Second of five stories about the Lewiston School Committee races for the Nov. 5 election. Next: Newcomers Dawn Hartill and Matthew Roy compete for an open seat in Ward 6.

LEWISTON — Voters in Ward 2, which includes Geiger and Montello elementary schools, will choose between School Committee incumbent Paul St. Pierre and challenger Stavros Mendros in the Nov. 5 election.

Both have name recognition and political experience. Both identified less state money for education as a problem. Mendros, a former legislator, said he’d lobby state legislators to encourage the state to fulfill its share of education costs rather than raising property taxes. St. Pierre said he’d work to ensure the next school budget meets the needs of students but has the least impact on property taxes.

Q: Why are you running?

A: Stavros Mendros: “My children. Now that my daughter is in first grade, I would like to bring my years of experience to help make our schools the best they can be. My decade of experience as both a legislator and city councilor will help me properly advocate for quality education … with an eye on expenses.”

A: Paul St. Pierre: He said he initially did not intend to seek re-election, but changed his mind when realizing other board members not seeking re-election could mean half the board’s members would be new. It takes years before new members grasp the complexities which create a well-functioning school board. “Providing our children with the best possible education is and should be a most solemn responsibility,” he said. “I have loved being able to do my part for Lewiston’s children.”

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

A: Mendros: “The state Legislature is not fulfilling its mandate, as voted by the citizens in 2003, to fund education at the 55 percent level. We need to work with our delegation and press both sides of the aisle for the state to meet its mandated obligation. And I would like to encourage more involvement from parents. Having been an adult education teacher for a couple years, I would advocate for all Lewiston residents, not just children, to take advantage of the incredible benefits of lifelong education at very reasonable costs.”
A: St. Pierre: “The number of children entering school in Lewiston is on the rise. Money in support of education out of Augusta has been reduced. State revenue-sharing to Lewiston has also been reduced, and is likely to be reduced again this year. The impact on our budget is extremely serious. What I can do about this is to work diligently with the superintendent and the other board members to craft a budget that meets our educational needs and has the least impact, if any, on Lewiston taxes.”
Q: What’s going right in Lewiston schools that you would support?
A: Mendros: “I love the increase in technology. The world is changing very rapidly and if our kids are going to compete, they need to be prepared for jobs of the future, not jobs of the past.”
A: St. Pierre: “How we are finding multiple ways to help more and more students become successful in school. Every child is important and deserves all our efforts to provide them with the best possible education.”
4. Lewiston’s population is growing and early elementary classes are getting crowded. What solution would you look for? Since redistricting was rejected, are you satisfied with how and where students attend schools?
A: Mendros: “I am a very strong supporter of neighborhood schools. Kids need to make friends who live near them so they can play outside in their own neighborhood. Though it would save money to send all of our children to one giant elementary school, neighborhood schools are more valuable all around the city. The residents of Ward 2 came out in force, over 400 parents between McMahon, Montello and Geiger, during a snowstorm (to oppose redistricting). Other than my kids, the main reason I entered this race is to protect our neighborhood schools.”
A: St. Pierre: “I am satisfied the superintendent is able to make accommodations needed to put students where there is room, but it is at the cost of school choice. Lewiston is on the state’s new construction school list to replace Martel School in about five years. That is when redistricting will be addressed again with changes absolutely having to be made. However, with some lower-grade class sizes still overcrowded now, there is definitely a cost for new modular classrooms to redistribute those students at a much greater expense than if we had redistricted.”
5. On Lewiston’s efforts to boost student learning and graduation rates, what do you approve or disapprove of what’s being done?
A: Mendros: “We need to think outside the box and help students understand the value of an education, perhaps some partnerships with local businesses. Not just for donations, but to shadow and see how successful businesspeople start with a good education. It is a lot easier to motivate a child to learn math and English when they see there’s a practical use that will improve the quality of their life.”
A: St. Pierre: “We are doing all the right things to address students’ remedial needs. There has actually been an ongoing process over the past 20 years, of which I have been involved in. As to efforts that I disapprove of, the Lewiston school board does its due diligence developing programs and spending money. I can’t think of any money that we’ve wasted, because all our remedial programs have had a positive impact on student needs.”
Q. This year voters approved a $58.4 million budget, an increase of 7.2 percent. What kind of budget would you support next year?
A: Mendros: “A budget that properly rewards our quality teachers and ed techs and provides funding for teaching supplies to classrooms. This can be done without raising taxes by focusing on quality education first and pushing the Legislature to fulfill their obligations.”
A: St. Pierre: “There was a decrease in school funding last year due to state cuts in the school funding formula, and a large reduction in revenue-sharing to the city. We are expecting to see similar shortfalls again this year, if the governor has his way. I am used to supporting a budget in hard economic times that has no impact on property taxes. But, I am not at all likely to support a budget that devastates the quality of education. A balanced approach is required in tight budget times.”

Election coverage:

Age: 63

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 2.

Address: 12 Venture St.

Family: Married for 43 years, 2 grandchildren.

Occupation: Retired from General Electric where he worked as network administrator.

Education: Associate degree from the University of Maine at Augusta in computer information systems.

Political experience: Served on Lewiston School Committee from Ward 7 for 12 years, from Ward 2 for four years.

Office sought: Lewiston School Committee, Ward 2.
Age: 45.
Address: 135 Hogan Road.
Family: Married, two daughters ages 2 and 7
Occupation: Marketing consultant.

Education: Lewiston High School; University of Maine, bachelor’s degree in English.

Political experience: Member of House of Representatives in Maine Legislature, 1998-2002; vice chairman of bipartisan Androscoggin County delegation; candidate for U.S. Congress, 2002;  Lewiston city councilor, 2003-2007, and represented mayors on School Committee in 2006-07; Lewiston Finance Committee, 2008-present, four years as chairman.

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