best interest in the future of our students. They all offer a variety of classes that are geared for students that are pursuing college, a career out of high school, or just learning the ins and outs of entering the work force.
Lewiston’s student population of Somali immigrant students continues to climb. Do you approve of how they’re being taught, where they’re going to school, how their needs are being met?

As the child of an immigrant family, I find it to be very taxing on the school system to be put in a position to have to accommodate all the needs of these families. There are more than sufficient programs that are designed to help them with their language barrier. In my opinion anything more than spending time at teaching them the English language is just an extension of the special education program. I believe that students who have the potential of excelling are not focused on enough, and that the state regulations are doing our non-immigrant families a disservice by not investing more in their families.
When the next proposed Lewiston school budget comes out, would you favor flat-funding, a higher budget or a lower budget?

I hate to sound like a pessimist but I do not believe that our economy is going to ever recover to where it was just less than a decade ago. I think that we need to prepare ourselves to just settle for the bare-bones budget. There is no money just floating around for all school districts to take advantage of. Medicare benefits for disabled students have dried up and we must compensate for that. No one likes sacrifice, but I believe in order to just get by in the future, we must decide now what to cut back on. 

Superintendent Bill Webster has released projections showing Lewiston’s enrollment will continue to grow at 100 students a year. He’s recommending turning the Multi-Purpose Building into a Pre-K school for the city, expanding the middle school and McMahon schools. Lewiston senior citizens do not want to give up their space at the Multi-Purpose Building. Do you approve, or disapprove, of this plan?

As the parent of four children who have attended Longley Elementary (in the Multi-Purpose Building), I have always been concerned with anyone other than school faculty and students being on the premises of school property. I do understand that the Multi-Purpose building is owned by the city and its original purpose was for multi-use. But the safety of our children, because of strangers sharing the space, has been at risk. I have faith in the seniors of Lewiston that they will make the right decision and explore other locations that may just as well suited their needs and at the same time be helping the next generation. I am in support of expansions to the middle school, McMahon and the adding on to Pre-K’s. 

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