Last of four stories about Auburn School Committee election on Nov. 5. In this story we profile uncontested candidates Bonnie Hayes, running opposed for Ward 2, and Tracey Levesque, running unopposed for Ward 4.

The Sun Journal attempted to profile Michael Farrell, who is running unopposed for Ward 1. When asked the five questions, Farrell said did not answer any of the questions. “Those are things we’ll have to review as a group in the next couple of months,” Farrell said. He then hung up.

Farrell is one of six former city councilors who in the spring were unhappy about school budgets being proposed; they announced they would work to recall School Committee members, except for Levesque. The group then dropped the effort. Five out of six of those former city councilors are running for the school committee. In addition to Farrell, they are Ron Potvin, Bob Mennealy, Stanwood “Joe” Gray and Daniel Herrick.

1. Why are you running?

Bonnie Hayes: “I am committed to the students of Auburn. I am committed to the taxpayers and keeping taxes reasonable.

Tracey Levesque: “As a parent with children in the system, I have an obligation to them. I want to know what is going on within the district, within the classrooms and schools. Information is only empowering to parents!”

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

Bonnie Hayes: “One challenge is an image crisis. For the past year and a half critics have said the School Department is not transparent, we spend too much money, don’t support our teachers, are not graduating students prepared to go on to school and jobs. I don’t see that. We are supporting teachers now more than ever through mass customized learning. We are giving students an education high in technology preparing them for the future of college or work. I sit on the Finance Committee. Every month we scrutinize the budget, ask questions. We are using a communications committee, our system is on Twitter, Facebook, we are using the newspaper to counter the image we’re not good.”

Tracey Levesque: “There is not just one big problem, there are many. Communication among parents and community, transparency of programs and teacher support are just a few that I have great issue with. I have and will continue to answer any questions the residents of Auburn have. I will continue to support the teachers to the best of my ability and seek answers with programming.”

3. What’s going right in Auburn schools that you would support?

Bonnie Hayes: Mass customized learning, which provides individualized learning for each student at the right level, “is going right. This is a good way for our students to learn. We’re not going to leave a child behind; a student will progress at a reasonable pace of his or her own. Teachers and administrators are enthusiastic about this.” Parents need to understand what mass customized learning is, she said.

Tracey Levesque: “The move toward customized learning is heading in the right direction.”

4. Considering the budget went to voters three times this year and was rejected twice, what kind of budget would you support next year?

Bonnie Hayes: I would support a budget with an increase. I don’t know how much; I don’t know the needs of the district. I would support a budget with a transparent increase.” Hayes noted that recent acting Education Commissioner Jim Rier spoke to School Board members about a new law mandating districts spend minimal essential programs and services amounts. “If our system is underfunded, we are going to have to make it up within the next two years. Also we’re in negotiations with teachers and other unions. We don’t know where we’ll come in with raises. There’s going to have to be some increase.”

Tracey Levesque: “That’s a tough one. I supported the first two but did not support the last, not because of the numbers but because I feel the trust residents had was gone at the time. I will support a budget that supports our students and teachers, but will not empty the wallets of our taxpayers at the same time.”

5. Do you favor continuing early-release Wednesdays for elementary students?

Bonnie Hayes: Yes. “It’s been in existence for as long as my kids were in school, that was a long time ago. … I waiver on it. I can see how parents need to provide child care; it’s confusing. But on other hand where we’re doing mass customized learning. It’s important that the elementary teachers have an opportunity to work on it on Wednesday afternoons.”

Tracey Levesque: No. “I do not support half-day Wednesdays. Never have and never will. Children do best with continuity, and half day is a complete disruption of this. It is confusing to them and parents, especially if there is a holiday in the mix of it; then it’s a full day. While I support professional development for our teachers, I feel this shouldn’t disrupt our student body. Also, parents must scramble to provide daycare for their children, when their children should be in school. It is unfair for all but the teachers.”

Election coverage:

Office sought: Ward 2, Auburn School Committee, unopposed

Age: 60-something

Address: 172 Allen Ave.

Family: Married to Bob Hayes, two grown children, three grandchildren, one in Auburn school system

Occupation: Insurance marketing representative

Education: University of Maine at Orono, bachelor’s degree in education

Political experience: Has served for years on Auburn School Committee

Office sought: Ward 4 Auburn School Committee, unopposed

Age: 38

Address: 264 Beech Hill Road

Family: Married, three children

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother; husband, Jason, owns Argo Marketing Group in Lewiston

Education: Graduate of New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier, Vt.

Political experience: Auburn School Committee


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