Third of four stories on Auburn School Committee races in the Nov. 5 election. Next: Three candidates run unopposed, incumbents Bonnie Hayes (Ward 2) and Tracey Levesque (Ward 4), and former City Councilor Michael Farrell (Ward 1).

AUBURN — Five candidates are seeking two at-large seats on the School Committee, including two incumbents who want to stay the course with existing policies and bigger budgets: Francois Bussiere and Laurie Tannenbaum.

They’re being challenged by two former city councilors who pushed for smaller budgets: Robert Mennealy and Ron Potvin. Potvin led the effort in June and July to reject the school budgets.

Also running is Christopher Langis, a newcomer in city politics, who said he too is running because of his concerns about the school budget.

1. Q: Why are you running?

Bussiere: “I’ve seen a lot of needs for the Auburn schools. I’ve been on the School Committee for five years and am beginning to learn what’s going on. There’s a lot of animosity from citizens of the Auburn School Department. People do not understand what goes on. People are always saying the teachers have all this time off, but teachers are so committed to their profession.”

Langis: “To be a voice for the taxpayers. The taxpayers have not had a loud enough voice on the committee in recent years. … The budget is the No. 1 reason why I am running. It needs to be gone through line by line.”

Mennealy: “Obviously, the school budget trauma, three times was polarizing. … I could have predicted the results of those budgets. I can help propose budgets received well by the voters.”

Potvin: “Because of the constant challenge taxpayers are faced with year after year, excess spending requests from the School Department. Even though we’ve shown there’s more money coming from the state, (the School Department) still comes after us asking for more.”

Tannenbaum: “I believe in public education and I want to help ensure our schools are the best they can be. An excellent educational system in Auburn benefits both our children and our community.”

2. Q: What’s a big problem in Auburn schools, and if elected what would you do about it?

Bussiere: “Lack of participation by the parents. The involvement in parent PTOs is very limited. It seems like the kids go to school and the parents complain. If more parents were more involved, it would change the whole process. We’ve got to promote the PTOs more.”

Langis: “Many of our students are not proficient in math and reading. About 40 percent of middle and high school students are under-achieving in these subjects. The solution is not iPads or alternate methods of teaching. We need to devote more class time to these subjects and less class time on subjects that are nonessential, such as art, language classes like Spanish and French and sex ed and health.”

Mennealy: “The Auburn school system is top-heavy with administrators. I don’t know why you need an assistant principal for every (grade). Granted things are different now, but we could do with a few less administrators.” (Note: Edward Little High School has three assistant principals.)

Potvin: “Three things: 1. Teachers aren’t allowed to teach because the administration is too heavy-handed; it takes teachers from their primary mission. 2. Schools need to be redistricted so students who live near a school can attend that school. I’d reopen Lake Street. 3. The Auburn School Department keeps throwing money everywhere without getting results. We still have no idea what the iPad is doing. We need to get basic information.”

Tannenbaum: “This past budget process highlighted the need for the Auburn school district and the School Committee to do a better job informing our community. We need to do more outreach and help our community understand not just the great things going on in our schools, but how, where and why money is needed and spent in our schools.”

3. Q: What’s going right in Auburn schools; what would you support?

Bussiere: “Keep going with mass customized learning, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened in Auburn schools. At first I asked teachers if this is going to be something that’s chucked aside in a couple of years. But it’s continued; probably you’d find 90 percent of staff support it. It will help students by providing more individualized teaching to every student.”

Langis: “I like that Auburn does not have one mega elementary school like many other districts do. The convenience and neighborhood atmosphere of our small community elementary schools is a positive thing; I will never vote to approve the construction of a mega elementary school that would house all of Auburn’s elementary students.”

Mennealy: “The iPad program is working pretty good.”

Potvin: “The movement toward a new high school,” the School Committee’s recent decision to wait for state funding before attempting to build a new Edward Little High School. “When state funds become available, we should have a plan in place.”

Tannenbaum: “We have implemented customized learning at the high school, and we are now implementing it at the middle school and elementary levels. With this student-focused learning approach, we have seen increased student engagement and success in the classroom. We need to continue to support this approach. I also support the use of technology in the classroom.” Knowing how to use technology is vital in the workplace, she said.

Q: This year voters rejected two budgets before approving a smaller, $37.12 million budget. What kind of budget would you support next year?

Bussiere: “I would support a bigger budget. Budgeting always has been a problem. We’ve been asked to back up and back up and back up (and cut spending). School budgets need to be supported by the community” more than they have been.

Langis: “I look forward to reviewing the budget line by line, dollar by dollar and finding and exposing waste. The budget that is released to the public does not go into enough detail as to where every dollar is spent. It is too vague in its explanations of expenditures. I propose releasing a budget to the public that lists every staff position, every school supply, every gallon of fuel, which contractors and suppliers are being used, and if applicable the percentage of increase or decrease in spending from the year before for that line of the budget.”

Mennealy: “The $37.12 million budget is realistic. I do not see a reason why they proposed (a bigger budget) than that the first time. I would be looking for spending based on per capita. Auburn taxpayers are having a hard time; property taxes are getting to be too high. I hate to see people have to leave. I could see a cost-of-living limit for the school budget.”

Potvin: “The School Department needs to live within the cost-of-living increase.” He said he’d propose that. He’s not concerned about a new law that says districts must meet state funding-formula minimum amounts. “The $2.4 million (funding) gap cited by the Auburn School Department wasn’t correct. I’ve checked with the state; it’s lower than that. Do we need to invest? Yes. Do we need to do what they’re saying? No.”

Tannenbaum: “I will continue to support a budget that puts students first. We need to focus on what students need to be successful in the classroom throughout their entire education as well as after high school. … Developing the school budget is a complex process. We often don’t know what the state subsidy will be until we are far into the process. The amount we receive from the state has an impact on how and what we can fund in our schools. With changes in the state laws this past year, we have to be sure that what we raise from city taxes meets those new state requirements.”

5. Q: Do you support continuing early-release Wednesdays?

Bussiere: “Yes. I got on the committee to have early-release Wednesdays removed, but after seeing what goes on,” he supports it, “especially with customized learning.” He has attended the Wednesday professional development sessions. “I’ve seen teams of teachers who work together. If one student is having a hard time in school, teachers talk about how they can help. If early-release Wednesdays were stopped, that would harm the system very badly.”

Langis: “This is lost time that needs to be spent on important subjects such as math, science and English. Also, I am not a big fan of teacher workshop days; I would propose that one weekend day per month or two be used for teacher workshops.”

Mennealy: “It is a burden on working families; they have to find ways to take care of their children. That impacts their life. There are plenty of other times (teachers) could have professional development.”

Potvin: “I’d put the kids back in school. The idea of having the kids out of school is absurd. … There is enough time off during the year and during vacations for teachers to get training.”

Tannenbaum: “Early-release Wednesdays provide essential professional development time for our elementary teachers and staff. I admit that when my children were in elementary school, I was not always happy with early-release Wednesdays. However, I understand the need for dedicated time for professional development. I think it’s something we need to continue to evaluate.”

Election coverage:

Age: 73

Office sought: At-large seat, Auburn School Committee.

Address: 9 Winter St.

Occupation: Retired after 45 years as administrator of Mr. Bernard’s School of Hair Fashion.

Family: Two sons, two grandsons, both in college.

Education: High school graduate, two-year certificate.

Political experience: Auburn School Committee.

Age: 31

Office sought: At-large seat, Auburn School Committee.

Family: Single, one son.

Occupation: Office manager for Ship Chandlery, company supplies large marine vessels (oil tankers, container vessels) with everything they need to operate.

Education: Windham schools, GED from Lewiston Adult Education.

Political experience: No public office, voting member of Androscoggin County Republican Committee.

Age: 63

Address: 43 Royal Oaks Drive.

Family: Married, two grown children.

Occupation: Retired.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in education and government, master’s degree in public administration, University of Maine at Orono.

Political experience: Three terms on Auburn City Council.

Age: 50

Office sought: At-large seat, Auburn School Committee.

Address: 82 Northern Ave.

Family: Single, no children.

Occupation: Corrections officer for Androscoggin County.

Education: Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, Massachusetts, graduated from two police academies, one in Massachusetts and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Political experience: Auburn city councilor, mayor’s representative on Auburn School Committee, various municipal boards, including Zoning Board of Appeals and Auburn Budget Committee; senior lobbyist for the Christian Coalition.

Age: 47

Address: 36 Lake St.

Family: Married, two children.

Office sought: At-large seat, Auburn School Committee.

Occupation: Senior Web content editor, IDEXX Laboratories.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Curry College, master’s degree in communication.

Political experience: Auburn School Committee.


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