Second of four stories on Auburn School Committee races in the Nov. 5 election. Next: Five candidates vie for two at-large seats, incumbents Francois Bussiere and Laurie Tannenbaum, and challengers Christopher Langis, Robert Mennealy and Ron Potvin.

AUBURN — Longtime Ward 3 School Committee member Tom Kendall is being challenged by former City Councilor Daniel Herrick, who says there’s a need for more transparency in the school budget.

Ward 3 includes the downtown, Court Street, Edward Little High School, Manley and Hotel roads.

Kendall, chairman of the committee, supports more technology and a larger school budget, saying a stronger school system is the way to strengthen the local economy and harness property taxes.

Herrick, who as councilor bluntly advocated for lower property taxes, was among six former city councilors this past spring who said School Committee members were out of touch with taxpayers, and called for committee members to be recalled. The recall effort was dropped.

Kendall said he’s seeking re-election to accomplish new goals, including a new Edward Little High School building, greater use of technology for students and further progress on mass customized learning, which provides more individualized lessons for students.

Herrick said the main reason he’s running is transparency. “The public needs to know what’s going on,” he said. Referring to three referendums held this year, Herrick said, “When it takes three times for a budget to pass, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Kendall identified aging facilities and inadequate teaching space as a problem in Auburn schools. Last year, he proposed the district consider eventually building one large elementary school and closing the smaller, older neighborhood schools, an idea that did not attract support.

To tackle the problem of aging buildings, the School Committee voted an increase in the facilities maintenance budget line item, and will continue to explore more efficient ways to use the space available, Kendall said.

Herrick said teachers not having the tools they need is a problem.

“I’m constantly hearing about teachers taking money out of their pockets to educate children,” buying pens, pencils and art projects. “That’s wrong,” Herrick said. “It hurts me to think we have a budget, yet our teachers still have to pull money out of their pockets.”

As to what’s going right in Auburn schools, Kendall praised mass customized learning which is showing good results, he said. More use of technology in delivering specific course lessons “is increasing, but needs greater penetration at all levels,” he said.

Mass customized learning is giving students more voice in their education, Kendall said. “The more we engage students in their own learning, the more effective our schools will be in producing graduates ready for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Herrick cited a new program at the high school led by teacher Kim Finnerty in which students are learning chemistry through hands-on agriculture.

He would support more programs like that. “It’s what we need, hands-on projects like that get kids interested and get them working,” Herrick said. “In the construction world, I see people every day who can’t function without calling somebody.”

On next year’s school budget, Kendall said Auburn needs to spend more money.

During recent community meetings, “Auburn citizens have voiced their support of education,” he said. “This support must translate into increased funding if we are to deliver the kind of system desired.”

A strong school system will attract more home sales, more jobs and a stronger tax base, Kendall said. A lack of education money could mean Auburn will continue “a decade-old decline” with higher property taxes as the tax base declines.

Herrick said he didn’t know whether the budget “is too high or too low.” Past budgets have been higher than necessary, he said. “Spending should be more about teachers and children; we’re spending too much on administration and frivolous (items).”

Herrick said he did not favor a school budget increase tied to the cost of living, such as city hall has. There are too many variables in the School Department, Herrick said.

As for early-release Wednesdays, Kendall said the policy of half-day Wednesdays for elementary students to give teachers professional development time should continue.

It’s needed “now more than ever, with the change to mass customized learning, the introduction of more technology and increase input from students,” Kendall said

Herrick said he’s not sure.

“What are the teachers and administrators doing (on Wednesday afternoons?” he asked. “Are we gaining with this early release? If it’s working, fine. If not, it needs to be readjusted.”

Election coverage:

Office sought: Auburn School Committee, Ward 3.

Address: 221 Stevens Mill Road.

Family: Married, three children, three grandchildren.

Occupation: Self-employed, Bart Race Services, sports-event timing and results.

Education: Graduated from Edward Little High School in 1968; Dartmouth College in 1972.

Political experience: Current chairman, veteran member of Auburn School Committee.

Office sought: Auburn School Committee, Ward 3.

Address: 470 Hatch Road.

Family: Married, four children, nine grandchildren.

Occupation: Contractor.

Education: Edward Little High School graduate; attended University of Maine at Augusta in Auburn.

Political experience: Served as Auburn city councilor.


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